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Red Rose - Rosa centifolia, R. damascena, R. galiica

The Rose is one of the most well-known and widely loved flowers and is easily recognised by its smooth stems with sharp thorns, serrated leaves and fragrant flowers of deep pink and red with scarlet pips. The Red Rose has been cultivated for well over 3,000 years and is probably the first flower from which essential oil was distilled - it is the 10th Century Persian alchemist, phsyician, poet, astronomer and mathematician Avicenna who is generally accredited with this discovery. A huge quantity of Rose petals are required to extract the tiniest amount of oil - making Rose an expensive oil. The principle varieties used for producing the essential oil is Rosa centifolia and Rosa damascena.
Biologists have apparently traced roses back some 200 million years - they are believed to be the second oldest variety of flower after the Buttercup.

The flower of the Gallic Rose used to adorn the shields of Persian Warriors several thousand years BC. The 6th Century Greek poet Sappho called the Rose the "Queen of flowers" and in Greek and Roman mythology the Red Rose represents desire and passion, rebirth and protection. The first red roses were supposed to have sprung from the blood of Adonis, and Pink Roses when Aphrodite spilt drops of her blood onto a white rose whilst trying to help her wounded lover, Adonis.
The Rose was also sacred to Venus and was consecrated by Cupid to Harpocrates (the God of silence) to bribe him not to reveal the Goddess's amours. Thus the term sub rosa came into being. In 'Discovering the Folklore of Plants' Margaret Baker writes that "a
plaster rose, a symbol of silence, in the middle of the ceiling, reminded those below that their conversations must not be repeated. In 1526 it was placed over confessional boxes and the idea was adopted later by the jacobites after Charles Edward Stuart's defeat of 1745, when they could only express their support sub rosa."
Culpeper also attributed the Red Rose to Venus, so it is hardly surprising that the Rose is considered to have feminine qualities and is exceptionally useful for a range of female related ailments. Rose has a powerful cleansing, purifying, regulating and tonic effect on the uterus, and is considered particularly valuable where there is loss of uterine muscle. Rose is also effective for remedying irregular menstrual cycles and is helpful for treating post-natal depression.
I have found Rose to be a wonderful remedy for emotional disturbances and a valuable antidepressant - during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period Rose was highly esteemd as a remedy for depression. In Aromatherapy, Rose is often used to remedy emotional problems, especially those connected with feelings of vulnerability, fragility, intense sadness and tiredness.
Roses also have a powerful tonic effect on the nervous system, as well as on the stomach, liver and spleen.

In skincare Roses are suitable for all types of skin, but especially sensitive, dry or ageing skins and has a tonic, astringent effect on capillaries. It is particularly effective when depression or emotional disturbances are the cause of skin complaints.
Rosewater is soothing, antiseptic and tonic to the skin. It has a light perfume and is an effective antiseptic for eye infections. To make a simple Rosewater place 1 lb of clean Red Rose in a saucepan, cover with half a litre of water, cover with a lid (to prevent steam escaping) and simmer over a low flame for 30 minutes. Allow to cool, covered, and straing into a glass jar with a screw lid and refrigerate. Apply to face and neck to tighten skin and remedy wrinkles.

Rosewater (or a simpler 10 minute infusion of Red Rose petals) is a traditional remedy for soothing inflamed or irritated eyelids. An infusion of Red Rose petals also makes a particularly effective mouthwash and is reputed to cleanse and strengthen the gums and mucous membranes.

A handful or two of Red Rose petals in the bath makes a fragrant and effective remedy for rheumatic aches and pains - fresh petals can be scattered directly into the water, alternatively place a handful of dried petals in a tea pot (or suitable vessel) and pour on freshly boiled water. leave to infuse for 15 - 30 minutes and add to the bath water.

Red Roses have a long standing reputation as an aphrodisiac and in Italy it is tradition to scatter the petals over bridal beds. Interestingly Rose is considered an excellent remedy for lack of sexual confidence and is used to remedy frigidity in women and male impotence - making it an ideal oil to use in a sensual massage blend.

Roses have been used in beauty treatments for thousands of years and have also enjoyed a long history of use as a strewing herb and a pot-pourri ingredient and have even appeared in herbal tobaccos. The Petals were popular as a sweet - I remember making crystallised Rose petals as a young child, dipping the clean petals in egg white beore coating them in sugar and leaving them to dry on a wire rack. These make beautiful edible cake decorations too.

An aromatic toilet vinegar recipe from A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M Grieve, 1931 :
"Dry a good quantity of rose leaves (petals), lavender flowers and jasmine flowers. Weigh them, and to every 4 oz of rose leaves (petals) allow 1 oz each of lavender and jasmine. Mix them well together, pour over them 2 pints of white vinegar, and shake well, then add 1/2 pint of rosewater and shake again. Stand aside for tens days, then strain and bottle."


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