Rose petal heartThere is no flower that has been revered and celebrated as much as the rose. As the archetypal queen of the flowers and the definitive symbol for love and appreciation, the rose has endured in its beauty and significance for hundreds of years, inspiriting people throughout history.

In addition, the rose is perhaps the only flower that has so many diverse meanings.   For example, a red rose stands for true abiding love.  A white rose means purity and innocence, and a yellow rose means friendship and “I care”.

But, did you know that the rose is also very good medicine?

“Stop and smell the roses” may be a cliché but the old saying suggests that appreciating the meaningful things and people in our lives may play an even larger role in our overall happiness than previously thought.  Acknowledging the value and meaning of something—an event, a behavior, an object—and feeling positive emotional connection to it is actually good medicine.   As is the scent of a rose.

The scent of rose has been enjoyed throughout the centuries in the form of attar of rose or rose otto, which is the distilled essential oil of the blossom.  Or in the form of Rose Absolute which is extracted through a chemical process.  Aroma therapists may disagree over which is best, but most agree that rose absolute has a stronger, richer scent.

The two main species of rose used for rose oil are Rosa damascene damask rose and Rosa centifolia cabbage rose.  It can take up to 250 pounds of roses to make one ounce of rose oil.  It is expensive to make, and dealers may dilute rose oil with geranium oil or oil of palmarosa because they contain the two main constituents found in rose oil.  So if you want to buy some true rose oil, know your source and don’t buy on the cheap. As in virtually all essential oils, rose is for external use only. Properly dilute all essential oils in lotion or vegetable carrier oil before massage or other topical use. Keep out of reach of children. If you are pregnant, nursing, have any health conditions, or are taking medications, please consult your healthcare provider prior to using essential oils.

Rose oil is used in cosmetics, perfume, and even in confections and candies—especially in the East.  The scent is stimulating and uplifting to the mind.  It creates a sense of well-being.  It is almost intoxicating and aphrodisiac.  And the virtues of rose do not end with the oil.  The buds and blossoms themselves are good medicine, too.

The value of roses as herbal medicine is sometimes neglected, possibly due to the high price of the pure essential oil and the relative rarity of the tincture.   But the price of a remedy rarely deters a physician or client when an effective medicine is required.  Up into the 18th century, physicians, herbalists, midwives, barbers and cooks appreciate the value of rose flower for its use in digestive and menstrual issues, headaches, stress and tension, liver congestion, poor circulation, fevers, eye infections and skin complaints.

Perhaps rose has been somewhat neglected in the western world because the ancient European herbal theories have also been neglected.  However, those energetic principals have been preserved in other herbal traditions.  The petals are used traditionally in Europe to aid digestion and as a tonic to the nervous system and the endocrine system. Traditional Chinese Medicine uses them to remove blood stagnation, nourish the skin, and improve digestion. In Ayruvedic medicine, rose is used to balance emotions and tone and cool the skin.

Rose is known to open the heart chakra which is associated with love, joy, inner peace and intuition.

Rose is currently being researched for its anti-cancer abilities likely due to its high level of geraniol, which has been shown to prohibit cancer cell growth.

Rose is a member of the plant family rosaceae, which includes plums, cherries, peaches, apricots, and almonds as well as apples and hawthorns.  We have all heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.  And you may not know that hawthorn berry, leaf and flower have demonstrated positive effects on heart health and mood.

There are many good reasons to not only stop and smell the roses.  It is also possible to stop and eat a member of the rose family, too.  If you choose to try roses in a tea, be sure to only use roses that have been grown for that purpose.  If you are interested in roses for a medical condition, consult with a trained herbalist, naturopathic doctor or your local acupuncturist