Known for their exquisite and intoxicating aroma and visual beauty, roses have graced some of the fondest and happiest memories of our lives. There is a reason roses are the symbol of love, the opening of the heart, friendship, and intimacy.
It’s one of my most treasured oils and one that I covet over all other floral oils for its emotional supportive properties and ability to instill happiness and contentment.
You simply cannot smell a rose without a smile!
There are two main species of roses used for essential oil production:
- Rosa damascena
- Rosa centifolia
Rosa damascena is commonly known as Bulgarian rose, Turkish rose, or rose otto.
Rosa centifolia is known as French rose, rose maroc, attar of rose, or rose absolute.
The rosa species is considered to be a native of Europe and Western Asia. It is believed that modern rose cultivars are derived from Rosa gallica; a dense, mostly thornless shrub found in the Mediterranean with light red flowers and yellow centers.
It is believed that the Rosa damascena originated in Persia where it then spread to Mesopotamia, Palestine, across Asia Minor, and finally to Greece and beyond.
The name Damascus rose dates back to the Crusades.
There are thousands of rose varieties, however, only three are typically used for making rose essential oils.
- Rosa damascena
- Rosa centifolia
- Rosa gallica
It is thought that the first rose essential oil was produced using Rosa damascena cultivars in Bulgaria as far back as the 15th century.
By the end of the 17th century, commercial rose growing and the production of rose essential oil became well established in the Bulgarian mountain district of Kazanlik.
Today, Bulgarian rose essential oil is still considered the most prized and highest quality rose oil produced.
Other countries that produce large quantities of rose oil include:
Extraction Method and Essential Oil Characteristics
There are three main oil extractions obtained from roses:
- Rose Essential oil – obtained through steam distillation
- Rose Concrete – Obtained through solvent extraction
- Rose Absolute – Further extraction of the concrete
To make all three of these extractions, rose petals are gathered by hand between the hours of 5 am and 10 am when the flowers have opened and their oil concentration is highest.
The petals are then quickly transported to the distillery where they undergo a two-stage distillation process.
After distillation, even the hydrosol that is produced as a by-product of distillation is redistilled in order to get every drop of rose oil possible. This common practice is called cohobation.
Believe it or not, the yield of cohobation is actually several times higher than the first distillation of the rose petals. The resulting oil from both distillations is then blended together.
Fun fact: the phenyl ethyl alcohol content found in rose otto oil is derived almost exclusively from cohobation water distillation.
In order to make 1 kg of rose essential oil, you need to distill 4,000 kg of rose petals. 1/3 of the oil comes from the first distillation while the last 2/3 comes from redistilling the hydrosol.
Rosewater, one of my favorite skincare items, is the water left from distilling rose petals after the rose oil has been removed. It is believed that the first distillation of rose water was by Avicenna ( regarded as one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, thinkers, and writers of the Islamic Golden Age) in the 10th century.
Rose concrete is obtained through the use of a solvent such as hexane, which draws out the aromatic compounds as well as other soluble substances like wax and pigment. The solvent is then removed using vacuum processing and the remaining waxy substance is rose concrete.
Rose concrete contains all of the constituents as rose absolute, just in a semi-solid form, even at room temperature.
To obtain rose absolute, rose concrete is mixed with alcohol which dissolves the aromatic constituents, leaving behind the wax and pigment. The alcohol then is low-pressure evaporated which leaves behind the finished rose absolute.
Historical and Traditional Use
No other flower in history has been considered as sacred or as treasured as the rose. Exalted in literature and mythology, used as a heraldic emblem, and even identified with the Virgin Mary, the rose has been esteemed for its metaphorical heart-opening qualities and regal symbolism for centuries.
The word rosa comes from the Greek word rodon, meaning “red”. The story of Adonis states that the rose is red because Aphrodite wounded herself on one of its thorns and stained the flower red with her blood.
In the book Natural Senses, the scent of the rose is described at length; the climate and soil conditions which produce the finest rose oil, the best season for harvesting, the time of day and the best weather conditions for picking the flowers in order to preserve its scent, and even when a rose reaches the peak of its life cycle – all of which affect the final rose oil.
Roses were prized in Assyria, Babylon, China, Greece, and Rome for their healing properties.
The Romans had an obsession with roses and rosewater. During festivals and feasts, rose petals were strewn on tables and along streets and even worn in garlands around the neck to ward off inebriation. They were a sign of mirth, pleasure, and merriment.
In English medicine, the rose was used extensively for a variety of ills, especially inflammation. Nicholas Culpepper used rose ointment to soothe headaches and comfort the heart. Fresh rose petals and peppermint were crushed and used as a poultice for quieting over-heated spirits.
Today, rose essential oil and rosewater are used most often in skin-care preparations, perfumes, and as a flavoring for cuisine.
Other Possible Uses
The healing properties of rose have been used in medicine throughout the ages and still plays an important role in medicine today.
Rose is used for digestive and menstrual complaints, headaches and nervous tension, liver congestion, poor circulation, fever, eye infections, and various skin conditions.
Other uses include:
- Chronic bronchitis
- Herpes simplex
- Sexual debilities
- Skin diseases
Rose essential oil is one of the most complex containing over 300 chemical compounds, most of which are unidentified.
What is listed below accounts for about 86% of what rose oil is composed of. The remaining 14% represents over 300 different compounds.
