The Fabled Rose – Queen of the Plant Kingdom
Did you know that there are over 100 species of roses?
While the wild rose, or Rosa rugosa, is considered the queen of the roses for medicinal purposes, all roses lend their soothing and nurturing support in many ways. You need not go out into the wild to look for roses as you probably grow some yourself, or at least know someone who does, since roses are commonly grown as ornamental plants.
Although roses are fairly easy to grow, often requiring nothing more than periodic pruning, the spectacular sight and heavenly scent of the flowers do not last long and soon give way to the red colored fruits known as rose hips. Collecting rose petals, however, is easy to do so long as one is wary of the thorns.
How to Dry Fresh Rose Petals
While rose petals are edible and can be collected at any time for this purpose, rose petals that are to be used in recipes or to be dried require a bit of planning. The perfect time to collect rose petals is mid-morning, on a dry day when the dew has evaporated and there’s been no rain for at least the past two days. Bring your fingers over an opened rose flower and tug gently on all the petals at once. Roses that are ready to release their petals will fall easily into your hands while the center of the flower will remain intact to produce the rose hip soon after. Petals that resist when you tug on them are not ready to be collected, and if you persist you may accidentally pull off the whole flower. While gathering your rose petals, collect them in a paper bag. This will help to absorb any moisture that is on the rose petals. A wooden basket also works. Only use a plastic bag as a last resort.
To dry the rose petals, simply spread newspaper on a flat surface, distribute the petals across the paper and let them air dry. They should be ready in a few days. You can also let them air dry in a dehydrator, or turn it on and use the lowest setting (95F).
Now that you know how to collect rose petals, and you know that they are both edible and medicinal, read on to discover some of the ways you may want to experience the beneficial effects of rose petals for yourself or for your family.
1. Let Them Eat Rose Petals on Toast
Place a layer of your favorite nut butter, cheese topping or spread on toast. Place a fresh petal on top of the spread and continue to cover with petals. Now, eat on up! White petals make a nice contrast against the brown of a nut butter while dark damask-colored roses lend their perfume to the air before taking a bite. Feel free to use a combination of colors or to try this idea with crackers and serve as interesting hors d’oeuvres. Different colors have different tastes, so have fun experimenting!
2. Add Fragrance to Your Next Salad
Red, light pink, dark pink, white, yellow, orange, mauve or blue – fresh rose petals make a stunning contrast against the greens in a salad. Not only do they tempt the eyes, but the the nose too. Rose petals contain anthocyanins, so feel free to indulge in these antioxidant-rich delicacies.
3. Help a Boo-Boo, or a Sore Throat
Rose petals are antiviral, antibacterial and antiseptic, so the next time you get a small cut while out in the garden, apply a fresh petal or two and hold in place as a protective covering. To help relieve a sore throat, infuse fresh rose petals in honey.
To make Rosey Honey: add fresh rose petals to a mason jar and have them be slightly packed in. Pour honey over the petals almost to the top, and stir with a non-metallic object (a bamboo skewer works nicely) to ensure petals are coated. Add in more honey to the top. Put on lid and screw cap, then let sit 6 weeks in the cupboard. Strain out rose petals using a sieve, pushing down on the rose petals to extract all of the honey with the back of a spoon or, make this task easier by using a nut milk bag. Store your rose petal honey in a cool, dry place.
Add a teaspoon or two to some warm tea to nix a sore throat “in the bud” (at the first sign of a sore throat).
4. Move Blood, or Stop Diarrhea
Rose tea makes an excellent emmenagogue to help move blood and quell cramps during menstruation. Rose tea can also help to curb diarrhea since roses are astringent (wild rose being especially so).
To make Rose Tea: Fill a mason jar with slightly packed dried petals to the top. Pour boiling water over the roses, to the top of the jar. Place lid and screw cap on; let sit 4 hours to overnight. Strain out petals using a sieve, squeezing out the excess tea from the flowers. You can also use a nut milk bag: place nut milk bag in a bowl, pour tea into the bag, close the bag and squeeze out the liquid.
To help relieve menstrual cramps or diarrhea, drink 2-3 cups a day.
5. Soothe and Nourish Your Skin
Roses are considered to be cooling and hydrating, and they offer their soothing energy to help with both irritated and dehydrated skin when made into a floral water. While you can buy rose floral water, you might want to try your hand at this homemade version.
To make Rose Floral Water: You’ll need a large pot, a heat-proof bowl about the same size as the pot (a smaller bowl works OK too), a brick or another heat-proof bowl to hold up the first bowl, plenty of ice, fresh rose petals, some spring water and a turkey baster.
Directions: Place the brick in the bottom of the pot and place the bowl on top of the brick. If you don’t have a brick, use an inverted bowl and place the first bowl on top of the inverted bowl. Next, place fresh rose petals in the pot all around the bowl. The rose petals should come up halfway to the bowl, about 4-6 cups of fresh petals. Add spring water to cover the roses. Place the lid on the pot and turn on the heat to medium-high. When the water starts boiling, lower the heat to medium. Invert the lid of the pot and add ice to the lid.
It works like this: the rose petals in the water are simmering in the pot. The rose water rises to the top of the pot (vaporization), where it meets the cold lid. Condensation forms on the lid and then drops back down into the bowl. The liquid collected in the bowl is the floral water.
