I always try to stop and smell the roses. Literally. Each afternoon, when I leave my classroom full of students, I am exhausted and craving some sort of sugary or crunchy stress reliever—even a caffeinated pick me up (even though I know these things are harmful in the long run).
But then I stop and smell the roses.
Despite knowing that observing college students will snicker and colleagues will think I am crazier than they already do, I stop and smell the pillowy, pink roses blooming between the instruction building and my office. More times than not, doing this helps my stress-filled cravings disappear.
Whether you were aware that the aroma of roses can provide stress support or not, today I’d like to share five interesting things you may not already know about rose petals as well as some herbal preparations you can make with them.
5 Interesting Things About Rose Petals
1. Rose Petals For Stress Support
Aromatic roses have the power to melt away our stress and tension and immediately uplift our moods! It is no coincidence that we harness the gift of the rose to console grieving widows, titillate our romantic interests, or cover up the offensive smell of a latrine.
This tradition is based on ancient wisdom that aromatic oils wafting from the petals please our other senses as well. Rose is cooling, which is a perfect match for my very hot, type-A personality. However, anyone with moodiness, anxiety (Hongratanaworakit, 2009), stress, and/or depression (Conrad and Adams, 2012) can benefit from inhaling or ingesting the exhilarating aromatics from the rose. This might also explain the mechanism behind rose’s tested ability to increase sexual function in both males and females (Farnia et. al., 2015)!
2. Rose Petals Are Antimicrobial
About that latrine. Along with other aromatic herbs, rose’s volatile oils also lend themselves to this plant’s antimicrobial benefits. Historically, aromatic herbs were used in tombs to prevent microbial encroachment (for a wonderful discussion of historical uses of aromatics, see Guido Mase’s Wild Medicine Solution). Thanks to this antimicrobial property, rose can be used as a first-aid ally, and Lorna Mauney-Brodek with the Herb Bus mobile herb clinic, uses rose water for infected eyewashes (mixed with a saline solution) and cooling sore throat gargles.
3. Rose Petals For Skin Health
The rose wasn’t only gifted with the ability to calm and uplift. Imagine the Queen splashing her face with rose-infused water or soaking in a petal-filled tub. Rose petals are astringent, tightening and toning the wrinkliest gramma, the most gaping of pores, or the most collapsed of hemorrhoids. Lorna Mauney-Brodek says this tightening ability can be applied to emotional comforting as well, where we feel the need to be “tightly held”, by inhaling or ingesting the lovely rose (Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, n.d.). The astringent properties of rose have even been shown to be more effective than placebos at addressing canker sores (Hoseinpour et. al., 2011)!
4. Rose Petals For The Female Reproductive System
Don’t let the rose’s ability to astringe some tissues fool you into thinking it will astringe all tissues. When I learned that rose petals could be useful in reversing menorrhagia and is used by midwives for halting hemorrhaging, I added her to my daily infusions for a few weeks. Imagine my surprise when she had the drastic OPPOSITE effect, and well, I will leave the colorful visuals for other, more pleasing paragraphs.
Suffice it to say that my teachers laughed at my learning the hard way that the rose’s power on the female reproductive system varies from person to person and acts as either a styptic or an emmenagogue, so experiment cautiously based upon your rosey needs (and perhaps not at all during pregnancy).
Ok, back to smelling… or rather, eating those roses…
5. Roses Petals Are Yummy
As a child, my only experience with the rose scent was from fake potpourri bags and sprays, and I abhorred it. I went around saying how much I loathed the rose to anyone who tried to waft her in my direction. Imagine my surprise when, on a more adventurous day, I tried a recipe with real, dried rose petals. It was divine! True, not much can distract from the chocolaty heaven of truffles, but this was my first experience into actually enjoying the rose in her real, authentic state. Now, I drink Rosalee de la Foret’s recipe of hibiscus, rose petal, tulsi tea daily. Furthermore, the hue of the petals indicate the presence of nutritive phytonutrients, like antioxidants, carotenoids, anthocyanins, and bioflavonoids (comparable to green tea!), adding more bang to the buck of eating, not just smelling, the lovely rose (Vinokur et al., 2006).
