I think it would be fair to say that roses are the most universally loved and most cultivated flower on the planet. This month in particular, they are everywhere, dominating the imagery of the season and selling like hot cakes at the florist.
Roses became a symbol of love during Victorian times, when something called floriography, or the language of flowers, was a popular way to communicate feelings and messages. To this day roses are associated with matters of heart - which is very fitting considering how they're used in herbal medicine.
Before we go any further, it's so important to note that the roses you get from the flower shop should NOT be used as medicine. Sadly, they are typically saturated with chemicals...not exactly something you want in your body or on your skin. When working with rose, it's best to choose wild varieties (these will all have roughly the same medicinal properties) rather than overly cultivated garden roses, and to harvest only from plants that you know haven't been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. If you're buying rose, make sure you purchase organic and from a reputable supplier that has grown them for internal use.
Ok, now that we've covered that, let's talk about those gorgeous medicinal roses.
When you want to understand a herb, one of the best things to do is use your senses to observe it. How does a rose look, smell, taste, feel?
Close your eyes and imagine this: soft petals, delicious honey-like scent, beautiful color, flowers that become a ruby-red fruit, thorns to protect from predators.
Do you feel happy, calm? Does your heart feel a little more at ease?
All of these things are clues as to how rose can help us. It's a herb to hold the heart and open up the senses.
The chemical constituents of rose have antibacterial, astringent, antispasmodic, anodyne, antiviral, nervine, antiinflammatory, antioxidant, sedative, digestive stimulant, circulatory stimulant, and expectorant qualities.
Rose helps to tone and tighten lax tissues, support wound healing, gently stimulate circulation, calm the nerves, and has benefits for the heart and kidneys. It's probably best known as a gentle tonic for heart health.
Because rose has a cooling effect, it's often used when there is heat or inflammation in the body - think headache, irritation in the digestive or urinary tract, sore throat and runny nose, hot flashes, etc. It's wonderfully soothing and cooling on the skin as well.
Last but not least, rose has traditionally been used to lift the spirits and to heal psychic or spiritual wounds. By (literally) calming our nerves, rose can help us feel safe when opening up old hurts to try and mend them properly, and supports us in staying open and being understanding when we're having disagreements or issues with others. Rose also teaches us that it's ok to have boundaries, too, to keep our thorns up when our hearts need protecting.
The mind and the physical heart are connected (even the American Heart Association agrees), and I have no doubt that the positive effect rose has on the physical heart in turn impacts the emotional heart and our state of mind. If we feel well and everything is humming along in our bodies, our minds will naturally be a little more at ease.
There are so many wonderful ways to use rose...but I'll narrow it down to my favorites.
Rose and Cinnamon Sprinkle
This is so simple to make, and because it's easy to use (sprinkle it on toast, ice cream, on top of lattes....), you're more likely to get that rose goodness into your diet.
To make it, just add a handful of rose petals to a spice grinder and pulse until they're well powdered. Then just mix in some cinnamon to taste (equal parts works for me). If you like, you can easily make this into a sweet toping by blending in sugar to taste - think of it as sort of like a cinnamon sugar 2.0.
Rose honey feels like such a delicacy (I get Downton Abbey vibes every time I put it on my toast...), and yet it's so simple to make.
Fill a mason jar halfway with dried rose petals, or to the top if fresh (make sure it's a loose pack). Pour the honey over the flowers and stir with a clean chopstick or spoon to let any air escape and ensure that all petals are covered.
Let sit, flipping once a day, for a couple of weeks, then give the honey a taste. If you'd like it to have a stronger taste, just let it sit for a couple more weeks.
You can strain out the all of the rose petals when your honey is ready, or, if you like the extra texture (and glamour!), you can leave a few in.
I just love having rose glycerite around - a dropperful straight on the tongue is so calming. You can add it to your tea, too, as a sort of sweetener. I make a batch every year from the Multiflora rose that grows in my backyard.
All you have to do is fill a jar with fresh rose petals and then cover them in a good quality organic vegetable glycerine. (If using dried, it's a good idea to add a bit water - make your mixture 80% glycerine and 20% water.) Stir to make sure all the petals are coated and all the air has escaped from the bottom, then cap and let the jar sit for a couple of weeks to a month, flipping every day or so, before straining and bottling.
Rose, honey, and brandy? Why thank you yes! I just love this combination - it's so rich, unusual, and sweet.
To make some, fill a jar with fresh rose petals (halfway if dried), and then add brandy and honey (I typically make mine a ratio of about 80% brandy to 20% honey, but feel free to mix stuff up and find your own sweet spot). Stir everything around, then cap and let sit six weeks, shaking occasionally, before straining and bottling. You can take this by the dropperful or add it to mixed drinks - rose hot toddy, anyone?
All statements made herein are purely for educational purposes and are not intended to treat, cure or prevent disease. Always consult a doctor before beginning a herbal regimen, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or have underlying health conditions.