“Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.”
—Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Story Lindsay Wilson
This is not going to be easy. There is so much to say about the fair rose.
With most species originating in Asia, more than 100 species of rose and thousands of cultivars bedazzle gardens all over the world.
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 great thing about tapping into the medicine and beauty of the 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 rose petals in summer and rosehips in late fall/early winter (after the first frost for the best concentration of vitamin C and bioflavonoids, or antioxidants). The leaves can be gathered throughout the summer as well.
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.
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. The 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 the spirits and calm the nerves.
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, this tree’s flowers and berries are excellent cardiotonic herbs. Many old-timers have had mayhaw jam or even mayhaw syrup. The berries are tasty, like very small, concentrated apples.
For those with heart conditions, 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.
Ah, rosehips … those jewel-like berries that form after the rose petals have fallen away. Looking for a great source of vitamin C? This is it. Rosehips are also rich in vitamins E and K, beta-carotene and bioflavonoids. Considering that vitamin C is used to make adrenaline, when we are stressed, it is always good to supplement with this vitamin. It is also important for its antioxidant activity, for collagen formation, healing from injury or surgery and helps with iron uptake.
Rose is one of those herbs that makes it hard to distinguish between an herb and food. 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. More recently, 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 her 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 beauty, fragrance and thorn can’t heal.