Family: Rosaceae, or Rose
Synonyms and Common names: Dog rose, hedge rose, English rose
Description and Habitat: Wild roses can be found in most hedgerows in Britain, and can easily take over anywhere the rose can get a hold. They are a rambling rose, having one large flowering of five, hear shaped petals which tend to be pale pink on the outside and white in the middle, with yellow stamens where the five petals come together to make one flower.
The original wild rose is heavily scented, and its stalks have many, many thorns. Leaves are glossy green, but it is the thorns, flowers and hips that make the wild rose easy to recognize.
Parts used: Hips.
Collection and preparation: The hips grow from the flower once it dies back, and are big and very red and pendulous. Rose hips are best when harvested one week or so after the first frost, or in late autumn if your area doesn't have frost. This allows the rose plant to produce as much sugar as possible, rose hips harvested earlier taste quite tart. If you don't have a forecast of frost to guide you, look for deep-red rose hips that are slightly soft when you squeeze them.
It’s best not to wait too long before harvesting Rose Hips. If you keep an eye on your rose hips will help to prevent you from harvesting them too late. Avoid harvesting rose hips that are completely soft because they are spoiled. Harvest before the rose hips, or fruits, begin to dry out. It's important to check your rose bushes to see if the rose hips are getting too soft or wrinkling.
Actions: Nutrient, mild laxative, mild diuretic, anti-inflammatory, and mildly astringent.
Constituents: Vitamin C, tannin, pectin, carotene, fruit acids, and fatty oil.
Indications and Therapeutics: Rosehips provide one of the best natural and freely available sources of vitamin C. They may be used whenever this vitamin is required.
They will help the body’s defences against infections and especially the development of colds.
Rose Hips make an excellent spring tonic, and aid in general debility and exhaustion.
They will help in cases of constipation and mild gall-bladder problems as well as conditions of the kidney and bladder.
Scandinavian trials have demonstrated that rosehips can help alleviate the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis by reducing inflammation and tissue damage. Volunteers who took part in the trials reported that they were able to reduce their prescribed medication. Rosehips also help alleviate gastric inflammation.
Contraindications: There are no known problems with rosehip, but it is worth mentioning that certain prescription medications can interact with rosehip. In particular, those medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, ticlopidine (Ticlid), and warfarin (Coumadin).
Preparation and dosage:
Decoction: 2 ½ teaspoons of dried herb into a pan and pour over two cupfuls of boiling water. Leave simmering for 10 to 15 minutes, drink the decoction 3 times daily. Clinical trials have demonstrated that treatment should continue for at least three months to achieve significant improvement in arthritic conditions.
Syrup: When making syrup from Rosehips it is important that the seeds from Rose hips are removed before making it. Instructions for making this can be found via the page ‘Possums Planet’.
Additional comments and Folklore: during the Second World War, and for some years after, rosehip syrup was handed out to babies, and to schoolchildren to compensate for lack of vitamins in the rationed diet. Rosehip tea has been traditionally used to ward off colds and to treat infection and has been a staple of the old wise women for as long as roses grew here in Britain.
First cultivated in Persia, roses also appear on wall paintings and personal items in Egyptian tombs dating to the 5th century BC. In the same century, the Chinese extracted oil from the roses in the Emperor’s garden. This oil was so valuable that only nobles could use it.
The Sumerian seal, dating to c. 3300 BC, bears a stylised rose design as a symbol of the goddess Inanna. Roses also grew in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Ancient Egyptians believed that rose held magical properties. Embalmers used attar of rose’s oil during the embalming process of mummies.
The rose represented the goddess, Isis. Her followers added roses to funeral wreaths to indicate the successful passage of the dead through the Hall of Judgment. Cleopatra apparently covered the palace floors in rose petals when she made her play for Mark Antony.
Roses appear throughout Greek myths, including origins for the flowers themselves. According to the poet Anacreon, white roses appeared from the sea foam that dripped off Aphrodite when she was born. The white colour represented her innocence and purity. Later in her life, she bled on a white rose while trying to heal the wounded Adonis. This created red roses, representing passion and desire.
At the wedding of Eros and Psyche, the seasons and charities scattered rose petals across the land to celebrate.
Flora, Goddess of Spring, found her dearest nymph dead. She asked the other gods to turn her loved one into a beautiful flower. Apollo, Bacchus, Vertumnus, Pomona and Flora all contributed gifts and the nymph became the rose, seen as Queen of all the Flowers. Apparently, Flora ended up being struck by Cupid’s arrow. The pain caused her to mispronounce Eros as ‘ros’, and so the flower got its name.
Note: Cupid is the Roman equivalent of Eros, which demonstrates the slippage between Greek and Roman myths.
A third origin story involves Flora. Zephyrus, the god of the west wind, fell in love with Flora. Problem was, she only cared about flowers. He turned himself into a rose to catch her eye. When she spotted the rose, she gave it a kiss. This no doubt made the god’s day but demonstrates the Roman gods’ inability to observe boundaries.
The Romans loved roses so much that emperors scattered rose petals across their floors. Guests crowned grooms and brides with crowns of roses. The Roman love of these flowers is reflected through the creation of public rose gardens by the nobility.
But it wasn’t all sweetness and light, roses also represented suffering. Rhodanthe tried to oust Diana as the goddess of the hunt, so Apollo turned her into a rose as punishment.
But elsewhere, the legend tells that the beautiful maiden Rhodanthe sought refuge from her army of suitors in Diana’s temple. Being the jealous sort, Diana turned her into a rose and her suitors into thorns.
Early links between roses and the Islamic world are interesting. Here, Mohammed suspected his wife of adultery. He tossed a bouquet of red roses into a pool and they turned yellow, confirming her guilt. The early Christian church rejected the rose after connecting it with trickery.
Apparently, roses were also originally thornless. They apparently only developed thorns after the Fall of Man.
But by the medieval period, roses became part of accepted Christian iconography. Christians adopted the rose to represent the Virgin Mary in particular. In their theology, a drop of Christ’s blood fell on a bush during the crucifixion. The bush became a rose bush.
Viking folklore says that they were fuelled on rosehips when they invaded foreign climes. The Vitamin C and other antioxidants keeping them fit, healthy and fending off infection. This, in turn, enabled them to kill the farmers/soldiers and rape and pillage their women, steal their land.
And to bring it all up to date, the giving of roses is a time-honoured tradition in the western world. Particularly on Valentine’s Day! But some superstitions accompany the practice. If you’re cutting a rose, be careful no petals fall from the flower, otherwise, you’ll have bad luck. And in Italy, there’s a belief that giving a rose in full bloom brings death to the recipient. So only give rosebuds as gifts.
The war of the Roses
Here in Britain flowers were often assigned to the coat of arms of specific Lords, usually assigned a part of the British land. Different colours of roses were often a part of this heraldry. The white rose was a sign of the House of York, with the red rose a sign of the House of Lancaster.
The war of the Roses, as it was known, was mainly between these two Houses, that of York and that of Lancaster. There were many great battles in the civil war that resulted, lasting from 1455 to 1487. The winner was Henry Tudor the seventh, who merged the two Houses and the two roses of red and white were merged in the heraldry and became the Rose of England.