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Rose oil: the aromatherapy and health properties of rose essential oil

Updated on August 15, 2009

Roses: their benefits and uses

Roses…the very name conjures up romantic images.

This beautiful flower has innumerable stories, legends, and myths associated with it. Roses come in many colors, shapes, and sizes, and their fragrance is like no other.

Rose oil is among the safest of all essential oils. It is extracted by steam distillation of fresh Damascus Roses, or Rosa Damascena.

Damascus Roses are the most fragrant of all roses and are believed to be the original red roses with the strongest aroma and highest oil content.

There are many benefits of this lovely flower…and not just in the romance department!

This article is about the health benefits of rose oil, and rose aromatherapy.

A wonderful Victorian illustration of Rose Majalis.
A wonderful Victorian illustration of Rose Majalis.
A Rose flower from the Climbing Souvenir de la Malmaison sub-type. This photo is in the public domain.
A Rose flower from the Climbing Souvenir de la Malmaison sub-type. This photo is in the public domain.
A Rose Moschata. This image is in the public domain.
A Rose Moschata. This image is in the public domain.

Traditional wisdom about roses

For sheer fragrance and beauty, the rose reigns supreme.

Its cultivation spread from Persia to China and beyond, bringing inspiration to artists and poets in every land.

Several famous people in history had an affinity for roses.

When Cleopatra entertained Mark Antony on her barge, she made sure he was surrounded by the fragrance and extravagance of the flower.

She had the banquet tables scattered with roses, the floors covered several inches deep in petals, and the couches lined with rose-filled mattresses.

The great Chinese philosopher, Confucius, is said to have had a six hundred book library dealing with growing and caring for roses.

Napoleon's wife, Josephine, so adored roses that she grew more than two and hundred fifty different varieties.

Shakespeare refers to roses more than fifty times throughout his writings, most famously in Romeo and Juliet, where Juliet says, "A rose by any other word would smell as sweet".

In 1187, on entering Jerusalem, the Muslim conqueror Saladin had the Omar mosque washed in rosewater to purify it.

Roses have been used historically in jam, vinegar, pies, and as a garnish. The delicate flavor of rosewater is excellent for cooking, and the candy known as Turkish delight is also made from it.

In ancient Persia, rose wine was sold and traded.

The myriad uses for the rose are being rediscovered and enjoyed today. Below are some current facts about essential oil of rose.

Herbal Lore

Recently, archaeologists discovered the fossilized remains of wild roses that were over 34 million years old.

Health benefits of rose essential oil and use in aromatherapy products

Anti Depressant: Rose oil is widely used in aromatherapy and invokes positive thoughts and feelings of joy, happiness and hope.

Astringent: Rose essential oil strengthens hair roots and tones and lifts skin. It contracts small blood vessels, and can be applied to a cut to stop the flow of blood.

Eye Care: Splash sore eyes with rosewater to help heal conjunctivitis.

Skin Care:Rose essential oil makes the scars from boils, acne and wounds fade away.

This includes fading of stretch marks and surgery marks associated with pregnancy and delivery.

Rose oil regulates hormone production, and is one of the best oils for shining, fresh, youthful skin.

Cold or warm compress: If you suffer from chronic aches and pains, monthly cramps, or headaches, this remedy may give you relief.

Hot compresses help to relieve chronic pain such as cramps for menstruation or muscle cramps.

Cold compresses are better at relieving and reducing swelling, sprains and headaches.

Place four to six drops of rose essential oil into very hot or icy cold water.

Dip a folded cloth into the mixture, wring out the excess water and apply the cloth compress directly on the affected area. Cover the area with a towel as your body soaks in the rose oil relief.

Renoir's painting of Roses
Renoir's painting of Roses
Commercial rose-picking in Bulgaria in the 1870s
Commercial rose-picking in Bulgaria in the 1870s

Fun facts about roses

The world's oldest living rose bush is thought to be over a thousand years old. It continues to bloom today on the wall of Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany.

The Romans believed white roses grew where the tears of the goddess Venus fell as she mourned the loss of her beloved Adonis.

In Christianity, the red rose is symbolic of the blood of Christ and a symbol of the passion and resurrection. The white rose is linked to the Virgin Mary- this color bears no thorns.

While the rose plant itself may bear no fruit, the rose hips (the part left on the plant after a rose has bloomed) contain more vitamin C than almost any other fruit or vegetable.

Did you know that flowers once had secret meanings to their givers and recipients? The "language" of flowers originated in Persia in the fifteenth century.

In the nineteenth century, this "floral code" became more elaborate, so that complex messages could be sent between people by using flower bouquets.

Each flower and color had a specific meaning, so that conversations between courting couples could be carried out without a single word being used!

For example, a red rose meant true love, respect, and courage. Yellow roses symbolized joy, friendship, and sometimes jealousy, while white roses meant innocence, purity, or implored the recipient to “keep a secret.”

Tips on rose plants

Would you like to grow your own roses? The following tips will help you produce lovely flowers to share with a friend.

  • Roses need five or more hours of sun per day.

  • Water deeply two or three times per week, but ensure good drainage. Standing water will rot the plant’s roots.

  • Thin or transplant the plants from autumn to spring, and deadhead in the summer.

  • Protect the crown from freezing in winter by mounding mulch over it.


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