Once called the Queen of flowers by poetess Sappho, the multi-talented rose [Rosa spp.] is more than just beautiful. Roses are also edible, medicinal, magical, a source of body care products and great for pollinators.
Roses are easy to grow, buy, wildcraft, or forage. They’re familiar to almost everyone and they are abundant producers. Roses are safe to ingest and used freely in many culinary traditions. All of these are qualities I prefer in my plant medicines. I believe healing should be readily accessible to everyone, without hoops to jump through or insurmountable paywalls.
Though there are many medicinal parts of roses, including the leaves. I’m going to focus on the more commonly and easily used parts: rose hips and rosebuds. Note when I say rosebuds and rose petals can be used interchangeably.
Rosebuds appear in skincare in floral waters, skin serums, infused oils and salves, sugar or salt scrubs, bath salts, and herbal soaks. They’re equally at home in edible preparations like infused sugars, infused honeys, herbal teas, mead or wine, jams/jellies, syrups, candied petals, or even fresh petals floated on chilled fruit soups or in a salad. Use a light hand with culinary rose petals, they are very astringent. You feel like your mouth has gone dry when you bite into it. The white part at the base where the petal joins the calyx (the base that holds it) is slightly bitter and best removed.
Rosebuds are considered anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), anti-depressant, astringent (tightens body tissues), anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory. If you do much reading on herbs you’ll also come across the term nervine. That is a catch-all for any herb that has a beneficial effect on the nervous system.
Coincidentally the astringency makes the petals a remedy for any scratches from the thorns. Just pop a few petals in your mouth to chew them up a bit and put the mush over the injury. This mush is a very rudimentary form of poultice. The rose petal poultice will ease the inflammation and stem the blood flow. Don’t do this for a deep puncture because it will introduce plant material too deeply and potentially cause an infection. With deep punctures, a well strained cup of rosebud tea is useful both for a wound wash and to drink. Although I suggest the petals, if it’s not enough, the leaves are significantly more astringent.
Technically all roses produce hips. You’re much more likely to get them if you have a single-flowered variety (only 5 petals per flower) like many wild roses. This is because many cultivated roses are double or triple flowers. Their petals grow packed so tightly together that bees and other pollinators cannot get in to pollinate the flowers.
The vitamin C rich hips have a history of use as a famine food. People prefer them in edible preparations such as teas, syrups, jams, or even as a base to brew mead. Rose hips are a small seedy fruit with irritating hairs like the tiny spines on prickly pears with a sour red taste. It’s similar to roselle hibiscus calyces, cranberries, hawthorn berries, and pomegranate arils. Because of these hairs, few rosehips are eaten fresh off the plant and are instead dried out for later use or brewed. If you’re using rosehips, strain the liquid well to ensure those tiny hairs don’t get in your final product.
I consider roses a spirit medicine as well. It helps to calm agitated emotions and is useful for gently guiding you through sadness to a place of self-love. Street medic work and aromatherapy offices often use authentic rose essential to help allay grief and process trauma. Because it takes a massive amount of flowers to make an ounce of essential oil, real rose oil is very expensive.
Note that the scent memories are incredibly powerful. Ask if the rose is acceptable to the person. Use caution in administering if there are any negative scent-memories associated with it.
***If you decide to consume or use them for body care, please ensure your roses are organic! They happen to be one of the most sprayed crops around. DO NOT consume flowers from a florist’s shop or a nursery! If you are gathering from plants that are not your own, ensure that are 20 feet/6m or more away from the roadside or any pesticide drift.***