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Rose Petals, Oil, and Water: Fragrant and Useful

Updated on September 8, 2017
AliciaC profile image

Linda Crampton is a writer and teacher with an honors degree in biology. She loves to study nature and write about animals and plants.

The Damask rose, or Rosa damascena, is frequently used for oil extraction.
The Damask rose, or Rosa damascena, is frequently used for oil extraction. | Source

The Value of Roses

The rose has been a loved and valued flower since ancient times. Its beautiful appearance and scent have been admired by many people for many years. Roses are useful as well as ornamental, however. Their petals make fragrant and attractive decorations. The petals are also used to make a scented oil and water. These products are added to perfumes, cosmetics, foods, and drinks. In addition, rose oil and water play an important role in some religious ceremonies.

Gardeners and flower enthusiasts can choose from a huge variety of cultivated roses which have a wide range of colors and bloom appearances. The oil and water are traditionally made from the distillation of Damask rose petals, but they can also be made from other roses that have a strong fragrance. Rose oil and water can be bought in some stores. They can also be made at home, although homemade products may not be as strongly scented as commercial products.

Roses are a symbol of love and beauty. They are also useful.
Roses are a symbol of love and beauty. They are also useful. | Source

The Damask Rose

The Damask rose is a very old rose and is famous for its beautiful fragrance. The petals are edible and are used to decorate or flavor food. They are also used to create an infusion or tea. The petals are sometimes crystallized with sugar to preserve them and are eaten later.

The scientific name of the Damask rose is written as Rosa damascena or Rosa X damascena. The X between the genus (the first word of the scientific name) and the species (the second word in the name) indicates that the plant is a hybrid created by crossing other roses. The plant is thought to have originated in the Middle East, although another theory suggests that it was created in Ancient Rome. It's named after the city of Damascus, the capital of Syria.

The Damask rose grows as a shrub. The flowers are pink or light red. Two types of Damask roses exist today—the Summer Damasks and the Autumn Damasks. Each of these types contains a variety of different but related flowers, all with the same scientific name. This is why the term "Damask Rose" is often used in the plural. The flowering period of the Autumn Damasks extends through the summer into the fall while the Summer Damasks bloom only in summer.

Damask roses
Damask roses | Source

Damask Rose Production

The main producers of oil from the Damask rose are Bulgaria and Turkey. The oil is also made in India and France. Bulgaria has an annual rose festival to celebrate the flower and its meaning to the country. The variety of Damask rose grown commercially in Bulgaria is called the Kazanlak rose after the town with the same name. Rose oil production plays an important role in Kazanlak's economy.

Oil Extraction

Rose oil is also called attar of rose, attar of roses, rose otto, or rose absolute. The first three names refer to the extract obtained by the steam distillation of rose petals. Rose absolute is obtained by solvent extraction.

The extraction methods are described below. They are used to obtain essential oils and aromatic compounds from other flowers and herbs in addition to roses. The plant kingdom has much to offer us in terms of useful chemicals.

A flower in the rain
A flower in the rain | Source

Steam Distillation

In steam distillation, rose petals are added to water in a still, which is usually made of copper. The water-rose petal mixture is heated by steam flowing around the outside of the copper container. The heat causes the water and the volatile rose oil to evaporate. The vapor is then passed through a cooling apparatus, which causes it to condense (change from a gas to a liquid).

The rose oil floats on top of the water in the condensed liquid, so the two materials can be separated easily. The oil has a light green color. The water component of the condensed liquid is called a rose hydrosol or rose water. It may be redistilled to extract aromatic compounds, which are added to the oil, or it may be used as a product in its own right. Sometimes the water condensed in the second distillation is sold as rose water instead of the water produced in the first distillation.

