“That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.” —William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.
Perhaps the most beloved flower in human history, the rose has been exalted throughout time for its intoxicating perfume, sweet flavor and ravishing beauty. Its heady scent is known as an aphrodisiac, evoking feelings of sensuality and romance. Aromatherapists also find it soothing to the nervous system, helping to heal a broken spirit. Complete with fleeting yet recurring blossom, delicate petal and thorny stem, the plant is ripe with symbolism and mythology, but it also has many beneficial uses.
The rose is an old soul, and fossil evidence has shown that wild roses once grew throughout the Northern Hemisphere, from North Africa and Mexico to as far north as Norway and Alaska. It is believed that cultivation began some 5,000 years ago in Central Asia. Rosa gallica, the French rose, has been identified as the oldest rose that exists today. At one time, it grew wild over all of Central and Southern Europe as well as the Middle East, and was regarded by the Persians as a symbol of love. Rosa damascena, the Damask rose, widely known for its fragrance since as far back as 900 BC, descended from this rose.
In Greek mythology, the rose is a shining symbol of beauty, purity, passion and love. In the tale of Aphrodite’s birth, it is said that where sea foam dripped from her body, white roses sprang up. Later, when Aphrodite rushes to her wounded lover Adonis’ side, she is pricked by the thorns of a white rose bush, her blood then transforming the roses into a passionate red. In the famous myth of Eros, the Greek god of love and Psyche, the seasons bring forth roses after their love is tested to the limits and found true.
Roman mythology mirrors that of the Greeks, Aphrodite becoming Venus and Eros becoming Cupid. It is rumored that the word rose originated when Flora, the goddess of flowers and spring, is pricked by one of Cupid’s arrows. She attempts to utter the word “Eros,” but in her pain it comes out sounding more like “ros.” Thus the rose as a symbol of Eros took root.
The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder recorded 32 medicinal uses of rose petals, flowers and heads. In medieval Europe, roses were grown more for medicine and food than their beauty. And with dozens of varieties native to North America, the indigenous peoples here made use of the leaves, petals, hips, and roots for a variety of ailments, including colds, fevers, diarrhea, influenza and stomach issues.
Rose hips contain triple the amount of vitamin C found in citrus fruits and make a delicious tea. Rose petals are a romantic, unique addition to salads and chocolate alike, while rose water is divine in whipped cream and baked goods. Both the hips and petals can be used to make tasty jams and syrups.
Externally, rose water (hydrosol) soothes inflammation and acts as a mild astringent, toning and balancing the skin while simultaneously providing that signature, sensual scent that calms the senses. Our Balancing Facial Mist with rose water is a fan favorite, the Restoring Mask makes use of ground rose hips paired with raw cacao and the Restoring Facial Oil is full of rose hip seed oil, high in vitamin C as well as the natural retinol vitamin A, making it ideal for protecting skin and increasing cell turnover. Look for our new rose and magnesium bath soak at our pop-up this Saturday at Urban Sanctuary and up online soon!