Actions & Energetics of Rose
Rose Petal (Rosa spp.) Actions
astringent (drying, tightening, toning), aromatic (relaxing, antimicrobial), possible emmenagogue (contraindicated internally during pregnancy), cooling, nutritive (antioxidants and polyphenols), and scrumptious.
Rose Petal (Rosa spp.) Energetics
drying and cooling
How To Make Herbal Preparations With Rose Petals
One great thing about roses is that they are all edible (Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, n.d.)! Just make sure they are free of pesticides and herbicides, and that they are fragrant (the power is in the smell).
Here are some of my favorite herbal preparations to make with rose petals:
Soak fresh rose petals in water overnight. Strain and use as an astringent face wash or mouthwash, antimicrobial gargle, eye wash, or a hemorrhoid–reducing wash. This cooling water can also be used to soothe sunburns.
Put dried rose petals into a coffee grinder, grind, and use your powder to roll your homemade chocolate truffles in or mix with butter or cream cheese for an herbed butter or frosting. I also use rose powder in a tea to help soothe acute allergy symptoms along with goldenrod, nettles, and plantain.
Fill a jar with fresh rose petals and cover with vinegar. Let sit at least a few days. Straining is optional, and you can use this as a salad dressing or vinaigrette base if you wish.
Fill a jar with fresh rose petals and cover with local, raw honey (works with dried rose petals, too!). Let sit at least a few days. Straining is optional. Use where your taste buds desire a little sweet treat!
The Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine’s Herbal Medicine Making course (n.d.) teaches a rose-based “Heart Formula for Grief and Loss” by teacher Asia Suler. Combine 2 parts hawthorn flowers or fruit tincture, 2 parts rose petals tincture, and 1 part tulsi flowering herb tincture and take 2-3 droppers full 3x/day. Here’s another version of Grief Tea with roses and hawthorn as well.
And then there is the easiest…
One of my favorite ways to use rose is to shove my face into their fluffy petals (warning: look for lurking spiders first) and breathe deeply as often as needed.
This last remedy saves me from a daily trip to temporary-stress-relieving coffee shops, and instead, I head to my office with a head full of aromatic rose oils, authentically relaxed, uplifted, and ready to take on the world.
- Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine Herbal Immersion Program [Online Database]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://chestnutherbs.com/online-herbal-classes/herbal-immersion-program/
- Conrad, P., & Adams, C. (2012). The effects of clinical aromatherapy for anxiety and depression in the high risk postpartum woman – A pilot study. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 18(3), 164-168. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2012.05.002
- Farnia, V., Hojatitabar, S., Shakeri, J., Rezaei, M., Yazdchi, K., Bajoghli, H., . . . Brand, S. (2015). Adjuvant Rosa Damascena has a Small Effect on SSRI-induced Sexual Dysfunction in Female Patients Suffering from MDD. Pharmacopsychiatry, 48(04/05), 156-163. doi:10.1055/s-0035-1554712
- Hongratanaworakit, T. (2009). Relaxing effect of rose oil on humans. Natural Product Communications, 4(2), 291-296.
- Hoseinpour, H., Peel, S.A., Rakhshandeh, H., Forouzanfar, A., Taheri, M., Rajabi, O., Saljoghinejad, M., Sohrabi K. (2011). Evaluation of Rosa damascena mouthwash in the treatment of recurrent aphthous stomatitis: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Quintessence Int., 42(6), 483-91.
- Vinokur, Y., Rodov, V., Reznik, N., Goldman, G., Horev, B., Umiel, N., Friedman, H. (2006). Rose Petal Tea as an Antioxidant-Rich Beverage: Cultivar Effects. Journal of Food Science. 71(1), S42–S47. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2621.2006.tb12404.x