At one time rose absolute was thought to be the first essential oil ever created. The gifted Arabic alchemist Avicenna (AD 980-1037) provides us with the earliest drawings of distillation equipment and oil extraction methods. And his writing give reason to believe that the first flowers to undergo the oil extraction process were the rose, the flower so beloved of Islam.
However discoveries made in the Indus Valley in 1975 have shown that essential oil extraction goes back much further than first thought, and we now have evidence of plant oil extraction dating to around 3000 BC.
Humans have used various preparations of flowers, bark, roots, leaves and resins for thousands of years, and pieces of burnt resins have even been found at the entrance to caves that were known to be inhabited in the Neolithic period (the last part of the stone age).
By the 15th century the grand houses of Europe all had their own still rooms where medicines, tonics, skin beautifying preparations, and flavoring ingredients were distilled from plant materials grown on the estates or gathered from the wild.
Modern medicines mostly began life as plant compounds. Valium derives from valerian, Digitalis from the foxglove, Aspirin from willow and morphine from poppies. Scientists isolated the compounds that they wanted and discarded the rest, giving little thought to the holistic effects of the plant. Compounds were later synthesized and the connection with the natural medicine and its other regulating compounds severed.
Modern scientists have taken the knowledge discovered by the alchemists of old and worked with it to discover new treatments. From the ancient Egyptian Ebers Papyrus which dates from 1550 BC we know that thyme was used to eradicate intestinal parasites. Researches in Japan have taken that knowledge into their labs and found that thyme can indeed eradicate the parasites, which is very useful information to have if you live in a country that eats masses of raw fish.
Fortunately we don’t need to wait for modern research to vindicate herbal medicines and essential oils, we can utilize the knowledge gained throughout history and learn how we can benefit from these ancient healing methods. Essential oils don’t replace modern medicine but they are most definitely complementary to it.
Essential oils are powerful natural chemicals. Each drop of essential oil is thought to contain 40 million trillion molecules. That’s 40,000 molecules for each cell in your body, in each and every drop. When people say that essential oils are powerful and potent, it’s no exaggeration or simple turn of phrase.
These tiny molecules are small enough to easily enter through your skin and reach your bloodstream where their therapeutic properties are distributed to work wonders on the conditions that ail you.
These molecules can also enter through your nose where they affect the limbic system of your body. The limbic system is responsible for your moods, memories, learning, attitude and more. And this ability to influence the limbic system is the reason why certain essential oils can be so helpful with any disorder of an emotional nature – stress, depression, anxiety insomnia and ADHD for example.
Some of the minute molecules of essential oils can also penetrate the blood brain barrier. Many drugs have molecules which are too large to pass through that protective layer, which makes treating disease in the brain very difficult. Research is now looking at these molecules to find out how they can be used to treat infections that reach the brain.
Essential oils are the essence of the plants, they are the myriad chemical components that work synergistically to keep the plant alive and healthy, that allow it to fend off bacterial, viral and fungal attack, that keep its circulation, respiration and metabolism running smoothly, and allow it to communicate with other plants and with the beneficial bacteria and fungi in its root zone.
When we use these plant essences we can kill microbes, normalize blood pressure and heart rate, lower stress levels, treat depression, normalize skin function and the hormones that affect it, ease gastrointestinal complaints, soothe a headache, heal wounds, banish a cough or cold, ease aches and pains, the list goes on and on, with the beneficial uses for the oils seemingly endless, and it’s the beneficial uses of rose absolute that we’ll investigate today.
Introducing The Rose
We have fossilized evidence of roses growing as far back as 70 million years ago. This flower is truly ancient! Cultivation of the rose is believed to have begun about 5000 years ago in China.
In the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose VI (C14th BC), depictions of rose garlands adorn the walls. Dried rose petals found in tombs have returned to a near life like state when soaked in water. This gives an indication of the incredible properties of the rose.
Our earliest pictorial representation of the rose comes from the Sumerian goddess Inanna. The rose was her symbol and a door seal on a temple dating from around 3300 BC depicts the flower.
Reincarnations of Inanna (Ishtar, Aphrodite, Venus and Isis) in later civilizations have all been associated with the rose. In the Temple of Isis a statue of the goddess holds a rose in each hand.
When Cleopatra ascended to the throne of Egypt, she took on the persona of the goddess and the rose featured heavily in life in the Egyptian court.
Writings tell of a banquet that Cleopatra hosted for Mark Anthony. The floors of the dining halls were strewn with roses to a depth of one and a half feet. At the time those roses cost one talent, which is about 75 pounds of gold. In today’s prices those roses would have cost over a million dollars!
Cleopatra was renowned for her lavish beauty rituals, and rose oils, along with neroli (orange blossom) oils featured heavily in her skin care preparations, and skin care is one of the areas where rose absolute really shines.
It takes nearly 9,000 pounds of rose petals to produce one liter of rose essential oil. The petals are picked early in the morning when their aroma is at its strongest, and throughout the entire oil extraction process the temperature is carefully controlled to maintain the fragrance and therapeutic integrity of the oil.
