Summer, sunshine and roses. What a delight roses are to have in the garden, offering a variety of colors, blossom shapes and fragrances. Long a symbol of love, war, politics and beauty, roses have worked their way into our hearts and into our cuisine. Personally, roses hold a dear place in my heart. My grandfather, a master gardener, and cared for several public rose gardens as well as gardens for himself, Grandma June and his bees. Grandma would harvest the petals for potpourri and jellies. My parents also kept a very neat rose garden right outside tour front door. It’s a pretty magical thing to get lost under an enormous Austrian Copper rose bush for a nap, to fill vases with roses or to be able to identify each rose just by fragrance–ah…enough sentimentality–more about roses.
A little history first
Fossil evidence date roses back nearly 35 million years with evidence of cultivation beginning nearly 5,000 years ago in China–though there is some thought that cultivation may date back even further. Today, there are an estimated 100-150 species of wild and cultivated Rosa, and the plants are found on every continent. The Romans and Middle Eastern cultures used roses for medicinal purposes, celebrations, perfume, and as confetti at celebrations or to honor royalty–who doesn’t want to walk on a path sprinkled with roses? During the 7th & 8th centuries, rose oil and water was considered legal tender for trade and payments though this craze never quite reached the same fervor as the Dutch tulip trade. Roses even showed up in wars, most notably the War of the Roses in the 15th century–the red rose symbolized Lancaster and the white rose was the symbol of York. Quite the gentle image for two houses that tore each other apart.
It wouldn’t be until the the early 1800’s when roses would finally make their way into books, thanks to botanical illustrator Pierre Joseph Redoute’s who completed Les Rose, a collection of watercolor paintings from the roses in Napoleon and Josephine’s gardens at Chateau de Malmaison. His works are still considered one of the finest botanical records of roses.
Western nutritional highlights
From a western nutritional perspective, roses don’t hold significant levels of minerals and vitamins. The exception is rose hips, which is one of the highest source of naturally occurring of Vitamin C–enough so to send orange juice blushing with shame–but that’s another story. Where roses blossoms shine is in their energetics.
Rose’s Eastern nutritional energetics and highlights.
Clears heat, cools the Blood and stops bleeding–Rose has a very clearing, cooling and calming nature. Patterns of Blood heat include rashes, fever, nose bleeds. In the Liver heat may present as anger, ringing in the ears, red eyes and hypertension. Stomach heat can present as mouth sores, bad breath, gnawing sensation in the stomach and GERD. Heat in the Heart presents as panic attacks, anxiety, nervous tendencies and ADD. It doesn’t matter which organ has the heat–rose will cool it.
Harmonizes menstruation, strengthens and harmonizes reproductive Qi–Roses are wonderful for treating reproductive disharmonies including: irregular or painful menses, PMS, low self-esteem, excessive bleeding, impotence, infertility and low-libido. But don’t just keep it to the ladies. Roses help to increase sperm count and resolve sperm incontinence.
Clears Liver qi congestion and promotes bile flow–Liver Qi stagnation? In Chinese medicine the Liver is responsible for ‘free and easy flow’–meaning the Qi, Blood and Fluids in the body are moving easily. Liver Qi stagnation appears as depression, mood swings, mid back pain, PMS, constipation, flank pain, nausea and headaches. If you have angst, anger, irritability or frustration you have some Liver Qi stagnation.
Nourishes the Heart, settles Shen and lifts depression–Very simply put, Shen is the spirit that is housed in the Heart. When the Heart’s Blood and Qi are harmonious, Shen is nourished and we responds appropriately to the environment. We can build meaningful relationships and can experience joy and laughter. When it is not nourished or unsettled we see patterns of insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, and inappropriate relationships (too close or too far). In extreme conditions we can see hysteria, irrational behavior, ADD, ADHD, mania and delirium.
Clears toxins, reduces swellings and inflammation–Carbuncles, furuncles, hives, boils, abscesses and shingles–oh, my. All are forms of damp, toxic heat which rose can help clear.
Heals and repairs the skin–Use it internally and/or externally, rose is useful for eczema, ulcers, sprains, red irritated skin, wrinkles and spider veins.
Ways to use roses
A cup of tea– There are several varieties of rose tea available at local stores, or simply get some dried organic rose blossoms and petals and have make your own. I often mix my with other flavors–last night raspberry leaf, nettle, and rose. To further cool the day down, I dropped in a few frozen blackberries.
Eat rose petals–Dash them over salads, top berries or cakes with them.
Use as rose water or rose oil–Use the water to flavor teas or as a refreshing facial rinse. Drop oil into a calming bath or use as an essential oil…a few drops a day under the tongue can go a long way.
Make up a vinegar–Use for everything from sunburns and bug bites to an unusual salad dressing.
Take time to smell the roses–Although not as strong as ingesting roses, roses will pass their healing properties to those enjoying their scent. This is especially true of the properties that affect the spirit and psyche.