Producing Rose Oil in Bulgaria by Steam Distillation

Solvent Extraction

Solvent extraction removes more of the aromatic compounds from rose petals than the steam distillation method. In addition, the extract contains a stronger fragrance because the chemicals that cause the rose aroma aren't damaged by heat. There is a drawback to the solvent extraction method, however. Hexane is often used as the solvent. A very small amount of hexane may remain in the final product. This may be a concern, since hexane is toxic. Rose oil manufacturers claim that the amount of solvent residue is insignificant, though.

Hexane extracts waxes and pigments from rose petals in addition to the aromatic oil. Once the hexane is removed, a soft, waxy solid known as rose concrete is produced. Alcohol is added to the concrete to dissolve the aromatic compounds without dissolving the waxes. Much of the alcohol is then evaporated, producing rose absolute. Rose absolute is red-brown in color.

Pink roses
Pink roses | Source

Other Methods of Extracting Rose Oil

Extraction by Supercritical Carbon Dioxide

A third method of rose oil extraction is sometimes used. It combines the benefits of both the steam distillation method and the solvent extraction one while removing some of their disadvantages. The extraction method removes many of the chemicals that contribute to the rose fragrance and also uses a safe chemical. The chemical is carbon dioxide, which is used at a pressure and temperature which enable it to reach a supercritical state. In this state carbon dioxide is a fluid (a substance that is able to flow) but is neither a gas nor a liquid. It has some properties of each state, however. Supercritical carbon dioxide removes aromatic compounds from rose petals without damaging the compounds.

Oil Infusion

A rose oil with a much milder fragrance than that produced by commercial methods can be made at home by the oil infusion method. Dried and crushed rose petals can be added to a carrier oil and left to soak in the oil for four weeks. It's important to watch out for mold and other contamination in the infused oil.

How to Make a Rose Oil Infusion

Uses of the Oil

Rose oil is a complex substance and contains many different chemicals. It's in high demand in the perfume industry and is used to flavor chocolate, jam, and liqueurs. It's also used in cosmetics, in massage oils, and in aromatherapy.

The oil is popular in alternative medicine and is said to have many health benefits. Most of these claims haven't been tested scientifically. There is evidence that rose oil may have anti-inflammatory properties, however. There is also evidence that it may be antibacterial.

The oil is said to relieve stress and anxiety when it's added to a hot bath or massaged on the skin. The beautiful scent would certainly add to the enjoyment of these activities, even if the oil itself isn't responsible for the stress relief.

How to Make Rose Water at Home

Rose Water

Rose water is a by-product of the steam distillation of rose petals. It consists of water and water-soluble chemicals which contribute to the fragrance of roses. It's easy to make rose water at home by boiling the petals in water.

Rose water is a popular additive to foods, especially in some countries and cultures. It's often used to flavor sweets and candies, such as marshmallows and Turkish delight. Turkish delight is a gelatinous candy covered with powdered sugar. Rose water may also be added to baked goods, such as cookies and scones, desserts, such as rice pudding, yogurt, and ice cream, and beverages such as milk and tea. It's also used as a perfume in religious ceremonies and is sometimes added to cosmetics. Glycerin and rose water is a popular moisturizer, for example.

It's wonderful that roses are not only beautiful but also useful. Nature and plant breeding techniques have created lovely single petaled and double petaled roses with a wide variety of colors. Some of these flowers have a delightful scent. Producing rose oil and water allows us to capture the fragrance of the flowers for use in many different products.

References

  • Yackley, Ayla Jean. "Turkish rose farmers struggle to keep tradition alive." Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/turkey-roses/turkish-rose-farmers-struggle-to-keep-tradition-alive-idUSL5N0ZF35L20150702 (accessed September 8, 2017).
  • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. "Thyme oil can inhibit COX2 and suppress inflammation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100113122306.htm (accessed September 8, 2017). (This article refers to rose oil as well as thyme oil.)
  • "Anti-inflammatory properties of rose oxide." National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23122727 (accessed September 8, 2017).
  • "Tocopherol, carotene, phenolic contents and antibacterial properties of rose essential oil, hydrosol and absolute." National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19688375 (accessed September 8, 2017).

