Sunday, February 10, 2008

Roses ... The Queen of Flowers

With Valentine's Day coming up, the subject of roses is on our minds. This article was originally printed in the Mar/Apr '03 issue of The Essential Herbal magazine.....

Maggie Savory-Posselius
Sappho, the Greek poet, designated the rose (Rosa spp.) as the “Queen of Flowers” for its glorious gold stamens surrounded by delicate petals. For centuries, roses have been associated with love. Romans designated the rose as the symbol for Venus, the Love Goddess. Cupid gave Harpocrates, the God of Silence, a rose so that his mother’s loves might be kept secrets. Romans also used roses, woven in garland crowns, to be worn by brides and grooms. Even today, it is still believed by many that a rose picked on Midsummer’s Night Eve and placed between a woman’s breasts, while she sleeps will bring images of her true love in her dreams.
The first garden roses (referred to as Heirloom Roses) chronicled were the Gallicas, Rosa x alba, the damask rose, the musk rose, and R. centifolia (the cabbage rose). These roses were found in the gardens of monasteries, at the base of the Tower of London, and in most formal gardens of monarchs. For today’s gardener and herbalist, heirloom roses hold distinction among other ornamentals and herbs.
Whether the R. rubiginosa, the sweet briar rose, often found welcoming visitors into a garden where it graces arbors or fences at the garden’s entrance, or the Damask Rose, used as the focal point or defining the garden with its eight foot canes, roses will add beauty and fragrance to your garden.
Heirloom roses are relatively easy to grow. Unlike their modern counterparts, heirlooms are not susceptible to common rose diseases such as black spot and powdery mildew. Heirlooms bloom once a season, but the season can extend up to two months. And unlike many modern cultivars, heirloom roses have retained the true scent of roses, an aromatic blend of “classic rose”, nasturtium, violet, apple, lemon, clove, and tea. With little care, heirloom roses will flourish in a sunny garden. A slightly acidic, well-drained and fertile soil will allow your roses to give you years of enjoyment.
Medicinally, rose petals and flowers are used as a tea for sore throats and are ingredients in many cold syrups. Roses have antidepressant, antiseptic, antiviral, and antispasmodic qualities. Rose hips are rich in Vitamin C and are valuable as a “booster” during cold and flu season. Vitamin C is highest in concentration in fresh rose hips and decreases as the hips are dried. Perhaps harvesting fresh rose hips and immediately freezing them or making a tincture will help to preserve the Vitamin C level.
Roses and rose hips can be used as an infusion, tincture, syrup, gargle, and mouthwash. As an application for skin care, roses have been respected for their aromatic qualities. Lotions and creams made with roses are an effective application for aging, dry, or inflamed skin. Combined with Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), a lotion made with rose water will help relieve vaginal itching.
Rose essential oil (Rosa damascene) has been used as an effective treatment for depression and anxiety. A few drops added to bath water can help ease depression due to grief and for treatment of insomnia. Pure rose essential oil can be costly, as it takes 60,000 petals to make one ounce of essential oil, but it is worth the expense.
Rose Hip Seed oil (Rosa mosqueta) promotes tissue regeneration and is an excellent oil for reducing wrinkles and scarring. It has proven to be an effective treatment for UV damaged skin and for skin injured during radiation treatment. Rose Hip Seed oil contains high levels of linolenic acid and beta carotene, both of which are soothing and restorative.
Whether in your garden, in your medicine cabinet, or your lotions and potions, roses can bring beauty to your life. By scent, visual appearance, or taste, roses have been proven through time to be indispensable in our lives.

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