The Chemical Composition of Bulgarian Rose Essential Oil
- Ethanol – 1.43%
- Pentanal – 0.07%
- 3-hexenal – 0.26%
- α-pinene – 0.73%
- camphene and heptanal – 0.14%
- β-pinene – 0.03%
- myrcene and hexanol – 0.5%
- heptanol – 0.02%
- hexyl acetate – 0.01%
- methyl heptanone – 0.04%
- octanol – 0.07%
- linalool – 2.18%
- cis-rose oxide and nonanal – 0.43%
- trans-rose oxide – 0.17%
- nonanol – 0.09%
- phenylethyl alcohol, decanol and terpinen-4-ol – 1.45%
- citronellol – 33.40%
- nerol – 5.90%
- geraniol and neral – 18.47%
- geranial and carvone – 0.72%
- citronellyl acetate – 0.53%
- neryl acetate – 0.06%
- cinnamaldehyde and C15 paraffin – 0.21%
- geranyl acetate – 1.60%
- eugenol and trans β-damascenone – 1.20%
- methyl eugenol and C16 paraffin – 2.37%
- octanal – 0.05%
- benzaldehyde – 0.10%
Remedies containing rose are known to be cooling and soothing in nature. It is interesting to note that the application of roses in ancient medicine mirror how roses are used today.
Rose essential oil is:
- Choleretic (increases bile flow)
- Cicatrisant (heals through the formation of scar tissue)
- Depurative (purifying and detoxifying)
- Emmenagogue (stimulates menstrual flow)
- Hemostatic (stops bleeding)
- Tonic (heart, liver, stomach, and uterus)
Pharmacology and Clinical Studies
Rose oil has been shown to help reduce high blood pressure and arrhythmia of the heart as well as act as a protective against gastrointestinal ulceration.
The combination of Melissa essential oil and rose essential oil has been confirmed as an effective remedy for Herpes zoster and Herpes simplex.
Rose oil has also been found to have a calming effect on animals.
2, 4, 6, 7 (balances all)
Yin; Cold and dry 2nd degree
Ruby (chakra-2), Rose quartz, emerald (chakra-4), kunzite, pink calcite, watermelon tourmaline (chakra-7)
Water, air, light, ether
Yin deficiency (kidney 6, Spleen 6), Excess yang (liver 2, heart 3)
Rose is classified as a cooling and moistening oil that helps clear away excess heat and inflammation. It alleviates depression and anxiety and can be beneficial for “hot” conditions involving the liver and gallbladder where tension, irritability, headaches, and constipation are present.
Fragrant Influence and Characteristics
Rose oil is deep orange/red in color, semi-transparent, and slightly viscous.
Rose essential oil is stimulating and elevating to the mind, instilling a sense of wellbeing. The scent is intoxicating and aphrodisiac with a sweet, deep, and mellow “antique rose” aroma.
Middle to base note
Floral, spicy, rich, deep, sensual, green, honey-like
Personifier, enhancer, equalizer, and modifier
The highest of all essential oils – approximately 320 MHz. rose oil enhances the frequency of every cell within the body which brings balance and harmony.
Blends Well With
- Balsam of Peru
- Black pepper
- Cinnamon bark
- Laurel leaf
- Litsea cubeba
- Roman chamomile
- Sweet orange
- Ylang ylang
Indications for Rose Essential Oil
Rose oil has some of the most diverse applications and therapeutic properties of all essential oils and be used for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.
Rose essential oil is known to be a gentle yet potent antidepressant that is sedative for the nerves. It is soothing to the heart not only emotionally during times of romantic turmoil or grief, but also for palpitations, irritability, and insomnia.
Simply smelling rose can help release anger, despair, and frustration by opening the heart and offering supportive comfort during times of sorrow and psychological pain. The scent of rose instills empathy, love, and feelings of friendship.
Traditionally, rose has been used to astonishing effect on the female reproductive system as a uterine tonic, menstrual regulator, and sexual organ purifier. It helps regulate fertility and balance an irregular cycle.
Rose essential oil is one of the best essential oils to use for skincare, especially in anti-aging formulas. It is anti-inflammatory, hydrating, and softening to the skin and is well suited for dry, sensitive, and mature skin types.
Rose oil is also slightly astringent and tonic in nature which is good for controlling redness and irritation.
Passionate, spiritual, deep and hypnotic. Epitomizes the female spirit and personifies perfection.
Mode of Administration and Application
Topical – bath, compress, massage, ointment, skincare.
Inhalation – nasal or Himalayan inhaler, diffuser.
Rose absolute and rose otto are non-toxic, non-sensitizing, and non-irritating.
Rose absolute – 2.5%
Rose otto – 0.6%
Is it Kid-Safe?
Rose absolute – yes
Rose otto – no
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The Benefits and Properties of Bay Laurel Essential Oil
The Benefits and Properties of Cardamom Essential Oil
Sugared Roses DIY Lip Scrub Recipe
DIY Smith’s Rosebud Salve
Therapeutic efficacy of rose oil: A comprehensive review of clinical evidence
Pharmacological Effects of Rosa Damascena
Relaxing effect of rose oil on humans.
Reference Guide for Essential Oils
Essential Oils Integrative Medical Guide: Building Immunity, Increasing Longevity, and Enhancing Mental Performance With Therapeutic-Grade Essential Oils
The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, Revised and Expanded: Over 800 Natural, Nontoxic, and Fragrant Recipes to Create Health, Beauty, and Safe Home and Work Environments