“A rose, bent by the wind and pricked by thorns, yet has its heart turned upwards”
Huna of Babylon
Our Human Ancestors Knew the Medicinal Uses of Rose
Rose (Rosaceae) is sometimes called the King of Flowers for its prized position in many human cultures. It’s reputation as a true beauty precedes this flowering plant, but did you know that every part of rose also has special medicinal uses? Rose has a long history in natural medicine including an important place in Chinese and Native American Medicine. In medieval times roses were cultivated more for their medicinal value than their beauty. In North America different tribes had different medicinal uses for this plant.
How Native Americans Used Rose Medicinally Ó Omahas: Steeped the roots or hips of roses to treat inflammation of the eye. Ó Chippewa: Used rose and hips for food and to treat eye infections. Ó Pawnee: Used insect-made galls growing on rose stems in dressings for burns. Ó Arapahos: Treated muscle pain with rose seeds. Ó Cheyenne and Flathead: Used petal, stem and roots to treat snow blindness. The Cheyenne made a rose bark tea to treat upset stomach and diarrhea. Ó Crows: Boiled rose roots and used the vapor to stop mouth and nose bleeds and in hot compress to treat swellings.
Roses’ Many Medicinal Properties
Just 100 of the 300 chemical constituents of roses have been identified. Every part – leaves, petals, hips, and roots – has edible and medicinal uses. Rosehips are praised for their vitamin C content that’s higher than citrus fruits. The hips are the fruit of the rose that develops after the flower. The hips have been used to protect against disease for ages but all parts of the rose have active medicinal compounds. Here are some of the medicinal uses of this plant according to Clover Farm Herbs.
Medicinal Actions of Rose
- blood tonic
- digestive stimulant
- increases bile production
- kidney tonic
- menstrual regulator
These medicinal actions are not just wishful woo-woosings. For the plant medicine skeptics in the audience, many of these properties used by ancient humans have been validated using modern scientific methods. In 2011 Iran Journal of Basic Medicine and Science published “Pharmacological Effects of Rosa Damascena,” a review of the literature on the the effectiveness of rose medicine which referenced nearly 100 studies. Anti-microbial, anti-infective, anti-diabetic, anti-HIV, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory actions have all been verified (to some extent) using science. One study cited even claims rose to have possible anti-aging properties. In the study male and female flies whose diet was supplemented with rose extract had statistically significant decreased mortality, and longer lives. It is thought that perhaps the anti-oxidant properties of rose are also responsible for the longevity benefits.
Roses for Women’s Health and Wellness
Rose has long been used as a natural remedy to support healthy menstrual bleeding and to reduce cramping. According to Kiva Rose of Bear Medicine Herbals,
“I’ve found it to be very useful in treating general pelvic congestion resulting in scanty menses, cramps, water retention, cysts and mood swings. Rich in the building blocks of hormones, Rose helps nourish the endocrine system through its provision of these basic hormonal elements. An age old aphrodisiac, stirring up both blood and libido as well as opening up the heart, it has a history of treating sexual dysfunction such as impotence and frigidity.”
Susun Weed, author of the Wise Woman Herbal series, discusses the importance of rose medicine for women in her article Wild as a Rose.
“The growing tips of the rose canes are rich in hormone-like substances that help women with menstrual difficulties get into an easy flow, those with libido problems to feel frisky, and those who want to conceive to be more receptive. “
Susun’s Rose Hormone Remedy calls for harvesting the leaves and flower buds right before they open and preserving with honey* or one part glycerin and two parts water (*vegan switch: agave or maple syrup). She recommends taking a teaspoonful several times a day.
Which Rose Varieties Are Edible and Medicinal?
“There are as many varieties of Rose as there are shades of green, and every kind holds some profound therapeutic value.” – Kiva Rose, Bear Medicine Herbals
According to Susun, all roses not sprayed with pesticides are edible. While some sources claim garden roses to be useful only for their beauty, this may be because they are often doused with chemicals to keep insects from devouring them. EatTheWeeds.com reports that leaves of select species are eaten and lists these as the edible rose varieties:
- Some Edible Rose Species Include
- Rosa acicularis, Prickly rose
- Rosa arkansana, Low Prairie Rose
- Rosa blanda, Labrador Rose
- Rosa canina, Dog Rose
- Rosa carolina, Pasture Rose
- Rosa chinensis, China Rose
- Rosa cinnamomea, Cinnamon Rose
- Rose x demascena, Damask Rose
- Rosa fraxinellaefolia, Ash-Leaf Rose
- Rosa gallica, French Rose
- Rosa gigantea, Manipur Wild Tea-Rose
- Rosa laevigata, Cherokee Rose
- Rosa macrophylla, Bhaunra Kujoi
- Rosa moschata, Musk Rose
- Rosa multiflora, Multiflora Rose
- Rosa nutkana, Nutka Rose
- Rosa pimpinellifolia, Burnet Rose
- Rosa rugosa, Rugose Rose
- Rosa villosa, Apple Rose
- Rosa virginiana, Virginia Rose
- Rosa woodsii, Wood’s Rose,
- Rosa Blaze,Blaze Rose
- Rosa Bucbi, Carefree Beauty Rose
- Rosa Rhonda, Rhonda Rose
- Rosa Sea Foam, Sea Foam Rose
- Rosa The Fairy The Fairy Rose.
