Damask rose, Rosa damascena, is a hybrid variety of rose produced from crossing Rosa gallica with Rosa phoenicia. The flowers are very fragrant and a favorite in aromatherapy. The petals, hips and seeds have medicinal properties.
Damascus rose, Bulgarian rose, Otto rose, Kazanlak rose, rose of Castille, Damaskus rose, satapatri (also gulab-ka-phool – Ayurdeva), mei gui hua (TCM)
Petals, fruit (rose hip) and seeds
Endemic to Iran, the damask rose is now widely cultivated throughout the world. However, it is mostly cultivated in Bulgaria, Turkey and India.
Rose is a deciduous, perennial climbing or bushy shrub with thorny stems.
Height: Up to 3 meters (10 feet)
Width: About 1.2 m (4 feet)
Flowers: Pink to red very fragrant double petals, soft and round, slightly folded back.
Leaves: About 6 cm (2 1/2 in) long, 5 leaflets grouped together, rough edges.
Blooms: May to June
Hardiness: Zones 4 to 8
Germination: 2 to 3 months
Space: 90 to 120 cm (3 to 4 feet).
Soil: Well drained and rich. 21 to 23 Celsius (70 to 75 F)
pH: 5.5 to 6.5
Exposure: Full sun
Propagation: Grafting, cuttings and seeds.
Garden Design: Damask rose pairs brilliantly with lavender, ornamental sage, catmints, lady’s mantle and clematis.
Note: Hot, dry weather stimulates the production of essential oils. This means stronger fragrance.
The best time of the day to harvest roses is in a sunny morning before 10:00. This is because roses contain essential oils which are the plant’s protective mechanism against excessive heat. So after 10:00, the essential oils start to evaporate with the heat of the sun. Only harvest roses in full bloom. Use them fresh or dried.
Spread the petals on a flat surface and let dry. When the petals are dried, put them in an amber jar with a tight lid and store in a cool and dark place. Dried rose petals keep for about one year.
Flower: Essential oil (specific constituents below), tannins, bitters, flavonoids.
Fruit (rose hips): Vitamin C (300-3000 mg/100 g fruit!), vitamin A, B, E and K, anthocyanin, carotenoids, minerals (iron, magnesium, sodium, essential oils, lecithin, vanillin and fruit acid.
Anti-depressant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, nervine, vulnerary
Sour, astringent, sweet, slightly bitter
MEDICINAL USES OF DAMASCUS ROSE
Roses are wonderful for the skin. Especially for dry, mature and sensitive skin types. It helps to keep the skin tighter and prevent sagging. It has a constricting effect on the blood vessels and it promotes wound healing. Rose petals infused honey is a good way to sooth choppy, cracked skin.
The petals are also good for inflammation of the throat and diarrhea. This astringency is due to tannins and bitters, two of the many constituents present in roses petals.
The beneficial, healing and mood improving properties of rose petals are enhanced when they are combined with herbs that are rich in tannins, such as erect cinquefoil, silverweed cinquefoil, lady’s mantle, blackberry and raspberry.
Rose petals also have anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and vulnerary properties. They can be used in a compress for inflammation of the breast (mastitis), thrushes, mouth ulcers and oral herpes.
Herbalist Susun Weed recommends rose petals tincture as a heart tonic.
Rose hips contain a lot of vitamin C and minerals which strengthen the immune system. The high Vitamin C content makes rose hips an excellent ingredient for “fever tea”. The flavonoids in the rose hips prevent the vitamin C from being broken down to quickly during the tea preparation. This means you get to drink a tea rich in vitamin C!
The seeds in the rose hips are slightly diuretic. They also regulate the metabolism. The fatty oil found in the seeds is rich in unsaturated fat and vitamin A. The seeds soften the unsightly appearance of scars and wrinkles.
Take rose petals internally:
- for pharyngitis (inflammation of the throat)
- for diarrhea (in tea mixes)
- to soothe an upset stomach
Topic application with rose petals for:
- mastittis (breast compress)
- choppy, cracked skin (use rose honey)
- oral herpes
Take rose hips internally:
- to improve the immune system
- to boost metabolism
- to reduce fever (added to “fever tea” mixes)
Recommended daily dosage:
1-2 g (1 teaspoon) rose petals in 200 ml water. Drink the tea 3 times/day.
- infused oil
- infused honey
- infused vinegar
- creams and lotions
Damask rose hips and petals make delicious jams, jellies, candies and syrups. To make a delicately flavored rose butter, place a hunk of butter in a jar with rose petals, close it and leave overnight. Spread the butter on slices of bread. You can also add a few petals to a sandwich. Damask rose is also used to make nougat and rose ice cream. Rosewater is used in Persian and Indian cuisines as a flavoring ingredient.
The essential oils in damask rose consist of over 400 different constituents that together create the remarkably exquisite, “heart-opening” aroma that is often associated with femininity.
Uses of damask rose essential oil
Damask rose essential oil is obtained from the distillation of damask rose petals. Five tons of petals yield about 1 Liter (about 33 US fluid ounces/35 Imperial fluid ounces). The aroma of the oil is indescribable. It is very intense and nothing like the aroma of the rose in the garden. The aroma is deep, dense and quite pungent. The typical rose aroma is only achieved after strong dilution of the essential oil.
The aroma of damask rose essential oil varies according to the where the rose was cultivated:
Bulgarian rose essential oil has an aroma similar to the description above and it is easily compared to the aroma of deep red roses.
Turkish rose essential oil is heavier and sweeter yet clearer and more floral.
Indian rose essential oil is lighter, fresh and noticeably floral.
Essential oil constituents:
Monoterpene alcohol (64%) – citronellol (42 % or more), geraniol (18.6 %), nerol (5-10 %)
Oxide – Trans rose oxide (0.34 %)
Phenylethyl alcohol (0.6 %)
Long chain hydrocarbon (about 18%)
Aldehyde, ester, phenol, sesquiterpen alcohol, damascenon
Damask rose essential oil can be:
- added to creams and lotions
- added to massage oil
- diffused in a room
- added to a bath
Effects on the body
- promotes cell regeneration
- nourishes the skin
- gall bladder stimulant
- weak local anesthetic
- effects on the mind
- balancing (opens the heart)
- mood stabilizer
- heart tonic
Color: yellowish to light olive green
Aroma intensity: Very high
Blends well with: angelica, bay, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, coriander, ginger, honey, lavender, lemon balm, neroli, vanilla
Side effects and contra-indications of rose essential oils: None
Many cosmetics for dry, mature and sensitive skin contain damask rose essential oil or extract as they are wonderful for hydrating the skin and to reduce redness and inflammation.
Bühring, U. 2015. Alles über Heilpflanzen. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: Ulmer.
Bühring, U. Girsch, M. 2016. Praxis Heilpflanzenkunde. Stuttgart: Haug.
Wichtl M. 2004. Herbal drugs and phytopharmaceuticals – A handbook for practice on a scientific basis. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: medpharm Scientific Publishers.
Zeh, K. 2004. Handbuch Ätherische Öle. 7th edition. Oy-Mittleberg: Joy.
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