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The Herb Lady

by Nadine Johnson


    Roses – I can’t think of a better subject for the month of February, especially since sweethearts of all ages will make them the number one sales item on Valentine’s Day. 

     Most likely, roses are the world’s most popular flower. My florist tells me that roses constitute 95 percent of her business. Although red roses are number one on the sales scale, she sells a great deal of pink, white and yellow roses, also. She adds, too, that red roses retain their beauty much longer than the other colors. 

     Roses are a symbol of love in any language. Their fragrance and beauty captivate almost any beholder. According to legend, roses are one of the means by which Cleopatra won Mark Anthony’s devotion. Long before this ill-fated romance occurred, roses were given the distinction of “Queen of the Flowers”- a title which has never been challenged. 

     Roses belong to the Rosaceae family. (Other members of this family include raspberry, blackberry, plum, peach, almond, hawthorn, strawberry, apple and others.) There are many species of roses. They have been bred for culture in any climate. They grow on vines, shrubs and bushes. One prominent characteristic of roses is their thorns. Of course, man has been able to breed a few varieties without thorns. Wild roses grow over a large part of the earth. This wonderful flower is used in cosmetics, crafts, foods, fragrances, and medicines. 

     Attar of roses is an essential oil or perfume made from the petals of roses, especially damask roses, which are very fragrant, cultivated roses with clusters of white or red flowers. (The damask rose is an ancestor of our hybrid roses of today.) It takes 4000 pounds of rose petals to make one pound of attar of roses. Bulgaria, France, India and Turkey are the main producers of this rich, expensive floral fragrance. 

     Rose water is a preparation consisting of water and attar of roses, most frequently used as a perfume. Apply rose water to your skin for its fragrance as well as astringent and cleansing properties, which will help to keep the skin healthy. It is used in the making of soaps, lotions, and other skin care products. My mother-in-law used rose water for my husband’s hair tonic when he was a child. 

     Rose water has been used in Turkey, India, China and other Mid-Eastern and Far-Eastern countries since long before the birth of Christ. It was a favored flavoring in Elizabethan England. It is used as a flavoring for candies, syrups, ice creams, and even rice dishes. Both rose water and orange flower water (which is created by the same process) make an unusual but delicious addition to fruit punches. 

     Fresh, young rose petals make a colorful, nutritious and delicious addition to salads. They can even be added to ice cream. 

     Dried roses or rose petals are useful in crafts such as potpourri, wreaths and basket arrangements. For this purpose, I prefer to dry most rosebuds in silica gel, following package directions. There are many well constructed silk roses on today’s market which can be used along with or instead of real roses in the creation of ornamental crafts arrangements. 

     In the book Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs you will find easy to follow directions for making rose beads. The creator of this jewelry must have a large store of patience, as well as rose petals on hand. The end result of this project will prove worthy of the tedious work involved. As the beads are worn, the wearer’s body heat helps to release their delicate fragrance. 

     Rose hips (the fruit of the rose) is said to be one of the best sources of natural vitamin C. They also contain vitamins A, E, B complex, rutin, organic iron, sodium, potassium, sulfer, silica, and niacin. As a nutritional supplement, this herb aids in prevention or control of many complaints including scurvy, gout, colds, flu, nervousness and kidney stones. It aids in cleansing the system of infections and toxins. As a child, my scrapes and bruises were often treated with an ointment called Rosebud Salve. This was before the days of chemical medications; therefore, I’m sure it was made from real roses. It certainly smelled like roses. 

     Rose hips were used in Native American remedies long before white man set foot on the shores of America. They used it especially for the treatment herpes simplex (fever blisters). It is easy to make rose hips a regular part of the daily nutritional intake. This can be done in the form of capsules, tea, jellies and preserves. Many delicious, commercially prepared teas which contain rose hips are on the market. Rose hips capsules are available at practically any place which sells vitamins. 

     Rose hips jelly or preserves are not so readily available but you’ll find them in larger markets or specialty shops. A neighbor once brought me rose hip jelly which was made in Switzerland. It was absolutely delicious, and contained no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. 

     Of course, you can grow your own rose hips. I once did. For marble sized hips I recommend that you plant rosa-rugosa rose bushes. You’ll need more than one bush in order to have adequate pollination. 

     I understand that rose hips are among the herbs which the Food and Drug Administration considers safe. I can see no reason why any doctor would object to their use, However, as usual I must warn you to consult with your physician before taking this or any other herbal remedy.    

Nadine Johnson is a resident of Goshen, Alabama, a member of the Goshen Farmers Co-op and a long time user and promoter of wise herb use. Her telephone number is 334/484-3580. Her email is [email protected].



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Date Last Updated January, 2006