Roses Vary, by Many Names
Different varieties of roses have different properties and different concentrations of the active chemical components. One study tested the petals of 12 rose cultivars for antixoidant activity when made into tea ☕ and found a range of just below the level of green tea to nearly double the antioxidants of the green tea. As for flavor, I’ve tasted quite a few varieties of rose hips and some are far more flavorful and appetizing than others. Some taste like sweet rose candies I could eat all day, while others can be bitter and tasteless. Ask an experienced herbalist or gardener where you live and they can likely point you to a good variety that’s suited for your climate and for your desired uses.
Eat Your Roses, They’re Good for You
In addition to their beauty and medicinal properties, roses are nutritious. While best known for the high levels of vitamin C in the hips, the hips are also a good source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, Niacin, Bioflavanoids, K, and E. There are also a good source of healthy pectin. The petals are also nutritious packing B vitamins, bioflavonoids, and polyphenols, which are important for disease prevention.
There are many ways to add roses to your diet and enjoy the flavor and health benefits. I have enjoyed fresh rose petals in salad. They add a nice color, offer their rose medicine, and make it feel fancy. I also enjoy the rose flavor paired with chocolatey deserts like the chia pudding pictured below. Susun Weed (pictured above) enjoys rose petals like you might enjoy greens on toast. She says,
“My favorite June breakfast is whole wheat toast with butter or cultured cream cheese and a double layer of fresh rose petals. That sure wakes me up! It’s a nice change, too, from my spring fancy breakfast, which is whole wheat toast with butter and violet flowers.”
Ways to Add Roses to Your Diet
Substitute out the dairy for some coconut cream spread or even avocado and it sounds like a beautiful breakfast. In my kitchen I’ve experimented a bit with rose petals as seasoning in cakes and in this chia pudding pictured below. I love the unique sweet flavor flowers can add to a dish.
If you are still wondering how to add roses to your diet, here’s some more ideas for you:
- Rose shoots (young) are edible cooked
- Rose buds can be pickled
- Rose petal syrup can flavor cakes, frostings
- Rose petal tea
- Rose petals in salad
- Rosehips eaten fresh like candy for flavor and vitamin C
- Rosehips make a fruity immune-boosting tea
- Rosehips in jams, sauces, and chuttnies
- Rosehips dried, ground, and added to cookies, cakes, and deserts
- Rosehip seeds can be eaten as a diuertic
The simplest way to start enjoying the benefits of roses is probably in a cup of tea. When I began experimenting with rose medicine I first made rosehip tea. I would collect the hips and use them fresh or dry them in my window sill and save them in a glass jar until needed. They can be added to your every-day tea for their immune-boosting benefits or used as needed. A tea can also be made of 2 cups water 1 cups of rose petals, and agave or maple syrup as a sweetener to taste. When harvesting for your tea, strip the flower gently choosing fresh petals. Boil tea gently for about five minutes or until the petals turn color. Then sip and enjoy. Rose is called The King of Flowers for a good reason. She reigns as the universal symbol of beauty and love, she is full of flavor and medicine, a true giver, she can make your world better with a glance, a sniff, or in warm a cup of tea.
Reya Steele is a holistic health journalist and nutrition educator. For most of her life she has had a fascination with the edible and medicinal uses of the plants growing around her.
Healing With Plants is a holistic health education channel/website sharing nutrition facts, plant medicine, whole foods plant-based recipes, and inspirational stories of healing with plants. Subscribe to Healing With Plants on YouTube and follow us on social media to stay plugged into the good news.
Sources: 1. Bear Medicine Herbals, Sweet Medicine: Healing With...Rose 2. Bear Medicine Herbals, A Flower for First Aid: Rose and.. 3. EatTheWeeds.com, Roses 4. Herbal Encyclopedia, Clover Leaf Farms, Rose 5. Iran J Basic Med. Sci., Pharmacological Effects of Rosa... 6. Journal of Food Science, Rose Petal Tea as an Antioxidant... 7. Susun Weed, Wild as a Rose