In a time of frantic upheaval and uncertainty, we again need only look to nature to guide us towards feelings of protection, connection, and resilience. It's quite telling that this exact moment in time occurs as the roses bring forth their magnificent blooms. The aroma here in the homestead perennial gardens continues to waft in the heavy, humid air - a reminder to quite literally stop and smell the roses. This month, as we return with our Materia Medica series we'd like to highlight the profound energy and story of rose as a reliable ally to the heart and mind in times of change and transition.
Rosa rugosa is most commonly known species of rose in the Northeast and often used in medicinal preparations, however, R. canina, R. alba, R. gallica, R. centifolia, and R. damascena are also widely used (Bunce, 2018).
Common names of rose species include Rugosa Rose, White Rose, Beach Plum, Dog Rose/Dog Brier, Apothecary Rose, Hundred Leaved Rose (quiet fragrant!), and Damask Rose. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this petals are referred to as "Mei gui".
Traditional formulations of rose include the bud, petals (fresh or dry), hips (the fruit of the plant), leaves, and essential oil distillations.
Botanical ID (University of Connecticut, 2015):
Native to Northern China, Korea and Japan, R. rugosa is hardy up to zone 2 and can naturalize quite readily.
A stout deciduous shrub growing up to 4-6' in height
Leaves are alternate and pinnately compound with up to 9 leaflets and serrated edges. Leaves may turn yellowish in autumn.
Flowers can be rather showy and highly fragrant. Blossoms range from white to shades of pink. Blooms June-August
Flowers give way to fruit with seed, known as the "rose hip. Hips mature in August in NE and generally dry on plant.
More than 50 hybrids of this species are known
Growing & Harvesting:
Rose species may be cultivated from seed or cuttings, and can be quite vigorous once established.
Prefers full sun and is rather adaptable to varying soil pH, but certain species may prefer more acidic soils (perhaps why it is so tolerant to sea coasts!)
Harvest buds prior to flowering, or wait until the showy blossoms appear and are in full bloom to harvest petals. We like to wait until the pollinators have had a chance to visit before harvesting petals.
Hips may be harvested in August-September.
It's helpful to prune back rose bushes aggressively every few years to encourage new growth and deter any established pests or diseases.
Various forms of rose are widely available in herbal and perfumery commerce. Rose yields wildly famous aromatic distillations that are incredibly expensive and well-sought after. As such, some questions regarding cultivation practices exist as farmers seek to meet demand - another good reason to do your research and know your source!
Taste & Energetics:
Taste: Floral, astringent, slightly bitter, sour
Energetics: Drying and cooling, per our experiences
Herbal Actions (Bunce, 2018):
Antimicrobial (particularly effective when used topically)
Vulnerary (i.e. tissue soothing)
Immunomodulant (Especially true for hip)
Emotional boundaries, especially when rooted in troubles with interpersonal relationships or trauma
Loss or grief
Softening or opening of the heartspace
When the skin or tissues need astringing and tonification
Traditional + Clinical Uses:
Sensitive skin conditions
Scars (Rosehip seed oil is great for this!)
Ulcers and gut inflammation
Leaky gut and dysbiosis
Urinary tract infections
Anxiety or depression that is rooted in emotional boundary issues
The hips have been used as immune tonics due to their vitamin C content
Rose water has been used in traditional Iranian medicine as an antiseptic for eye-washing and mouth rinses (Mahboubi, 2016).
Key Constituents (Mahboubi, 2016):
The petals contain tannins, which provide the astringent quality, and of course the classic aromatic essential oils. These include terpenes like geraniol, nerol, and citronellol.
The hips harbor flavonoids like quercitin, an anti-inflammatory, and loads of vitamin C.
The seed, found in the mature hips, has an abundance of essential fatty acids, such as linoleic, linolenic, palmitic, and stearic acids..
Safety (Gardner & McGuffin, 2013):
Safety Class 1
Interaction Class A
No known interactions have been identified, although the small hairs present on fresh rose hips may cause slight irritation in the mouth in some individuals.
Tincture - Made with the petals for general astringing, 3-5ml per day.
Glycerite - More indicated for emotional support. May be taken as needed or 1-2ml in a formula. (*Find it in our Heartspace Elixir!)
Tea - Both the petals and dried hips can be made into infusions. Simmering the dried hips will help with extracting vitamin C. We enjoy adding them into our Immune Elixir for the added immune boost!
Powder- Again, both petals and hips can be used in powder form. Rose petal powder can be a nice addition to a DIY face mask recipe, and powdered rose hips have been studied for their uses in osteoarthritis.
Jams, Jellies + Syrups!
*Note: The information shared here is meant for educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Please consult your physician or a trained herbalist before working with herbs, especially if you currently take medications. If you would like to share this information in your own publications, please credit our work accordingly.
Bunce, Larken. 2018. Rosa rugosa. Presented at The Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism. Montpelier, VT.
Gardner, Z. & McGuffin, M. ed. 2013. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Mahboubi, Mohaddese. 2016. Rosa damascena as holy ancient herb with novel applications. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine 6 (1). Retrieved: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4737971/#sec6title.
University of Connecticut College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. 2015. "Rosa rugosa". Retrieved: http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/detail.php?pid=441.