Although rose essential oil is one of the most expensive extracts available, it has been a staple in history for hundreds of years. The flower itself is associated with numerous stories and legends, but the first person given credit for distilling rose oil is the Persian physician Avicenna (c. 980 – 1037 A.D.).
Perfume companies are perhaps the largest user of this essence today, though the rose essential oil and its petals have been made use of by civilizations like the Greeks, Romans and Arabs for the exact same reason – it’s intoxicating smell.
Where Rose Essential Oil Comes From
The essential oil of rose, although extracted by a few different methods, comes from primarily two species of roses.
1 – Rosa damascena, also known as the Damask rose, is widely grown in Bulgaria, Russia, China, India, Turkey, Iran, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. Because the Damascus rose is thought to have the highest oil content, most robust aroma and best therapeutic properties, it is the preferred flower to use in producing rose essential oil. Many people even use the rose petals to flavor food and make tea.
2 – Rosa centifolia, also known as the cabbage or Provence rose, is grown in France, Egypt and Morocco and used because of its strong, clear scent.
The main reasons that rose essential oil is so expensive are because of the low oil content in each bloom and the fact that the blooms must be picked by hand. A lot of roses are still grown on small farms and brought to designated sites for further processing and quality control. Many countries have strict regulations in place to assure a high quality product during the distillation process.
Types of Rose Essential Oil
There are three primary techniques used to extract the essence from the plant material and the name in which the oil is sold will give you an idea to which method was used.
1 – Steam distillation, which produces an oil called rose otto or attar of roses is done by heating the roses and water to produce steam. The steam (and oil) are collected in a container and often distilled again to help produce the final product. Rose essential oil produced in this manner doesn’t smell similar to fresh roses due to the heat used for distillation, but an important by-product is produced – rosewater.
2 – Solvent extraction results in an oil known as rose absolute. It is a low temperature process that mixes the flowers with a solvent to bring out the aromatic compounds. Because of the low temperatures used, the scent of rose absolute is more similar to the smell of a fresh rose than otto would be. The majority of perfume companies use oil gotten from this process.
3 – Carbon dioxide extraction produces a rose essential oil that can be sold as an absolute or as a CO2 extract. Although this process combines the best aspects of the other two methods, the equipment is expensive resulting in a higher priced product.
Benefits and Uses of Rose Essential Oil
Although there are several methods in which therapeutic essential oils can be used (blended with massage oils, aromatherapy, burners, vaporizers, lotions, direct inhalation, using a humidifier, diffusion, etc.), always try to go by the directions of where you purchase your oil as they often have more experience with their particular brand.
• Relaxant: Rose essential oil creates a sense of well-being by invoking positive thoughts and feelings of happiness which can be used to relieve stress, boost confidence and fight depression.
• Anti-septic and Astringent: Can be used to treat open wounds, reduce scarring and help with wrinkles or stretch marks. Very good for skin conditions overall.
• Female Reproductive System: Helps with several feminine problems such as uterine bleeding, discharges and irregular menstruation.
• Aphrodisiac: Pretty self-explanatory. Widely used when dating.
• Anti-bacterial and Anti-viral: Studies have suggested that rose essential oil can help fight off viral infections such as the common cold or herpes and bacterial infections that can be found in your colon, ears, stomach, etc.
• Digestive: The extract appears to help almost every level of digestion from stomach to colon and can help alleviate problems such as acid, ulcers, diarrhea and constipation.
• Anti-inflammatory and Anti-spasmodic: Helps treat fever, coughing, cramps, muscle pulls and more.
• Circulatory System: Quite useful in cases of poor blood circulation and heart problems such as high blood pressure.
• Purification: This therapeutic essential oil helps to clean and purify the blood and liver by the removal of dangerous toxins.
- Should not be used during pregnancy.
- Can cause headaches in high concentrations if overused.
- Most oils need to be diluted with a carrier oil before applying to skin.
Dilution of Rose Essential Oil
It takes many thousands of rose petals to produce just one ounce of essential oil, which accounts for its high price. Some people may not be willing to pay the price of pure rose oil and as a result, a solution had to be found. Many companies will dilute their rose essential oil with either geranium or palmarosa oils, which are high in geraniol, one of the main constituents of rose oil. Some will be upfront about this fact and tell you exactly what percentage of rose extract is used while others may not be so honest. You need to try and do a little research on the company before buying from them to stay away from the crooks.
There are many more therapeutic essential oils available to the public besides rose essential oil, but keep in mind that because these extracts come from natural resources there has been no official research done by many government agencies. Big companies cannot patent pure oil extracts derived from plants such as lavender or clove, which is probably why most of the research has come from private establishments. As a result, you should always use caution and common sense when buying any product that claims to have therapeutic benefits. This article should not be used to treat or diagnose medical conditions, but instead as an informational base for further research. Keep in mind that all conclusions made regarding rose essential oil are of the writer’s opinion, based upon research.
Photo by Kurt Stueber/Wikimedia Commons
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