Lovely to look at, great for health
The scent of a rose can bring us back to fond memories of youth and summer gardens. But roses are more than a pretty smell, they have therapeutic benefits that can help heal many health conditions. Gardening expert Fiann Ó Nualláin explains.
Aromatherapists and holistic practitioners use rose oil for its antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, astringent, antibacterial and antiviral properties. Rose oil and rose water are used as a cell rejuvenator and to soothe and heal skin conditions, including cuts and burns. Cosmetically, it is suitable for all complexion types. Essence of Rose fragrance shows potential with asthma and sinus treatments and can be used as an inhalant, albeit an expensive one. Instead, most people reserve it for skin creams and lotions.
But smelling a garden grown rose or a cut flower rose instantly calms nervous tension, acts to balance hormones and inspires a sense of wellbeing. That same fragrance and all that goes to make a rose a true thing of beauty is also thought to stimulate passion. Poets compare their loves to the beauty of a rose petal and, as a gardener, I see the poetry and beauty in roses, but as a holistic gardener I see its healing potential shining through along with a potential so easy to harvest and manufacture.
How to make your own Rosewater
Rose water is best from freshly picked petals. I like to give the rose flower a gentle hose down on the bush to remove any insects and dirt particles and not waste water. I have generally tempered my holistic expressions so far, but I also believe that washing the flower on the plant is nicely ritualistic, and you are watering the plant to thank it for its gift – it makes it more special, less of a ‘pluck-and-run’ affair.
By steeping method (infused water):
- Harvest some flowers and place the petals into a saucepan. Add enough distilled/spring water to just cover the petals.
- Bring to a simmer – we want steam, but not necessarily boiling – replace the lid and allow to sit until the petal lose their colour and the water absorbs it. You may notice some rose oil floating on the surface.
- Strain away solids and decant to a container. Keeps for 2 weeks if refrigerated.
By distillation method (hydrosol):
This way is a lot more of a process, but it’s worth it.
- Gather the things you need to create your makeshift still – a large pot, a slightly smaller lid, a cup, a small bowl and a tallish glass. Invert the cup inside the pot (in the centre), add petals to the pot and enough water to cover. The cup may be prominent depending on the quantity of petals.
- Balance the gathering bowl on top of the cup and place the tall glass in it as a support to the smaller lid (to balance on top of the glass), which will catch the steam and drip it down the shaft of the glass into the gathering bowl.
- Bring the still to a simmer and keep it steaming (but not hard boiling) until you’ve gathered a decent amount of steam-distilled essence. When the petals lose their colour you can stop distilling.
- Use cling film as a lid – weighted with a stone in the centre (this can funnel the drips to a gathering bowl if you’re worried about all that balancing of lids, bowls, cups and glasses). Keeps for two weeks in a fridge, or longer if converted to ice cubes.
The benefits of steam-instilled rosewater are well lauded, but don’t worry – the steeping method yields the healing properties too. The advantage of steamdistilled is that the residue left over in the pot is steeped method rosewater – two for the price of one!
Fiann Ó Nualláin is an award-winning garden designer, outreach horticulturist and ethnobotanist. He has worked with many health agencies to create gardens for optimum health. You can get more information from Fiann’s website at www.inspiringgardens.ie.