The Rose?

With Mother’s Day coming soon, our thoughts turn to roses.  Who doesn’t know, or at least heard, them being described as the “Queen of the Garden”?  But did you know that these gorgeous shrubs can do much more than just look pretty and smell good?  This year the International Herb Association has designated the rose as Herb of the Year.

Rose petals have been valued for their herbal-like properties.  The ancient Romans used them in their baths and floated them in wine.  In the 10th century Avicenna, an ancient Persian polymath (someone who is very knowledgeable), discovered how to distill rose petals into rose water, forming the foundation of aromatherapy.  Rose water’s fragrance was prescribed in aromatherapy to treat depression, insomnia, stress, and emotional turmoil.  By the 1600’s it was found rose water could be further distilled to produce rose oil, an essential oil used in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps and bath salts; and for flavoring food and beverages.

Much has been written about its fruit, rose hips, having anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties because of their high vitamin C, calcium, iron and phosphorus content.  Drinking tea made of rose hips is said to help boost the immune system and prevent infections.  Rose hip oil is used treat dry skin, wrinkles and scars. 

Rose petals are used in making vinegar and syrup, the latter flavoring honey, alcoholic beverages, jelly, custards, ice cream and other desserts.  They are ideal for crystallizing and are said to be good macerated with wine and fruit.  They can even be eaten in sandwiches.

So which roses are considered best for their “herbal” properties?  According to the famous English herbologist Maude Grieve, it is those whose petals when they are distilled “yield a deep rose-colored and somewhat astringent and fragrant infusion”.  Sounds positively medicinal. 

In her book, “The Modern Herbal” – published in 1931, Ms. Grieve lists a number of suitable roses.  Reading it in this day they are all antique roses, but to our pleasant surprise she included Frau Karl Drusky, Safrano, and Paul Neyron.  We’ve offered Frau Karl Drusky and Safrano in past years, and this year we’re carrying Paul Neyron.

If you are inspired using fragrant roses, whether as a herb or just for their flowers and scent, download a copy of our 2012 Rose List from the Library section of  In it we list those that are highly rated for their aromatic properties.  Many of our antique roses produce large rose hips, which you could experiment making rose hip tea with.  Or you can just plant a rose and simply enjoy its beauty.

Which makes us wonder – if you plant a rose – (or beds of roses like River Oaks’ Lazy Lane Blvd), would that make it an herb garden?

“The Modern Herbal” can be read on-line at  And whether you give Mom a rose, rose bouquet, or a rose bush for her garden, amaze her with your newly acquired knowledge of its herbal ancestry and use.