Rosa species, Rosa rugosa, R. canina


Rose: queen-of-the-aromatics, sacred to Isis, the flower of Aphrodite and sprung from the blood of Venus. The rose has been used for beauty, scent and medicine since time immemorial. According to the fossil evidence, roses are at least 35 million years old.

When Mark Antony visited Cleopatra in her palace, the floors were covered knee-deep in rose petals. Native to Asia, the rose traveled to Egypt by way of Greece and Southern Italia, where the Romans cultivated it. They wore rose garlands, used roses to crown young couples and decorated graves and funeral processions with roses. Today, men everywhere gather (or buy) roses for their sweethearts and brides.

First Nations use the rose for its beauty and for medicine. The remains of rose petals have been found in ancient sites throughout North America. Mixed with bear grease, the fresh petals heal mouth sores. A powder made from dried petals is applied to fever sores and blisters. Iroquois eat rose hips to treat diarrhea and the Cherokee rid themselves of worms (and relieved dysentery) with an infusion of the bark. Roses infused in rainwater are used to bathe sore eyes.

Known throughout the ages as an aphrodisiac, roses uplift the spirits, ease anxiety and tension and have a marked anti-depressive effect. We usually return from gathering roses laughing, happy and feeling good. I'm quite sure it is the roses working their magic. I've discovered that roses are a secret ingredient in many gourmet dining recipes.

Roses are renowned for their tonifying, regulating effect on female and male reproductive systems. Wild roses and sweet briar are in phytosterols and bioflavonoids. For hormone help, especially during menopause, I've frequently enjoyed infusion, tincture or honey of rose. What part? Flower, fruit (hips), leaf or leaf bud. Rose petal infusion relieves menstrual cramping and strengthens bones. I use a cool poultice of fresh rose petals to ease a headache. Rose elixir is a delicious and refreshing addition to any glass of water or cup of tea.

Chinese use flowers of the wild Rosa rugosa, called mei gui hua, as a chi nourisher, and as a blood and liver tonic. Ayurvedic healers use roses to poultice wounds and to counter inflammation. Roses are both cooling and astringent.

The rose is esteemed for its soothing, nourishing and healing effects on all skin types. It’s an excellent addition to any skin lotion, butter, cream, skin moisturizer, after-shave lotion or body or massage oil. Rose water or hydrosol is an effective specific for easing acne and any red, irritated skin.

In Southern Italia the dog rose, or briar rose, R. canina, grows in hedgerows and in brush and is known as Rosa selvatica comune and Rosa di siepe. An infusion of fresh or dried petals is highly valued as a remedy for conjunctivitis, as an eye wash and as a lightening tonic for the face. The simmered hips release polyphenols with astringent and anti-inflammatory action, and this is used to ease intestinal distress. The galls that form on some of the branches are used in an infusion considered useful as an antihydrotic agent, to prevent or reduce excessive perspiration and sweating.

For many years now, each June, we spend several weeks gathering rose flowers and buds from the bushes on our farm. One patch was started from a rose planted long ago when my friend Peter's grandmother was a young pioneer in the wilds of Maine. These old-fashioned roses are a deep pink color, multi-petaled and among the most fragrant I have ever smelled. We infuse many of these blossoms in organic olive oil and make a skin-nourishing rose butter and exquisite, aromatic rose oil.

I use rose infused oil, with a few drops of sandalwood, to nourish and moisturize my skin on a daily basis, and sometimes add a handful of fresh or dried rose petals to my bath for the same purpose.

Roses have a nourishing effect on the heart and circulatory systems and are soothing to the nerves, so I also use infused rose oil for massage. It is relaxing, stress relieving and helps ease exhaustion.

Rose essential oil is said to assist those who lack love in their lives and it certainly creates an aroma that is both sensual and relaxing. Aromatherapists use rose essential oil to relieve depression and lessen anxiety. Essential oil of rose increases sperm motility, and is an effective fertility enhancer. No need to take it internally, simply smelling it is what does the trick!

Antiviral, antibacterial and antiseptic rose petals can be used against infection. I sometimes use a few rose petals as a protective covering over a cut or sore. My youngest daughter, Belle, especially appreciated these pretty rose petal bandages. I use an infusion of dried rose flowers as a gargle to relieve sore throat and drink it as a remedy for diarrhea. Honey infused with rose petals is incredibly delicious and soothing to sore throats.

