By Jessica Shepherd
I hope the holiday’s have treated you all lightly and brightly! Perhaps you were gifted a handmade herbal goodie this Winter Solstice? Well as we quickly approach the end of this year, I wanted to spotlight and pay homage to the 2012 IHA Herb of the Year: Rose–coined the “queen of flowers” in 600 BC. by the Greek poetess Sappho. Every year the International Herb Association, chooses an “herb of the year” and hooray for Rose– the herb of the year for 2012!!!! For more info on the IHA, and the glorious Rose click here.
Now of course we don’t need a plant to be herb of the year in order to appreciate it, but I felt it was the perfect excuse for us all to honor the rose, and let our hearts overflow with the love that this beautiful flower embodies and spirals out to us. May the love and vibration of this Queen of Flowers catapult us right into 2013! Deborah Eidson’s book Vibrational Healing, puts it beautifully saying: “The many different forms of the Rose acknowledge humanity’s co-creative involvement in the Plant Kingdom’s evolution, and humanity’s divine role of stewardship. Infusing the personality with tenderness instills inner peace and lets the creativity of the Soul shine through the personality….Roses grow in a lush variety of shapes, hues, and fragrances all exquisitely beautiful.”
This video below is an amazing, humbling glimpse into rose flowers being harvested, to then freshly be made into rose essential oil and its co-product rose hydrosol. You will notice in one of the shots a big sign that says ORGANIC–which is how I prefer my roses!
May your heart’s be as moved as much as mine was from the beautiful visuals of amazing hard-working people harvesting in the fields, and bringing to us this beloved flower. Towards the end is when I held my breath at the sight of a very big glass jar holding the most rose essential oil I have ever seen!!!!! WOW! What the air must have smelled like during all of this! Give Thanks to Plants and People!
In the video above they showed the vast quantity of rose petals it requires to obtain steam distilled essential oil. Steam distillation is the purest form of rose essential oil available, meaning only steam and/or water are used to “burst” the volatile oil sacs or glands of the plant material in order to release them. Then, that steam is carried through a tube which cools it and condenses it into “water”, this water technically being the hydrosol. The essential oil which is not water soluble (hydrophobic), then seperates from the hydrosol by naturally rising to the top. The distilled essential oil that separates from the hydrosol is then routed thru to its own flask to be collected as the final product–100% pure rose essential oil sometimes referred to or labeled as Rose Otto. Pure rose essential oil is, and should be expected to be quite pricy and rightly so, just the care and tending of the rose bushes requires a lot of attention. Not to mention as fragrant as the rose flower is, the petals have very few essential oil glands and therefore very little essential oil can be produced during the distillation process--it can actually take up to 60 rosebuds just to yield one precious drop of this oil! Something else unique to note here is that rose essential oil does contain naturally occurring waxes (a.k.a paraffins) so it congeals when it is cool or cold. So before I need to use a drop I warm the bottle in my hand for a few minutes or run some warm water over the bottom part of the bottle to gently get it back to a nice liquid state. And by the way friends, one drop goes an incredibly long way and surely is to be used sparingly!
I want to just briefly mention Rose Absolute here, which is another option of rose oil to work with. Instead of being steam distilled an absolute is rather an extraction where a solvent is used such as alcohol, hexane, methane, butane, or propane. The plant material gets submerged and agitated with the solvent in order to dissolve the volatile oils, waxes, and pigments from the plant. After, the solvent is then removed through evaporation under pressure, its then mixed with ethyl alcohol and chilled to filter out the waxes, leaving behind the volatile oil compounds diluted in the alcohol. The final step is to then remove the alcohol by vacuum distilling the mixture. Because solvent residues can sometimes still be present in absolute’s, it is wise to get as much information from the distributor as possible such as what solvent was used. If I purchase an absolute I always choose an alcohol extraction, it is still pricy but on average it is not as expensive as steam distilled rose essential oil.
Rose essential oil is also unique in its chemical makeup in that it is not as hydrophobic (meaning it wants to separate from water and is not water soluble) as most essential oils. Because of this, some of the essential oil tends to remain in the hydrosol– so much so that it is very common for the hydrosol to even be redistilled another time in order to fully distill out as much pure essential oil as is possible. It is inevitable though, that some essential oil remains in the hydrosol, which is what makes rose hydrosol such a treasure! It is more affordable than the concentrated Rose Otto essential oil, smells exactly like a fresh rose, and has amazing properties like skin tonification and rejuvenation, hormone balance and de-stressing, and even to using in different culinary delights–maybe a spoonful added to your glass of white wine!
