Rose – the queen of essential oils

Some friends walk into our lives just when we most need them. They open our hearts to love and friendship, and restore our faith in ourselves.

These days when I hear the name ‘Rose’ my mind immediately makes the connection to Rose Tyler – fiesty, fearless and loyal companion of the Doctor. Rose walked into the Doctor’s life at a time when he had lost faith in the universe and in himself – and restored it, capturing the heart of the Time Lord in the process.

These are the qualities of rose essential oil. Often called the ‘queen of essential oils’ by aromatherapists, its fragrance is warm and nurturing. Rose is a ‘mothering’ oil. She opens our hearts to giving and receiving love, and allows us to believe in ourselves and others. She is also a luxurious and sensual oil – a flower of Aphrodite and Venus, her scent is thought to act as an aphrodisiac.

Otto or absolute?

In aromatherapy you can buy two types of rose essential oil – Rosa damascena (rose otto) and Rosa centifolia (rose absolute). The first is the only ‘true’ essential oil because it is extracted from rose petals by steam distillation. The second is extracted by solvent extraction and is an ‘absolute’. But both smell gorgeous and are delightful to use. The only real difference is to your purse – rose otto is significantly more expensive. The botany and actions of both are provided in the summary profile below.

Beautiful skin

Rose is one of the most luxurious oils you can add to your skincare routine. It has long been used to restore a youthful bloom to mature or prematurely aging skins. It hydrates, stimulates and softens the skin. It is also helpful for dry or sensitive skins, being anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and astringent. Use rose oil in facial massage at 3% dilution for dry and itchy skin, skin rashes, eczema and even for broken capillaries, because it helps to reduce skin redness.

  • 5ml apricot or peach kernel oil
  • 3 drops rose oil (otto or absolute)

A personal favourite anti-aging and rejuvenating blend of mine is given below. Massage a teaspoon amount on your face, nightly for one month, to achieve best results.

  • 20ml jojoba oil
  • 10ml evening primrose oil
  • 6 drops rose otto oil
  • 4 drops lavender oil
  • 6 drops neroli oil
  • 2 drops frankincense oil

Women’s health

Rose is thought to be a feminine oil and is used in aromatherapy to treat gynaecological problems, particularly to regulate menstruation or to relieve menstrual cramps and excessive bleeding. To treat such conditions, it is usually massaged on the abdomen. However, I would offer a word of caution when using rose oil, or any other essential oil or natural remedy, for ‘women’s problems’. It can be helpful for women suffering mild irregularities, but for those who have a more serious condition, such as menorrhagia (excessive bleeding leading to haemorrhaging and clotting) medical advice from a GP should be sought to diagnose the underlying causes. The NHS website provides useful advice for women.

Digestive system

Surprisingly, rose oil is thought to be good for the digestive system. I remember my aromatherapy tutor told us that inhaling rose oil can help to regulate a poor appetite and that massaging the lower back with rose oil can help to alleviate constipation. I also remember she told us that, at around £50 per 5ml of pure rose otto, it would be cheaper to drink a cup of ginger or mint tea.

The oil for special occasions

If you are going to treat yourself to rose oil reserve its use for beauty care and relaxation – two uses in which it excels. If you can’t afford to buy the pure essential oil there are many aromatherapy suppliers that offer rose oil ready-blended for use in massage. Essentially Oils offer rose otto or absolute in 5% dilution in jojoba oil at very reasonable prices.

To burn rose oil you only need about three drops in a vaporiser to work its subtle magic. Rose oil is thought to relieve depression (mild), sedate the nervous system, release anger, despair and frustration, banish fear and bring comfort. It nurtures your emotional self.

If the fragrance is too subtle and you wish to enhance it, but not use up your oil too quickly, add one drop of geranium oil to your burner. Geranium enhances and complements the fragrance of rose.

Enjoy.

This post is dedicated to Marina, who walked into my life just when I needed her most and is a dear friend.

Profile of rose:

Latin name: Rosa damascena (rose otto) and Rosa centifolia (rose absolute)
Plant family: Rosaceae
Plant type: floral
Perfume note: middle
Botany and origins: Rosa damascena is a prickly shrub with fragrant pink blooms and whitish fuzzy leaves; Rosa centifolia is an oil extracted from a hybrid plant called rose de mai (Rosa centifolia (pink rose) and Rosa gallica (red rose)).
Extraction: the otto is extracted by steam distillation, the absolute from solvent extraction
Chemical properties/active components: where to begin – rose oil has more than 300 active chemical constituents which science has yet to crack and replicate in synthetic form. How d’ya like them apples, science boys!
Blends with: almost all essential oils, try it with lemongrass for a delicious, summer room fragrance
Key actions: antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac, antiseptic, astringent, antispasmodic, antiviral, calming, circulatory stimulant, comforting, emollient, hydrating, laxative, loving, regulating, sedative, softening, stimulating, uplifting
Common conditions: primarily useful for skin care (mature, dry, sensitive, itchy, irritated, reddened, eczema, rashes and broken capillaries); and for its emotional effects (antidepressant, uplifting, refreshing, irritability, heart palpitations, insomnia, anger, dispair, frustration, fear); it is also thought to be useful for gynaelogical irregularities, and toning and stimulating to both the digestive and circulatory system
Contraindications: non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitising. However, it is advised to avoid during pregnancy. In my personal experience, I’ve found that rose oil can cause irritation for people with very sensitive skins or just as an idiosyncratic (individual) reaction. Therefore, as with all essential oils, it is advisable to patch test before general use.
Further reading: This profile is based on my own experience and knowledge of using this essential oil. Other aromatherapy texts will list a wider range of properties and uses. The most comprehensive essential oil profiles that I have read are given by Salvatore Battaglia’s The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Second Edition, published by Perfect Potion, 2003, Australia. ISBN:  0-6464-2896-9

Image © 123RF

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5 thoughts on “Rose – the queen of essential oils

  1. As a fellow aromatherapist, it is lovely to read your blog, some great recipes you have. I am saving up to buy some Rose Otto as a present to myself

    Rose and Frankincense are my favourite essential oils, where do you buy your oils from?

    Thanks
    Diane

    • Dear Diane,

      Thank you for visiting my blog, I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed it. I buy my essential oils from two suppliers. The first is: http://www.essentiallyoils.com/ Based in the English Cotswolds, they offer high-quality essential oils at very reasonable prices and delivery charges (free within UK). The owner, Charles, is passionate about aromatherapy and writes a newsletter (http://www.essentiallyoils.com/Newsletters/newsletters.html) that you can sign up to. The staff are very knowledgeable about essential oils and are happy to answer any queries and also provide extensive information on their products, such as batch dates and chemical composition etc.

      My second supplier is Neals’ Yard Remedies, another company that employs people who are really enthusiastic about natural remedies: http://www.nealsyardremedies.com/

      Enjoy your rose otto!
      Emma

  2. Hi Emma,
    Thanks for the info, yes I’m aware of Neal’s Yard they have a shop in my home town.

    I’ll check out the other link too and the newsletter.

    I use Fragrant Earth http://www.fragrantearth.com/ they are a tad expensive but they have wonderful aromas. I recommend their lavender (high altitude) and their frankincense

    I love the fact suppliers of oils are really taking notice of what us aromatherapists need (it wasn’t always like that!) There is so much choice now.

    I think I need a rose otto fund, as it will take me a while as I want a big bottle hehe

    Diane

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