There are two main varieties of rose that are used for the production of essential oil for aromatherapy. Rosa centifolia, or cabbage rose, and Rosa damascena, damask rose. Cabbage rose, also known as French rose, rose de mai or rose maroc, is believed to have come originally from Persia but is now cultivated commercially, mostly in Morocco and France. The plant is approximately 8 feet (2.4 meters) in height and produces a mass of fragrant pink blooms. Damask rose, also known as Turkish rose and rose otto, is thought to be indigenous to China but is now cultivated mainly in Bulgaria and France for its oil. It is a smaller plant, which also produces abundant pink blooms. Of the two varieties, cabbage-rose oil is more widely available for aromatherapy use. Rose otto can be prohibitively expensive.
Roses were widely used medicinally in ancient times in the East for a variety of ailments, which included fever, skin problems, digestive and circulatory problems. They were also valued for their aphrodisiac properties. Symbolically, the rose signifies love and has done so for many hundreds of years. Rose hips are still valued highly for their nutritional value: they are particularly high in vitamin C.
Steam distillation of rose petals is sometimes used to produce essential oil of rose, and for many years the principal method of extraction favored by the perfume industry was enfleurage. Essential oil of rose is extremely expensive, however, and an alternative is the absolute. First, a concrete is obtained through solvent extraction of the rose petals and then, once the solvent has been removed, the absolute is separated from the concrete using alcohol.
The essential oils of both cabbage rose and damask rose are yellow in color, while the absolutes are deeper in hue, being orange-red. The absolute is almost solid at room temperature, becoming liquid when the bottle is held and gently warmed in the hand. Both essential oil and absolute have a rich, deep, sweet floral smell. Beware of imitations: synthetic copies of rose oil abound and it is also quite frequently adulterated before being sold.
Rose oil is extensively used in the perfume industry. Being an ingredient of more than a third of the fragrances. It is also used in the manufacture of toiletries and cosmetics and sometimes as a flavoring agent. Rose water – a by-product of the steam distillation process – is used in cookery and for cosmetic purposes.
Rose oil is a pleasant and safe oil to use in aromatherapy and is suitable for a variety of uses. It is expensive, but its strength ensures that one or two drops added to a blend will transform it. Cabbage-rose oil and damask-rose oil have similar properties and effects.
Rose oil relaxes and strengthens, imparting a feeling of calm and well being. It is beneficial to use in times of stress and will bring relief to many stress-related conditions, soothing frustration and irritability and lifting the spirits. It can be used to good effect on children and is enjoyed by most people in massage blends or in bathing. Rose oil is also delightful to blend with other essential oils in a vaporizer.
In the treatment of gynecological problems, rose oil can be particularly beneficial. It is useful in the treatment of premenstrual tension and in menopausal difficulties such as heavy menstrual bleeding. Its effects are balancing, and it can also help to regulate infrequent or scanty menstruation. Like jasmine, rose oil has aphrodisiac qualities and can benefit both sexes by increasing libido.
Rose oil can also benefit the respiratory system and can be used to treat coughs and allergy-related respiratory complaints.
The effects of rose oil on the digestive system are detoxifying, anti-inflammatory and strengthening. It can be used to treat constipation and nausea and is also thought to have a tonic effect on the liver and gall bladder.
Rose oil is an extremely valuable oil for skin care. It is anti-inflammatory and soothing, which makes it suitable for the treatment of dry and itchy skin, and it will also help to tone a tired complexion. It is suitable for use on sensitive and ageing skin.
Rose oil also has a beneficial effect on the circulation.
It is important to point out that although rose oil is very costly, a little of this intoxicating fragrance goes a long way in a blend.
Suitable methods of use
- Skin care
Safe to use; nontoxic, nonirritating and non-sensitizing. Warning: Use of rose oil during early pregnancy is not advisable unless under the supervision of a trained aromatherapist.