From Elise Krohn, Traditional Plants Program Director:
I revel in the beauty and fragrance of May’s long-anticipated flowers, but wild rose is my crown jewel. A healthy patch grows along the stream at the GRuB farm, and we gather the petals to restock our medicine chest with rose tea and rose-infused honey, oil, and vinegar. These medicines ensure that in darker times, we will be able turn to rose to heal our bodies, lift our hearts, and refresh our souls.
Wild rose flowers are considered a “universal medicine” because they are used similarly by cultures around the world for beauty and healing body and spirit. Rose is often used in times of challenge, including during birth and death, to bring grace, comfort, protection, and love. In herbal medicine, rose is revered as a topical and internal astringent. What this means is that it tightens and tonifies inflamed tissue where the medicine makes contact. While this sounds simple – it is really quite profound. Say you get burned. Your skin becomes red and puffy. Even if you cool the burn off, the puffiness may persist and become painful. Astringents tighten the inflammation and help remove excess fluid, allowing for better nutrient and waste transport, and facilitating healing. Rose is especially indicated for mild burns, wounds, inflamed pores, spider veins, mouth sores, sore throats, diarrhea, and urinary inflammation.
Rose buds and blossoms are one of the most revered cosmetic ingredients. They are balancing and moisturizing, especially for irritated, delicate skin. Rose oil and rose toner can ease acnea rosacea because they help to tighten tiny inflamed blood vessels.
Rose petals can be prepared in many ways to flavor food, make delicious beverages, and prepare topical and internal remedies. These include water, tea, honey, vinegar, glycerine, alcohol, and oil.
Gathering Wild Rose Flowers
All wild roses have beautiful pink flowers with five petals and many stamens. They are also armored in thorns, so beware! Leaves are generally toothed with 5-9 leaflets. You will find them growing in a variety of habitats including wooded, open, dry and moist locations from low to middle elevations. Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana) is a local favorite because it has large and deliciously-fragrant blossoms. Baldhip rose, swamp rose, rugosa rose, and other fragrant home- grown roses can also be used as long as the plants are not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides.
The best time to harvest is when they are most eye catching - in spring to early summer when they have just opened and are very fragrant. Make sure to save some for the bees and other winged creatures that are lapping up their nectar and pollen. Whole flowers can be pinched off but I harvest mostly the petals so that the inner part can turn into fruit, which is also called rose hips. Infuse fresh roses into water, glycerine, vinegar, or alcohol. Wilt roses before infusing them in honey or oil. Dry rose petals in baskets and use them in tea or in any of the other solvents.
Rose Infused Honey
- Gather aromatic petals and let wilt until they are half dry – usually about a day
- Place petals in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid
- Warm honey gently on the stove top so that it is very fluid but well below boiling
- Pour enough honey into the jar so that it completely covers the flowers. Cap tightly and place in a warm spot in the garden or on a vent.
- Stir and wipe moisture off the underside of the lid every few days. This will help remove excess water from your honey.
- Strain with muslin cloth after 2-3 weeks. The pressed petals can be made into tea and drank or place in a bath for a luxurious “rose honey bath”. Store honey in a glass jar in a cool dark place. Some people like to keep it in the refrigerator but this is not necessary as long as your honey does not have too much water in it.
Add rose honey to tea, cooking recipes, cough syrup, and other creations. Rose honey makes a great balancing face wash. To use it, wet your face wet with warm water. Place about a quarter’s worth of honey in your palm. Massage into your face until it begins to get tacky. After a few minutes to half an hour, rinse with warm water. Don’t forget to lick your lips first!
Wild Rose Toner
Rose is considered the most balancing of all plants for the skin. This old fashioned recipe stands up to modern expensive facial care products. Witch hazel is a tree with bark that is very astringent and healing. It is extracted in water, usually with about 15% alcohol as a preservative. You can find it at many natural food stores, herb shops, and pharmacies.
- Fill a glass jar with wilted or dried wild rose petals.
- Cover completely with witch hazel extract.
- Cap the rose and witch hazel jar with a lid and let sit for at least 2 weeks. Shake every couple of days to distribute medicine throughout the fluid.
- Strain with muslin cloth then store in a glass jar or spray bottle. Label.
Spray or pat this liquid on your face as a refreshing astringent to tighten pores and balance skin. Avoid spraying on or near your eyes. You can add 25% rose water for additional fragrance and medicine.
Learn More! Our Tend, Gather and Grow Project connects youth and community members with plants, local ecosystems, and the rich cultural traditions that surround them. Upcoming teacher trainings include Herbal Apothecary: Topical Remedies for First Aid on June 8th, and Wild Food Traditions: Summer Berries on July 13th. Check out our evening community class on Tending Our Wild Hearts: Rose, Strawberry, and Hawthorn Medicine on May 14th.