Synthetic rose fragrances are in no way close to the real thing– many people are pleasantly surprised when they smell the e.o. or hydrosol for the first time experiencing the pure, delicate, clean, and fresh etheric floral scent. Not a synthetic hit you in the face, can taste it in your mouth, strong flower smell. Once you have smelled the real thing and worked with it be in a cream or a spritz–you will be able to notice the many artificial rosewaters and oils on the market. Like I mentioned before, price is a good indicator–rose e.o. should not be cheap. Because a plentiful amount of hydrosol is yielded in the distillation process even organic rose hydrosol (a.k.a. rosewater) can be rather affordable averaging from $3 or $4 per ounce. Simpler’s Botanicals, and Mountain Rose Herbs both carry very high quality rose hydrosol.
So now to highlight just a few properties of the beloved Rose (Rosa damascena, R. gallica, and R. centifolia)…
Fresh and Dry Rose Petals and whole buds:
Used internally for: Nervousness, stress, and general calming; the rose centers the heart and eases grief and heartache, sadness, and loss; has a restoring effect on the nervous system and uplifts; it has cooling effects and can be used to bring down fever and also to clear “heat” or toxins in the body that manifest in forms of rashes and inflammation. It can also help fight infection in the digestive tract and aid in re-establishing the normal bacterial population of the intestines, and the tea is astringent and can be used for diarrhea, and dysentery; also used for mild allergies as an anti-inflammatory and decongestant and to strengthen the lungs. Utilized in many female tonic and hormone formulas as it can relieve cramps and heavy periods, as well as irregular periods, infertility and to enhance sexual desire. To make tea from loose dry rose petals: use 1 tbsp. per cup of water, steep covered for 10-15 minutes then strain and enjoy a delicate cup of this gentle flower.
Used topically for: skin rashes and inflammation; a warm compress over the eyes can reduce puffiness; soothes and softens the skin, helping the skin to retain moisture; excellent in a foot bath to relax and soothe tired swollen feet and equally relaxing and calming when infused into a tea and added to a hot bath; has mild antiseptic and antibacterial qualities; dry rose petals are wonderful to infuse in carrier oils (like jojoba or sunflower).
Used topically for: tones and softens the skin, is cooling and mildly astringent and anti-inflamatory; can be added to masks and steams, and compresses or add it to any beauty product to amplify the effects and scent; can also use an ounce in the bath for relaxation and rejuvenation, is a humectant so it adds and retains moisture and is suitable for normal to dry, mature, sensitive, and devitalized skin; can be used to diminish scars, stretch marks, and wrinkles
Rose Otto essential oil (steam distilled from the blossoms):
Used topically for: a little goes a long way so dilute properly before using! Rose is a popular cell rejuvenator and age-defying precious oil and it benefits all complexion types; helps sun-damaged skin; helpful for varicose veins and some blood vessel problems including couperose skin; it soothes and heals burns and rashes, and is a strong antiseptic on bacterial and viral skin infection
Used in aromatherapy for: heartache, grief, and to promote feelings of calm and peace; helps alleviate depression, anxiety, fear, insomnia, and lack of confidence; it is comforting and supporting through crisis, and can be used during times of relationship conflicts, anger, envy, and intolerance; evokes feelings of love and is an aphrodisiac.
Of course the rose is wonderful to impart in your homemade infused oils, tea blends, salves, lip balms, syrups, vinegars, even a few fresh petals in your summer salad, and so much more!
I certainly couldn’t imagine a world without roses!!!! Eyes closed and inhaling– mmmm, and ahhhhh, the scent of the rose– it’s like an embrace from a brilliant rainbow that just swirls through delivering expansive love straight to my heart. Some feel that the Rose is one of the most powerful “heart openers” on the planet–I agree! From gardening and cultivating this bush to fresh and dry petals, to pure steam distilled rose essential oil and its co-product: rose hydrosol– the rose offers petals, upon petals, of healing and love. So from the infinite of my heart I celebrate yet another magnificent gift that nature has blessed us with the Rose!
the rose youtube video was shared with me via the blog 101cookbooks.com–its what actually inspired me to do this post!
Hydrosols The Next Aromatherapy by Suzanne Catty
Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art
Vibrational Healing by Deborah Eidson
The Complete Women’s Herbal by Anne McIntyre
Advanced Aromatherapy by Kurt Schnaubelt
if you are still here reading– wow, I thank you so much! and a surprise for you: 2013 Herb of the Year–Elderberry!!!!!
Evergreen Blessings to You and Yours for a Prosperous and Positive New Year!!!!!
*This post is intended to be an exchange of information in hopes to keep the herbal tradition alive and thriving. It is of course not intended to treat, or diagnose, nor is it intended to replace the care and treatment from a licensed practitioner or health care provider. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.