One of the most loved, admired and coveted plants through the ages must be the rose. Join me on a sensory journey to discover the many therapeutic benefits of this ‘Queen of Flowers’.
The gift of sight has ensured that people from across the globe have loved and nurtured this beautiful plant for centuries. Whether they have been found in gardens, bought as a treat, or given as a gift, the rose has brought joy, eased grief, cemented friendships, and often played a pivotal role in romantic relationships. And of course it would be unthinkable to imagine Valentine’s Day without red roses.
In the early 1800s, to publically show his affection, Napoléon Bonaparte, the fearless first Emperor of France, created the famous rose gardens at Château de Malmaison for Joséphine de Beauharnais, the first Empress of the French. There she could indulge in her passion and collect roses from all around the world. Artists such as Pierre-Joseph Redouté, a Belgian painter and botanist born in 1759, is remembered for his watercolours of roses and other flowers painted at Malmaison. He was official court artist to Queen Marie Antoinette and gained international recognition for his attention to detail. His renderings are as fresh in the 21st century as the day they were first done.
The gift of smell and roses are inextricably intertwined. Legend has it that a Persian princess (from modern-day Iran) smelled the sweet scent of rose petals at a wedding feast as their aromatic oils were released under the hot sun. From here the pressing of rose oils began and today essential rose oil contributes to many aspects of our everyday life. Essential rose oil is expensive to extract – 30 pressed roses yield one drop of rose oil. Perfumers have always cherished rose oils. The scent of rose oil is extremely soothing and calming and can be mildly sedative. It has been used to stop panic attacks and can reduce anger and resentment. It is considered an aphrodisiac and also a good remedy for disorders of the female system. The scent of roses can aid in meditation and it is said to balance hormones and soothe anxiety. The saying ‘stop and smell the roses’ was coined for good reason!
Masking odours long ago lead to an ongoing craft industry. Pot pourri, scented bags and coat hangers are just a few items that are made, given and received that enrich us as much today as they did when first put together.
The gift of taste is abundant as all roses are edible. Most of the wild varieties, however, are recommended for medicinal use. Rose jams, jellies, cordials and teas are delicious. Rose flavouring is used in baking and sweet treats such as Turkish delight. Petals can be iced, added to cooling drinks, and even mixed into butter and spread on to bread to make sandwiches.
Rose tea acts as a diuretic and clears toxins, assisting the kidneys, liver and gall bladder. Rose tea relieves sore throats and fights infection in the bronchial tubes, chest and digestive tract. If it is left to draw, a strong brew acts as a laxative and assists with constipation. It has an uplifting effect on the nervous system and assists with insomnia, depression and fatigue.
Rose hips, which are the swollen seed pods, are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, D and E. They contain flavonoids, citric acid, fructose, tannins and zinc. Harvest hips in the autumn to make teas, syrups and fruit drinks. To prepare, cut off the stems and blossoms, slit down one side and remove seeds. Use only the hips.
Rose petal honey is delicious and can soothe sore throats and a nasty cough. In a pot on the stove, combine 115 g runny honey with 25 g rose petals. Bring to a gentle boil for 10 minutes. Strain while still quite hot and store in warmed, sterilised airtight jars.
Making up rose flavoured goodies are relatively inexpensive and, when presented in pretty screw top jars, they make thoughtful gifts with added therapeutic benefits. Please remember that only chemical free roses must be used.
The gift of touch is significant in many ways. Soft silky petals spread on crisp clean linen invite you to bed to enjoy a sensuous, joyful, peaceful or passionate experience, depending on the moment. Rose essential oils used in skin preparations moisturise and nourish.
Cold pressed rose oils contain vitamin A which delays the signs of ageing, assists with scarring and cell regeneration. There are high amounts of fatty acids and vitamin E which promote a healthy skin. Rose oils are known to purify the skin with antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and can help with injuries and sore muscles.
The gift of hearing is one that most of us take for granted. It’s not one that we might think about much, and yet it has an enormous impact on our physical and mental well-being. Music in all forms has been with us throughout the ages. It has shaped us and influenced us on our journey through life. From the time we are born, we learn to process sound whether it is volume or tone – words said with love, anger, sympathy, or in jest. We assimilate and translate to suit our own needs.
The two most popular songs of the 20th century were Roses of Picardy and Danny Boy. Roses of Picardy was composed by Haydn Wood and sung by soprano Elise Woods in 1919. British soldiers who had enlisted to go to the front and fight in Flanders in France were buying as many as 50 000 sheets of music a month. After the war the song was used to help shell shocked soldiers regain their power of speech.
There isn’t a level in our lives where roses do not have some influence. The wonderful thing is that whether we are aware of roses or not – by seeing, or smelling, or tasting, or touching or hearing a song about them – we benefit in a positive way and are all the better for it.
- Laws B. Fifty plants that changed the course of history. Firefly Books. 2011.
- McHoy P. The complete rose book. Hermes House. 2003.
- Boling J. Roses in herbal medicine. www.everygreenherb.com
- Zabel S. Flowerfolk herbal apothecary. www.flowerfolkherbs.com