Apothecary's rose

Step out into the garden on a warm day or a still evening and the air is heavy with the fragrance of rose. The spent petals lie as confetti on the green grass, hover flies and bees flit from flower to flower. Harvesting the blooms is not an onerous task!

I’m not sure a Herbalist is allowed a favourite herb but Rose is a very strong contender. It is thought to have originated in Persia; Rose water was first prepared by Avicenna in the 10th century but the essential oil was not produced until 500 years later. By the 18th century, Rose was a highly, valued herb in the Western tradition. Rose water was widely used as a skin tonic and added to lotions. The petals were also added to vinegar, conserves, oxymels, oils and ointments. Culpeper describes the qualities of both the White and Red roses; white roses were considered to be more laxative and cooling than red roses.

Apothecary's roses

Roses are gathered on a warm, dry day after the dew has dried, just as the flowers are newly opened, the outer petals are considered the most efficacious. Mine are dried in a warm room, away from direct sunlight on drying screens, until fully dry, deep colour  and crisp to touch. (If the rain doesn’t let up I resort to drying them in the oven at 40°C.)

Actions: include – anti-inflammatory, astringent, antiseptic, antiviral, antidepressant, useful in children’s diarrhoea. In Ayurvedic medicine Rose is used as an aphrodisiac and to enhance both male and female fertility.

Preparations: Essential oil, Rose Otto ( reassuringly expensive), Rose water – used in cooking too, dried petals, rose buds, and tincture.

Rose Harvest

Rose Syrup A really simple recipe is to use equal amount of rose petals, sugar and water ergo:

2 cups freshly picked rose petals

2 cups sugar (or sugar substitute)

2 cups water

Method: add all ingredients to a saucepan, bring to the boil stirring gently until the sugar dissolves, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, strain out the petals and pour into a sterilised jar, label and store in the fridge. Nice diluted with fresh soda water or fizzy water or poured over ice cream – doesn’t have to be medicinal! 🙂



Fresh rose petals

You can make Rose water too; it was raining when I gathered the petals so a wet preparation was in order. All you need is spring water and rose petals, remembering to leave to soak for a couple of hours. I used my electric distiller and made a 700 ml bottle…

Rose water can be used as an astringent skin toner, or added to icing sugar to make an rose icing. The petals can also be crystallised.

Rose petals are good enough to eat, add the petals to salads after removing the bitter white part. Make Rose petal jam or just enjoy the flowers!

Rosa gallica 'Versicolor'

Rose is such a versatile herb – no garden should be without!