Here’s an article I just wrote for the Catfish Alley Magazine, my favorite local Mississippi magazine which covers soulful things here in the state. They, of course, tightened up and edited the article. Here is the unedited version (smile). ENJOY!
“Where, you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.” ~ Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
This is not going to be easy as there is so much to say about the fair rose. With most species originating in Asia, there are over 100 species of rose and thousands of cultivars bedazzling gardens all over the world.
North America is home to its own native and introduced roses of which you can find in the wild, outside carefully tended gardens. And then, there are the decadent and multi-petal cultivars adorning gardens which are fragrant displays of centuries of selection and hybridizing.
The reason for its persistent appearance in our lives no matter where we roam…? Their scent. Their bloom. Their medicine. Their usefulness. Their nutrition. And, even their thorns. What else in the plant kingdom can protect us with thorns while maintaining beauty, charm and even grace? None other than the rose…
The rose is a member of a large family of plants, aptly called the Rose Family. Typically plants in this family have five petals, alternative leaves, and leaves with serrated edges. Beyond the common rose I am writing about, the rose family is host to many more members that you may be familiar with such as strawberry, apple tree, blackberry, cinquefoil, hawthorn tree, and agrimony. The plants in this family all share a common energetic, they are all cooling and astringent. You will see why this is important later on in my writing.
In Mississippi, there are about three roses that you can find while out and about. The native rose is Carolina Rose (Rosa carolina), and some common roses that were introduced to the area are Cherokee Rose (Rosa laevigata) and Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora). The Carolina Rose is absolutely my favorite to find in the wild, with its simple petal structure, rosy-pink petals, and brilliant yellow center. My favorite rose in the garden is Rosa rugosa which has delightful blooms and yields the largest rosehips.
The great thing about tapping into the medicine and beauty of rose is that you really don’t have to go far. If the roses have not been treated with any chemicals, any species or cultivar is fair game. For food and medicine, you can gather the rose petals in the summer and the rosehips in the late fall/early winter (after the first frost for the best concentration of Vit C and bioflavonoids, or antioxidants). The leaves can be gathered throughout the summer, as well.
As I mentioned before, members of the rose family, including our dear rose, are cooling and astringent. Rose petals are one of my favorite herbs for those with a hot or inflamed digestive tract. Whether it’s Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Leaky Gut, or even acid reflux, the cooling and tissue tightening action of rose petals will soothe and calm irritated tissues along the digestive tract.
Likewise, rose is also indicated for those experiencing rapid transit and diarrhea. Prepare a tea with rose petals, flax seed, peach leaves, and/or rose of sharon leaves for diarrhea. Or, simply use rose petals if that’s all you have on hand.
And then there’s the application of rose for the heart. Roses are not only in the hands of brides, they also are left at graves in remembrance. Rose has an affinity for those who are experiencing big life shifts, as well as heavy hearts and grief. Just smelling a rose can lift your spirits and calm your nerves. Again, the radiant bloom and protective thorns make it feel safe and inviting to be with our joy, our excitement, our sorrow, and our grief.
The hawthorn tree (Crataegus spp), or “mayhaw” as it’s called around here, is probably the greatest heart ally. Also a member of the rose family and closely related to the rose, this tree’s flowers and berries are excellent cardiotonic herbs. Old-timers probably have had mayhaw jam or even mayhaw syrup. The berries are quite tasty and are like very small, concentrated apples.
For those with heart conditions in their family, this is a safe and effective herb that will balance blood pressure, elasticize veins and arteries, encourage a steady heartbeat, dissolve plaque in arterial pathways, and increase contractility of the heart muscle. Hawthorn tinctures, syrups, and teas can be used safely with allopathic medicines.
Oh my. And then there are rosehips…those jewel-like berries that form after the rose petals have fallen away. For those of you that are looking for a good Vitamin C source, this is it! They are also rich in Vit E, Vit K, beta carotene, and bioflavonoids. Considering that Vit C is used to make adrenaline, when we are stressed, it is always good to supplement with this vitamin. Vit C is also important for its antioxidant activity, for collagen formation, healing from injury or surgery, and it helps with iron uptake. The recommended amount is 1-2 tablets of rosehips in pill form.
Rose is definitely one of those herbs that make it hard to distinguish between an herb and food. Like many of our most famous and legendary herbs, this means it is safe and healthful. In culinary traditions of India and the Middle East, rose water is used to flavor sweet treats. In China, rose is commonly paired with green teas for a delicate, hot drink to sip on. Lately, you can find rose infused with cacao or chocolate for a double-dose of cardiovascular goodness!
No matter what, there is one thing for sure. Rose will make its way into your life one way or another. She will remind you of loved ones. And, she will remind you of sweet moments, maybe even bittersweet. Rose knows that there’s nothing you can’t handle and nothing that fragrance, beauty and thorn can’t heal.
Some ways to tap into rose’s medicine:
Sip on her for digestive support: take ½ tablespoon of dried rose petals; pour hot water over the petals; let steep for 2 min’s, strain, add honey and enjoy
Add her to your bath for dry skin support: in a cheesecloth, put equal parts dried rose petals and oatmeal; close the cheesecloth well with a knot or rubber band; place in bathtub and fill with hot water; as the bath fills fully moisten the oats and rose and squeeze the herbed water into the bath; repeat until the bath is full; keep the cheesecloth in the bath when you are soaking; rub your skin with this cheesecloth to cool and moisten the skin
For something tasty make rosehip jam: simply cover the ground rosehips with apple juice and let them sit overnight, the jam will be ready the next day as rosehips have a natural pectin that thickens the jam, add cinnamon or other spices for more flavor if you like