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By Lia Blanchard

Welcome to Aromatherapy 101, a series of articles discovering the reasons for our responses – both positive and negative – to certain scents, and ways to incorporate the beauty of fragrance to enhance your quality of life.

Our fourth article in the series looks at the rose, probably the world’s most popular flower, with more than 150 species and over 10,000 varieties cultivated around the globe.

Rose: History

Fossils show us roses that lived 35 million years ago, and they abound in global human history. Floriculture books from China in the 11th century B.C. include references to the plant, as does various Confucian and Buddhist texts, and nearly every book of the Bible. The flower seems to captivate humans, and plays a role in cultures across thousands of miles and millennia of years.

  • Greek mythology says that the red rose grew from the blood of Adonis as he lay dying, and Aphrodite’s tears as she wept over him blossomed into anemones.
  • It is said that Cleopatra perfumed the air of her personal chambers with rose oil, and covered the floor of her bedroom with a knee-high layer of rose petals. She was not only going for the look of opulence, but wanted Marc Antony to think of her every time he smelled a rose.
  • The first examples of roses in art are frescoes in Crete, dated approximately 1600 B.C.
  • Napoleon’s wife Josephine collected roses in her garden, from which botanical illustrator Pierre-Joseph Redouté, nicknamed “the Raphael of flowers,” created his well-known work Les Roses.
  • The oldest living rose today is about 1,000 years old and can be found at the Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany.

Medicinal Uses

Roses have been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times – Romans drank a rose tea to cure hangovers, and a tea or tincture has been noted in European, Chinese, Native American, and Ayurvedic medicine.

In modern alternative medicine, rose products aid in inflammation, wound care, pain relief, arthritis, urinary tract infections, and digestive problems. Skin care is an area in which roses excel, with its oil or “water” used to help insect bite reactions and soothe irritated or chapped skin.

Rose Oil

Rose hips are very high in vitamin C, and can be used to make teas, jams, jellies, and other foods.

Aromatherapeutic Uses

Aromatherapists depend on roses for their calming, slightly sedative effect, prescribing the scent for folks dealing with grief, anxiety, anger, and depression. While easing tension and stress, it also raises the spirits, as its aesthetic appeal produces feelings of pleasure and overall well-being. It’s no wonder that rose scent is very popular with bath and body products around the world, and is also an essential part of many meditation rituals.

What are your feelings about the scent of rose? Do you have any particular memories associated with this aroma?

Mums English Rose

Next in Aromatherapy 101: Jasmine