The gemmotherapy elixir of rose leaf buds is a major ear/nose/throat remedy, used for repeated localised infections or inflammations. It is especially beneficial for children whose growth is hampered by recurrent infections. It’s a specific remedy to soothe sore throat. It is also indicated in headaches and migraines with an allergic component. Strengthening to the immune system, use it to treat repeated herpes infections.

Rose hips are high in vitamin C, B complex, carotenes, vitamin E and selenium, offer abundant chromium, niacin, phosphorus, protein and sodium. These nutrients make rose hips super nourishing to the brain and a specific for any child needing help with focus, concentration and attention. The fruits also contain bioflavonoids, tannins, oils, resins, citric and malic acids, saponins, mucilage and pectin.

In China, rose hips are known as jin ying zi. They are primarily used as a kidney chi tonic, and prescribed for relieving urinary problems and diarrhea. Hildegard von Bingen recommended rose hips for just about everything! I use rose hips as a cold and flu preventive by throwing a few into our wintertime infusions to boost the immune system.

Flower Essence Use the flower essence to enhance the ability to experience love, to open the heart, to soothe a broken heart, to lift the spirit when feeling disheartened.

Magical Lore Any herb sacred to Venus, Isis and Aphrodite is obviously associated with love and marriage, sexuality, babies and grandbabies. Magical lore tells us that the rose represents or symbolizes all aspects of Great Mother. Today as ever, roses are strung as garlands and laid at the feet of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

A universal symbol of love, rose activates the ability to love, nurture and appreciate the beauty in all things. Let rose help open your wild heart to the wonders of love all around you. Anoint your heart area with infused rose oil. It encourages awareness of the many manifestations of love and beauty. Plant roses around your home to enhance your ability to love and to share that love with joy.

There is an ancient European legend that says if you will go naked in a rose garden, scattering roses as you go, a lover will soon appear. I tried this a couple of times in my youth with great results! In medieval times, when a rose was hung from the ceiling it meant that all information exchanged under it was to be kept a secret. Sub rosa, literally "under the rose," means "in greatest  confidence."

Culture I find roses very easy to start from seed. I gather rose hips still on the bushes in late winter and break them open, separate the seeds from the pulp, broadcast them on the surface of my starting mix in flats, and gently work the seeds into the top layer of soil with my fingers. It takes two months for rose seeds to germinate in my cool spring conditions. Seedlings go into a protected bed, placed fairly close together and kept well weeded. In the spring of their second year, they're ready for a permanent home. The bushes will usually start flowering by the following year.

Roses are attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The rosa rugosa hips that form after fertilization are big, bright red, and so delicious! I gather roses as they appear in summer, but wait until fall to gather the hips. I've heard that rose hips have more vitamin C before the weather freezes, but they are much sweeter after a frost or two. When gathering roses, be sure to take only the petals, leaving the center behind to develop into the hip. I tincture fresh rose petals, leaf buds or hips in alcohol or infuse them in oil or honey. I dry rose flowers and hips on screens. Fresh or dried hips make a nourishing, delicious vinegar. An elixir of fresh rose blossoms (half brandy, half honey) captures and enhances the rose flavor beautifully. A dropperful of rose elixir in a cup of fresh spring water makes a delicious, cooling and refreshing drink on a summer day. I like to warm rose up in cooler temperatures with vanilla, a combination I find to be especially gut soothing.

Rose Water  Pick rose blossoms on a sunny day when their scent is at its peak. Put into a stainless steel or enamel pot and cover with fresh spring water. Cover and slowly heat to just below a simmer. Turn the heat as low as it will go, and continue heating for about ten minutes, then  turn off the heat and leave the pot tightly covered, for several hours or overnight. Try to resist the temptation to lift the lid and take a peek because you will lose all those fabulous aromatic oils. In the morning, strain the beautiful, fragrant rose water off.

If you want to extend the shelf life, which is only a few days at most, you can add a quarter of the volume in alcohol as a preservative. Bottle and keep in a cool dark place. Rose water splashed or sprayed on the face and body tones the skin and refreshes the spirit.  It also helps heal acne and soothes a myriad of skin irritations.

These days I use my copper alembic still loaded with freshly gathered roses to create an amazingly fragrant and skin soothing rose hydrosol.  There’s no need to add alcohol or any other preservative to a hydrosol, its distilled and thus has a much longer shelf life, usually a year or two if stored in a cool place. Rose hydrosol is also fantastic added to a range of culinary delights. Try some in your pound cake recipe, delicious!

You are a Wild Mystic Woman.
Your presence on this Earth is necessary.
We need your voice.
We need your medicine.
We need you to remember who you are.
And we need you to own it.
All of it.
-Bell Hooks