Rose hips and petals (the leaves are not used much) offer support to the body's immune system and help fight infection in the digestive tract; they are also diuretic, i.e., assist in elimination of wastes through the urinary system, as well as cooling to the body, bringing down fevers and reducing heat on the skin in the form of rashes and inflammations.
This threefold action - supporting immunity, helping elimination, and being cooling - makes rose a superb natural reliever of cold and flu symptoms, sore throats, runny noses, and blocked chests.
The rose distills a healing balm, The beating pulse of pain to calm.
- Anacreon (Greek writer, born c570 BC)
Rose shreede smalle and sod in hony makyth that hony medycynable wyth gode smalle: And this comfortyeth and clenseth and defyeth gleymy humours.
- a recipe for rose honey by Bartholomewthe Englishman (1250)
The Red Rose is astringent, and bitter. It comforts the Heart, and strengthens the Stomach.
The effect is not only good for children, and rose hip tea as well as syrup are often given to convalescents and older people to improve their general resistance, as well as lighten their mood.
But there is one note of caution in this roll-call of autumnal virtue. The official wartime instructions emphasized that while the flesh of dog rose hips was so good for you the seeds, with their short hairs, were possibly dangerous if taken internally. However, the same hairs have provided "itching powder' fun for generations of boys.
Straining the stewed hips to remove the irritant hairs was specified in the recipe, and is still found in instructions for the syrup today.
Rose petals were favored by herbalists of old mainly for their cooling and astringent qualities, and to strengthen the heart and spirits. Today's herbalists use them in hormone-balancing formulae and for support in life-cycle stages. Rose hips, petals, and essential oil all buttress the nervous system, relieving insomnia, soothing the nerves, and lifting depression, as well as evening out heart palpitations and arrhythmias.
The astringent effect, particularly of the petals, is a result of high tannin levels, which help make rose useful in staunching bleeding and unwanted discharges. There is an effect too on the digestive system, cutting over-acidity and overactivity in the stomach, as well as reducing the spasms involved in diarrhea, colitis, and dysentery.
The petals have good antiviral properties and combine well with St John's wort, elder, and self-heal for treating viral infections. There are recent claims for good anti-HV qualities in R. damascena, the damask rose.
Additionally, the petals, whether in the form of a water infusion, a distilled rose water or, as in our recipe, a glycerite, make a fragrant skin toner and cleanser, which will take the heat out of boils, acne, spots, and rashes. Rose water is also a soft, safe eyewash, mouthwash, and gargle, and a douche.
A story is told in The Odyssey of how good rose is for the skin, as well as winning the heart. Milto, a young girl and the daughter of a humble artisan, would put a fresh garland of roses each morning in the temple of Venus, the goddess of love. Milto was beautiful, but at one time a boil began to grow on her chin, and she became distraught.
In a dream the goddess came to Milto and told her to apply some of the roses to her face. She did so, and recovered her beauty and equanimity to such an extent that she later became the favorite wife of the Persian emperor Cyrus.
Rose petals make a wonderful cooling tonic for the whole female reproductive system, reducing uterine pain and the cramp of heavy periods, and supplementing other treatment of infertility and low libido. Rose's cooling and balancing qualities are particularly helpful during the menopause.
Rose has a softening action on the heart on an emotional level, and it is no accident that a dozen red roses are a conventional expression of the lover's feelings. Rose is prescribed by herbalists if the emotional aspect of "heart" is affected or there is a need for love. Rose helps us to love ourselves and be open to the love of others.
So, given all this, does the wild rose deserve its name "dog"? This might derive from derogatory comments on its commonness - Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79), for example, thought Britain was named Albion because it was covered with white roses (alba meant white).
But rose's defenders prefer an origin from an Anglo-Saxon term meaning "dagger," for the thorn, or possibly the branch out of which dagger handles could be made. Another version of the name is that rose root was once thought to cure rabies, hence dog rose.
Take three roses, white, pink and red. Wear them next to your heart for three days. Steep them in wine for three days more, then give to your lover. When he drinks, he will be yours forever.
- traditional love-charm, Germany
What may be less known today is that for centuries the main use of wild rose was for its gall or "briar balls," known as Robin's pincushions or bedeguars. Apothecaries ground them into a powder and sold them to treat kidney or bladder stone and as a diuretic. This use is long obsolete.
In any event, the success of the modern domesticated rose owes much to the wild form, and it is still usual for more tender species of ornamental roses to be grafted on to a wild rootstock. The petals of your garden roses can be used medicinally, if they are fragrant.
The Seals have a family story of rose grafting. Matthew's grandfather Ted Seal lived in Leicester and was a fervent gardener. For a private joke he grafted some big blowsy roses on to wild briars growing by the railway line to London.
He said he wanted to confuse the passengers and make them think the country roses near Leicester were something special. Perhaps he was one of those people who knew that thorns have roses.
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