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Love is in the Air: The Medicinal History of Roses

With Valentine’s Day approaching, let’s take a moment to appreciate roses. The rose plant has a long history of medicinal uses in ancient and modern practices alike. 

Every part of the rose plant - petals, fruit, stem and roots are used in medicinal remedies. Petals may be eaten or crushed to make rose water, or dried for other uses. Rose oil is very valuable. Rose hips contain high concentration of absorb acid (vitamin C), and can be eaten raw, or used in cooking or to make tea. Rose has ancient relationship as well as scientifically proven effect on heart, stomach, liver, reproductive system, blood, nerves and skin. Properties of rose for anti-aging, soothing common conditions like coughs and colds, and strengthening cardiovascular system are well known.

The healing properties extend, as you might have guessed, beyond the body. Emotional and psychological benefits of the rose are practiced worldwide. The relationship between roses and romance is likely influenced by the ability of the plant to tame depression, relieve stress, and inspire bliss.

In Ayurvedic terms, the rose plant has tridoshic calming effects, bringing whole-bodied soothing to vata, pita, and kapha doshas. The lovely scent, beautiful appearance, soothing touch, and subtle sweetness of the plant provides an enlivening spark to every sense. It is said to balance the subdosha Sadhaka Pitta, which influences the heart, mind, and emotions.

Beyond ancient India, there is extensive history of the medicinal practices of rose plant.  

Mediterranean Gynecologists recommend bathing in concentrated rose and to remedy thrush with dried rose petals. Another medical writer from Byzantine is known to have discussed the use of rose for contraception and abortion.

In Iran, R. damascena is called Flower of Prophet Mohammed, and its essential oil is one of the most expensive in world markets.

Native North Americans have used roses extensively; rose-hip extract to hasten birth, cold remedies from rose stems, for treating children’s coughs. The Shoshone tribe in the Rockies adores the rose flower, which they use as a symbol to represent their tribe. Rose petal tea is used to ease tension, treat diarrhea, and as a soothing eyewash. 

In allopathic medicine, the rose plant has pharmaceutical applications. Roses are currently finding scientific recognition for treatment of chest pain, for soothing period cramps, reducing inflammation, treating diabetes and even as anticonvulsants for seizures. Rose essential oil has been shown to delay Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. 

Rose Petal Tea

Adapted from the New York Times' recipe 

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 2 tablespoons dried rose petals (find in Middle Eastern markets)

  • 1 vanilla bean (split and scraped) 

  • 21/2 cups boiling water

  • 1 table spoon honey to taste. 


  1. Place petals, vanilla bean, and seeds in large measuring cup or teapot.

  2. Pour on the boiling water, and stir in honey.

  3. Cover and let steep for 30 minutes. 

  4. Strain and serve. 

Note: If you want to use fresh rose, note that roses are conventionally heavily sprayed crops, so opt for organic roses, from a local seller at a farmer’s market or a home garden.





American Historical Association


Native Memory Project

Inspired Edibles

NYT Cooking

Photo by Lena Albers on Unsplash


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