Historically rose has been used to treat digestive disorders, menstrual problems, headaches, nervous tension, liver disorders, sluggish circulation, fever, eye infections, skin complaints, sexual dysfunction, inflammation and swelling.
Over 300 known compound have been isolated from rose essential oil so far, and its principal actions are known to be:
Analgesic – pain relieving.
Antibacterial – kills microbes or prevents them from spreading.
Antidepressant -relieves depression.
Antifungal – kills or prevents the spread of fungus.
Anti-inflammatory – reduces or eliminates inflammation.
Antiseptic – kills germs.
Antiviral – destroys viral pathogens.
Aphrodisiac – enhances sexual desire.
Antiphlogistic – stops and counteracts inflammation.
Antispasmodic – prevents and eases spasms and convulsions.
Astringent – dries and constricts tissue
Choleretic – aids excretion of bile from the liver.
Cicatrisant – promotes wound healing by building scar tissue
Depurative – has a detoxifying and purifying effect.
Emmenagogue – stimulates menstrual flow. (Dangerous in pregnancy)
Haemostatic – stops bleeding.
Hepatic – tones and aids the liver.
Laxative – assists with evacuation of the bowels.
Nervous system sedative – calms nerves.
Stomachic – digestive aid and appetite stimulant.
Tonic for the heart, liver, stomach and uterus – strengthens the functions of these organs.
Deodorant – corrects or masks unpleasant odors.
Diuretic – stimulates the production of urine.
Sedative – calms the body and mind.
vulnerary – heals fresh cuts or wounds
That’s an impressive list of therapeutic actions, and it’s easy to see why roses have held such high value throughout history. At one time roses were even a form of currency in England.
In addition to skin care the most important uses of rose today are for gynecological and emotional issues. It’s a very expensive essential oil and many other oils can cater as well as or even better than rose for many other conditions. No essential oil is a one size fits oil treatment, so it’s important to choose the most suitable oil for the job at hand. While rose oil can act as an antiseptic for example, it would be silly to use it for that purpose when a cheap oil like tea tree or clove will do a much better job for a fraction of the price.
Rose absolute costs around $550 dollars for 100ml. A similar amount of tea tree can be had for around $10. Unless you’re rolling around in more cash than you know what to do with, it’s better to keep the more expensive oils for the applications that truly warrant their use. A small 5ml bottle of rose absolute costs about $45 dollars and contains about 100 drops, so it’s still an affordable therapy, especially as you only need a few drops to achieve beneficial results.
Because rose oil is so expensive, it’s an oil that is often adulterated by unscrupulous vendors. To ensure that you are getting the real deal with expensive oils, it’s a good idea to use trusted vendors like Tisserand, Mountain Mouse Herbs, Plant Therapy and Neal’s’ yard for those oils.
Rose Essential Oil For Skin Care
Rose essential oil is the more powerful version of the renowned skin care tonic rosewater. Rosewater contains a tiny percentage of rose essential oil and brings many benefits to the skin, so just imagine what full strength rose absolute can do.
Unlike most skin care preparations that sit on the surface of the skin, rose essential oil can fully penetrate the skin to deliver its therapeutic benefits.
The oil contains citral which helps the body to manufacture vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for skin cell manufacture in the epidermis.
As a rich emollient, rose oil delivers moisture to your skin and forms a protective layer that prevents moisture loss. The more water your skin can hold onto the healthier and more resilient it will be. Skin that has lost its ability to hold onto moisture, is skin that wrinkles.
Since most emollients are found in the forms of rich oils, they tend to be heavy on the skin and also greasy. Using an essential oil as an emollient provides a light non greasy alternative.
The emollient barrier also serves to protect skin from damage from environmental pollution which means that the antioxidants in the skin aren’t used up dealing with the chemical soup that we live in and can focus their attention on preventing the cell damage that occurs as a normal byproduct of the body’s everyday functions.
If you suffer from broken capillaries or rosacea, then the farnesol in rose essential oil is exactly what you need. It encourages circulation and relieves pressure on the capillaries which allows them to heal.
Rose oil leaves skin wonderfully soft and smooth, with even color and a fresh radiant bloom just like the rose itself.
Its astringent properties remove excess oil from the skin and tighten pores while its effects on hormones help to correct the hormonal imbalance that leads to excess oil production in the first place.
The oil is perfect for normal, oily and dry skin, although very dry skin would benefit from the inclusion of frankincense essential oil in a skin care blend.
Sensitive skin can also benefit from rose oil. Its strong anti-inflammatory action combined with its other skin care properties, reduce redness and calm and soothe irritated skin.
Because stress so often manifests in damaged, tired, dull, aged skin, the mood boosting properties of rose work on an emotional level as well as a physical one to give you bright, healthy skin.
And on older skin, rose essential oil is known to reduce the pigmentation that causes age spots and other discoloration.
Rose essential oil should always be diluted before use. You can add a drop or two of the oil to your regular skin care products, or you can mix it with a carrier.
