“Among all floures of the worlde, the floure of the rose is cheyf and beeryth ye pryse. And by cause of vertues and swete smelle and savour. For by fayrnesse they fede the syghte: and playseth the smelle by odour, the touche by softe handlynge. And wythstondeth and socouryth by vertue ayenst many syknesses and euylles.”
~Bartholemaeus Anglicus, circa 1260, translated by John de Trevisa, 1398, as quoted by Elanour Sinclair Rohde in The Old English Herbals, Longmans, Green and Co, 1922.
Binomial Nomenclature: Genus Rosa
At the field we have Rosa multiflora, R. rubingosa and a few small shrubs which are probably a variety of R. canina
We are looking to plant a few other varietals in the Spring.
Family: Rosaceae, which includes Apples, Raspberries, Hawthorns and many others!
Type of Plant: Woody Shrub
Native land: Probably northern Persia, though Roses were cultivated in much of Europe, Northern Africa and Asia by 1000 years ago. Although often treated with great care, many roses are tenacious growers who will thrive in many conditions!
Parts used medicinally: Petals, fruits (Hips), leaves, roots.
Energetics: Petals and leaves: astringent, sweet, cooling; fruit: sweet, sour and pungent.
Actions: Astringent, alterative, refrigerant, nervine, emmenagogue, carminative, laxative.
Throughout my childhood as a gender rebel, I always disdained Roses, along with other common flowers I found too “girly” and “boring.” Boy am I glad I grew up! What a poor world I would live in if I could appreciate the amazing bounty offered to us by the Rose!
Rose has been cultivated since ancient times, mostly for her amazingly rich scent and beautifully uplifting blossoms. It is said that being in her presence gladdens and strengthens the heart. Her petals were floated in wine, strewn about the floors at parties, made into candies, and extracted in fat and water for use as a cosmetic.
Her astringency is much sought after for its abilities to tighten the pores of the skin and tone the organs. Both distilled Rose water and essential oil of roses carry this property, though essential oils should NEVER be used internally.
Rose petals are relatively high in sugar, which makes sweet extractions and confections valuable. Syrup of Rose petals was often prescribed to cool excess heat in the heart or liver, thereby helping the person deal with sorrow and rage. An electuary: an extract in honey, or a glycerite: an extract in glycerine, also do well for this purpose. These sweet extractions can be taken by anyone with excess heat manifesting as anger, sore eyes, headaches, sore throat, mouth ulcers or mentrual pain.
Because the oils are better extracted in alcohol, we have found that tincturing Rose in a combination of organic vodka and organic glycerine makes for a wonderfully temper-cooling, heart-opening, sweet-tasting magical elixir.
Rose leaves are also astringent and cooling, and have a mild, tea-like taste. The roots were sometimes used against rabies (though we don’t know how effective it was).
The red Hips, which form after the flowers fade, hold the seeds. As is the general way with fruits, they provide the seed a good start in life, by way of abundant vitamins and minerals for the soil biology to digest, enriching the soil in which the plant hopes to germinate and sprout. Also, by their bright colors and sweet tastes, they attract animals and birds who spread their seeds far and wide. This is how it came to pass that we found several large, full rose bushes growing in a field which hadn’t been cultivated in years!
These Hips are a real treat for people, too. In temperate climates, they’re one of the best sources of Vitamin C throughout Winter. Vitamin C cannot be created within human bodies, so we need a steady supply to stay healthy, especially in the cold, wet of Winter. The Hips are also packed with Carotenoids (the building blocks our bodies need to make Vitamin A) and several other powerful anti-oxidants.
The Hips can be picked and dried in late Fall or early Winter and then made into jam or syrup or kept fresh for adding to teas and cooking. It’s best to split them open and take out the seeds and the hairs that surround them, but if you don’t want to go to the trouble, make sure you strain the resulting liquid and check for remaining hairs—they’re very irritating to the throat and mouth!
Eating or drinking Rose Hip concoctions has been found to improve joint mobility, ease pain from Osteoarthritis and improve skin’s elasticity and vibrancy. That’s what I call Inside Out Wholeness!
The seeds are little gems, too. Rose Hip seed oil is an excellent moisturizer, especially well suited to very dry or mature skin. Although I can’t find any confirmation of this in any books or websites, I’m sure the seeds would add to the nutritional value of the hips if being eaten as a survival food. Just imagine: Lost hiker found in radiant health with glowing skin and flexible joints!
Even in mid-winter, some rosebushes can be seen hanging with flowers and fruits. The next time you’re out, look around for these beauties gracing the landscape, and be glad.