Since the ice will melt, use the turkey baster to suck up the excess water. Continue to add fresh ice for the next 20-30 minutes. You can check after 15 minutes to make sure there is still water in the pot. Let everything cool and then pour the floral water into a clean spritz bottle (using a funnel makes this task a lot easier).
To use as a gentle toner for the face, help soothe irritated skin (including acne and sunburn) or to help re-hydrate skin, simply spritz on face after a shower, or after being out in the garden/sun for too long, or as needed.
6. Ease Your Pain
Since roses are well-known for their emollient and healing properties, they nourish all kinds of skin types, including those with rosacea and eczema. Roses are also great at soothing pain and easing taut nerves when made into a simple massage oil.
To make your own Rosey Facial/Body/Massage Oil: Fill a mason jar with slightly packed fresh rose petals. Pour olive or sweet almond oil over the petals. Mix to coat the petals with the oil – a bamboo skewer makes a good stirring stick. After mixing, add more oil to the top of the jar. Place lid and screw cap on, let sit 6 weeks in the cupboard, then strain out the rose oil (yes, a nut milk bag or sieve will work). Store your oil in a dark amber bottle.
Variations: To extend the shelf life of your oil, you can add 1 teaspoon of vitamin E oil. To make your facial oil more nourishing, you can use walnut or macadamia oil (highly nourishing for dry, sensitive or mature skin). You can also add in several drops of rose hip seed oil (purchase in health food stores), if desired.
7. Open the Love Center
Roses have long been associated with love, and they are known to help open the heart chakra. They have also been known to help mend a broken heart. Try this sweet and simple recipe for a little emotional healing.
To make Rose Glycerite: Place fresh petals just slightly packed in a mason jar to the top. Pour food grade glycerin over the rose petals, stirring to ensure they are coated (a bamboo skewer works well for this). Add in more glycerin to the top. Put on the lid and screw cap and store in the cupboard for 6 weeks. Use a nut milk or sieve to strain out the liquid, pressing or squeezing on the petals to extract all of the liquid. Store the rose glycerite in a dark amber bottle that has a cap affixed with a dropper.
You can carry this bottle around with you. Whenever you need a little emotional re-balancing, take 20-30 drops in a glass of water. Glycerin is 60% as sweet as sugar, so consider this a sweet “medicine” indeed!
8. Uplift Your Spirits
Roses are known for helping to decrease stress, tension and depression, and to lighten the mood. So why not indulge in a zero calorie pick-me-up with some rose petal jello.
To make Rose Petal Jello: To 2 cups of rose tea (see #4 above), add a teaspoon of stevia, or more, according to your taste. Put the tea in a glass or ceramic pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add in 1 package of gelatin, stirring to dissolve, about 2 minutes; then put in fridge to set.
Note: Different roses yield different tasting jello. How strong or weak you make the tea also affects the taste. For example, try using 1/2 oz rose petals in 1 liter of water if you think it’s too strong, or add in 1 1/2 oz petals to 1 liter of water for a stronger taste.
Variations: To sweeten the jello more, try adding in a tablespoon of rose glycerite (see #7 above) + stevia to taste. Since gelatin is great for the skin, you can add in 2 packages of gelatin instead of one.
9. Add Fragrance to Your Unmentionables
Rose petals are commonly used in potpourri, so why not make your own? It’s cheap and easy. While you can add dried rose petals to mini organza bags (purchase in stores or online), for a dirt-cheap DIY solution, simply add dried petals to a paper envelope, seal it and slip it in your drawer. You could also make your own bag with some leftover fabric scraps. To do: use shears to cut a square or circle in a piece of fabric. Add a bit of rose petals to the center, gather the edges together, then secure with a rubber band. Finally, add a ribbon to hide the rubber band. If you’d like a stronger scent, add a few drops of rose essential oil. If you’d like the scent to last longer, add 1 tablespoon orris root powder to every 2 cups of rose petals.
10. Entice You, Entice Me
It’s no secret that roses are an aphrodisiac. Indeed, rose petal tea helps to tonify both the male and female reproductive systems. In men, it helps to speed up sperm motility, thereby helping with fertility. In women, the bioflavonoids in roses help with the production of estrogen. And the phytosterols in roses help both sexes to balance their hormones. Although you can get some of this love action by sipping on a cuppa rose tea (see #4 to make rose tea), try using rose tea instead of water the next time you cook rice, quinoa, millet, or your other favorite grains.
11. A Romantic Dinner for Two
Roses have long been associated with love and they are also aromatic. Try adding some romance to the dinner table with this simple recipe: use equal parts rose tea (see #4 above) and apple cider vinegar with “mother.” Store in a spray bottle. To use: spritz on salads to lend some romance. You can also pair this with oil to make a romantic rosy salad dressing.
12. Relax in Luxury
What can I say, but that roses are simply luxuriant. Restorative and relaxing, rose petals are known to calm the mind. So the next time you want some “me time,” unwind by adding rose petals to your bath. Simply add a small handful of dried rose petals to the center of a face cloth, tie with elastic bands, secure the cloth over the faucet and run the water. Or you can add the facecloth directly to the bath water. Add in some Epsom salts or sea salts and let the fragrance of the roses embalm you in serenity.