© 2013 Linda Crampton

Comments

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    • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the vote. the shares and the angels, pstraubie! I appreciate them all. It is surprising how useful roses can be!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      5 years ago from sunny Florida

      Wow, I had no idea. I learned so much from this. And I guess I have had my head buried in the sand but did not know that it was used in foods!!! Pinned, voted up, and shared.

      Well done...Angels are on the way to you this afternoon. ps

    • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks, RTalloni. I agree with you - roses are wonderful!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      5 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks for this interesting look at rose petal oil and water. I enjoyed learning more about the making and use of these wonderful blooms.

    • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks, DDE. I appreciate your comment. Roses are certainly beautiful!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Extraordinary and so well researched on roses, I prefer roses to most other plants and flowers.

    • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment, Naomi's Banner. I love the fragrant roses best of all, too. Fragrance and beauty are wonderful in a flower!

    • Naomi's Banner profile image

      Naomi's Banner 

      5 years ago from United States

      Great Hub! I love roses. I have many and I too love the fragrant ones. Roses bring back lots of wonderful memories of my grandfather and grandmother who raised prize roses. They taught me a lot about roses and getting the most out of your rosé plants. This is very awesome as I now know how to use the pedals to make very useful products. I thank you for your time in creating this very informative Hub! Great job!

    • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Deb. Thanks for the comment. That's an interesting thought - rose water might attract some birds!

    • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much, Nell. I appreciate your vote and the share. The rose and the oil do have lovely names. I haven't thought of the idea before, but you're right - the names do remind me of a historical novel!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This was really interesting. I think I might try making a rose water. After all, it is very pure, and it might even bring some birds to me.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 years ago from England

      Fascinating hub Alicia, I love roses, and the Damask rose is such an ancient name, it conjures up old historical novels as does attar of rose. I never realised how the extraction process worked, so this was really interesting, wonderful hub, voted and shared! nell

    • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment and the share, Sue! Putting fragrant rose petals in a bath sounds like a lovely idea. I hope you have a great visit with your daughter.

    • Sue Bailey profile image

      Susan Bailey 

      5 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

      What a marvellous hub Alicia! I'm staying at my daughters at the moment and she has some wonderfully fragrant roses in her garden. I was smelling them today. I might put some of the petals in my bath tomorrow. Voted up and shared

    • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you so much for the kind comment, the vote and the share, Faith Reaper!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      5 years ago from southern USA

      Beautiful and useful hub here! I have heard of rose water, but that is about it. Excellent write.

      Voted up ++++ and sharing

      Blessings, Faith Reaper

    • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much, Tom. I appreciate your comment and votes!

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend great informative article on a very beautiful flower, some of it i did not know before so thanks for sharing this information within this well written article.

      Vote up and more !!!

    • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment, drbj. Roses are beautiful flowers, and I love all the differently types that have been created. Rose oil and rose water are lovely products, too!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      5 years ago from south Florida

      Roses are among my favorite flowers, Alicia, so I thank you doubly for this lovely essay about their beauty and various uses.

    • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much, Bill. As always, I appreciate your visit, as well as the vote, the share and the pin!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great hub Alicia. Who doesn't love the rose. I had no idea that you could extract oil from the rose and all of the uses for it. And I thought it was just for looking at? Thank you once again for the education. Voted up, shared and pinned.

    • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much, Joanne! I appreciate your visit.

    • profile image

      Joanne M Olivieri 

      5 years ago

      All of this information is wonderful. The videos are extremely helpful as well. Great hub.

    • AliciaC profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the comment and for passing on the information to Bev, Bill! I hope you have an excellent day in Washington.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great information about one of my favorite flowers. I can't grow them well but I love their fragrance. I'll pass this on to Bev, who loves this type of information.

      Have a great day in BC my friend.

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