A good carrier to use is rose water which already has the skin care qualities of rose and provides excellent benefits in its own right. Oily skin that is prone to spots would benefit from the use of rosewater as the carrier because there is no risk of carrier oils clogging pores.
Another excellent carrier for rose essential oil is Rosehip oil. This oil is made from the fruit of the rose rather than the petals. It’s rich in Vitamin C which is an essential vitamin and a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin C plays a vital role as an enzyme co factor in the production of collagen and elastin which are the proteins that make up your skin matrix. Rosehip oil also contains Vitamin A and proteins. Using rosehip oil along with rose essential oil will really give your skin a boost.
Rose Essential Oil For Gynecological Support
Rose oil is uterine tonic which means that it strengthens and supports the healthy function of the uterus. It can help with painful periods and ovulation, and its antispasmodic properties ease menstrual cramps. As an emmenagogue it has the ability to regulate your menstrual cycle making the onset of your period more predictable.
Rose essential oil can be beneficial if you are entering menopause. Its ability to boost and balance estrogen levels allows it to help with the hot flashes, mood swings, thinning skin, anxiety, irritability, headaches, sleep disturbances and mental fog that often accompany this change in a woman’s life. The use of rose oil at this time can have a profound effect on quality of life!
Along with jasmine, rose is one of the most helpful oils to use during childbirth. Both oils make contractions more productive and provide natural pain relief. Their mood altering abilities ease the fear that is common in the delivery room and reduce stress which makes labor easier to handle and able to progress smoothly.
The wonderfully calming properties of the oils also create a perfect environment for the newborn after the stress of delivery.
Being born is the most stressful event that a human ever goes through. A baby going through a vaginal delivery has incredibly high levels of catecholamines. Catecholamines are stress hormones and include adrenaline and noradrenaline.
These hormones are also present in varying amounts in a woman during labor, during exercise, during a heart attack and in some highly virulent tumors. But in a baby during delivery these catecholamines are through the roof. The hormones are necessary to stimulate the immune system, to clear out amniotic fluid from the lungs and airways, and to dry the mucus membranes so that the baby can take its first breath once it is born. Catecholamines also help the newborn to deal with their initial low oxygen levels.
If a mother doesn’t have enough Vitamin C in her system when she gives birth, the baby won’t have enough Vitamin C to counteract the huge oxidative stress that the high levels of Catecholamines generate and this can lead to jaundice.
Emerging into an environment lightly infused with rose and jasmine which lower levels of these stress hormones can help a baby to recover from the rigors of birth.
Rosehips themselves are a good source of the Vitamin C that pregnant women need, so the rose can help to provide the levels of antioxidants necessary to prevent jaundice in the newborn and to counteract the initial stress that accompanies the baby into the world.
Rose is also very valuable in the postpartum period. It has the ability to help a woman get back to feeling like herself again after the intrusive experience of labor and giving birth, and it keeps hormones balanced and spirits high to ward off depression, plus the oil tones the uterus and helps it to return to its normal size more effectively.
A month long study of thirty high risk postpartum women found essential oils to be beneficial. Half of the women were treated twice a week with rose and lavender oil aromatherapy. The other half were instructed to avoid any aromatherapy. Postpartum depression was lower in the treatment group, as well as lower overall levels of anxiety
Two or three drops of rose oil mixed with a carrier and massaged into the abdomen will alleviate painful periods and re-balance hormones. Massage with rose oil is helpful during menopause as is diffusing the oil into your environment.
The oil shouldn’t be used by pregnant women until labor is under way and then it can be diffused into the room, and/or diluted with a carrier and massaged into the abdomen and lower back.
Rose Essential Oil For Emotional Support
Rose essential oil is a helpful aid in treating depression, anxiety, insomnia and stress. The oil is deeply relaxing for the body and the mind and it exerts a gentle sedative action which helps to provide restful sleep. The oil can reduce high blood pressure and ease the headaches and muscle pains that are brought about by stress.
Diffusing the oil using an ultrasonic aromatherapy diffuser is a good way to use rose essential oil for emotional support, but the best way is to receive a massage.
Simple massage alone provides the wellbeing that comes from touch and it increases circulation and warms the skin. Warm skin with its more open pores is able to absorb a higher percentage of essential oils. Essential oils are volatile and a degree of potency is lost to evaporation once they are applied to the skin. The faster the skin can draw the oil in, the higher the amount of healing molecules drawn into the bloodstream will be, which makes massage such a beneficial delivery system.
Receiving a massage from an experienced masseuse using supportive essential oils can release emotional blockages and painful memories. Often a person who is suffering will find that they have the urge to cry during a massage and this release is a cathartic and healing process.
Regular massage with essential oils can provide welcome relief from the stresses and strains of modern life.
Rose is also beneficial for sexual dysfunction caused by taking antidepressant SSRI’s. A study published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment evaluated the effectiveness of rose oil on SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction for men with major depressive disorder.
The study found that dysfunction improved over the course of the 8 week study and that as dysfunction improved the symptoms of depression reduced.