Rose: The magical medicinal properties of a simple plant

Rosa x damascena, commonly known as Damask rose is a hybrid rose with origins in Ancient Persia. The first written evidence regarding the cultivation of roses was found in the /Mesopotamian city of Ur, today’s Iraq, and dates to 1000 BCE, suggesting that rose were used for over 3000 years.

Cherished for its sweet, delicate perfume, the legend says that the Damask rose was introduced in Europe during the Crusader Robert de Brie who brought this rose to Europe from Persia between 1254 and 1276 as he returned from Syria. However, the Romans were the first rose cultivars in Europe, the nobles having established large public rose gardens in the South of Rome.

Other accounts suggest that the Romans first introduced the rose much earlier, while others yet, suggest that king Henry the VIII’s physician gifted it to him from an unknown origin.

Either way, while never becoming as popular in terms f culinary uses in Europe as it is in the Middle East, the Damask rose has become one of the most popular flowers in perfumery. In order to produce one liter of pure rose oil through double distillation approximately 4000 kg of petals are needed, which makes the Rose Absolute oil one of the most expensive ones.

Considered for centuries a symbol of beauty and love, rose oil found its way into the pharmacy of ancient doctors as early as Avicenna, who was described as the father of early modern medicine.

But what are the medicinal properties of this sweet smelling, not so noble looking rose?

Modern research has looked into the antimicrobial activity of the Damask Rose with clinical studies showing antiviral activity against HIV infection and other studies confirming its action on a variety of bacteria, from Staphylococcus aureus to Escherichia coli. In clinic, the efficacy of rose as an antibacterial mouth wash has been confirmed during a two week double blind placebo study, while another study confirmed its action on conjunctivitis and dry eyes.

Other studies have confirmed the efficacy of Rosa damascena against cancer cells where the geraniol, one of the main components, through its mechanism contributes to causing the death of cancer cells.

Further, varied studies have confirmed the anti-depressant and relaxing effects of rose, not only at a physical level, but also at an emotional one, with studies showing a reduction not only in blood pressure and breathing rate, but in depression levels as well. Known to bring happiness, love and sensuality, rose essential oil has been shown to have effects on the libido, helping improve sexual dysfunction, infertility and libido.

Other studies have shown antioxidant activity on different body systems, with results showing stronger lipid peroxidation inhibitory effects then Vitamin E, while other studies have confirmed the analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions, with uses from adjuvant pain relief in burn victims to laboring women.

More effects of rose essential oils range from reducing the severity of seizures in epilepsy, to reducing the intensity of coughs in bronchitis, to reducing blood glucose in diabetes.

But, probably the best-known uses of the rose essential oils are in the beauty industry where the anti-aging effects of the plant are in high demand. One of the studied anti-aging effects of Rose oil is its protective mechanism against UVB damage by improving collagen synthesis. Collagen is a long chain amino acid and one of the most abundant proteins in the body, responsible for maintaining skin elasticity, which prevents the formation of wrinkles.

The internal anti-inflammatory properties of rose extent topically to the skin, where the presence of oil in lotions of hydrosols has been shown to reduce redness and irritation, helping calm the skin and control dermatitis and psoriasis.

As shown earlier, numerous studies have confirmed the antibacterial properties of rose oil, which proves to be as useful in dermatology where its astringent and antiseptic actions are highly beneficial in the control of acne severity. Also, its astringent action is helpful in diminishing the redness of the skin caused by enlarged capillaries and in tightening of the pores, restoring suppleness for a glowing complexion.

Useful for all skin types, rose oil is especially valuable for dry, sensitive and aging skin due to the compounds that help slow skin depigmentation and protects the skin from damage due to its high antioxidant capabilities. The natural oils in the rose help lock in moisture in the skin, nourishing it and maintaining its smoothness.

Used for thousands of years and the object of poems and legends, roses demonstrate to have almost miraculous health benefits, from treating depression and impotence, to helping prevent and fight microbial diseases, to restoring the mind-body balance, to amazing us with its qualities in skin care and seducing us with its sweet, delicate fragrance, making it one of those magical plants that as research continues, proves to be an invaluable aid in maintaining health and beauty.

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