Rose appeared 35 million years ago, long before humans roamed the earth. The plant has evolved with us and become iconic in cultures across the globe. Wreaths of roses adorned Egyptian tombs, and the flowers were engraved on clay tablets in Mesopotamia. It has been the subject of writings by Confucius, in Greek mythology, and a standout in Turkish folk literature. In Asia, monks formed dried rose petals into beads to use in prayer, mirroring a similar practice in Europe. It is where the term “rosary” comes from.

Rose was grown in medieval gardens for food and medicine as opposed to appearance. Indigenous peoples of North America, like the Chumash and Samish tribes, used wild rose for a slew of medicinal conditions. The Rosaceae family has more than 200 species and 18,000 cultivars around the world. True roses have five petal flowers and are inlaid with prickles which, contrary to popular lore, are not true thorns. Yet, as we have seen in gardens throughout the world, the flower can come with numerous petals in a variety of colors and scents. For medicinal purposes, use only indicated varieties and not garden hybrids.

Beyond a beautiful aroma and appearance, rose is a treasure trove of healing potential. All parts of the rose plant can be used for medicine: the root, leaves, fruit (rosehips), and seeds. Current scientific investigation on Rose spp. has confirmed its antibacterial, antiviral, anticancer, antidepressant, antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, and hypnotic effects. While medicinal attributes of rose species may vary, there has been specific focus on a few varieties, particularly R. damascene and Rosa Canina. While there hasn’t been investigation on the synergistic potential of rose and cannabis, there are many parallels in their healing attributes which deserve recognition and further investigation. Some users say that both cannabis and rose can help to open the heart and boost the mind/body connection. Scientific investigation has supported the following attributes of rose.


Like cannabis, Rosa spp. have been investigated for their potent antioxidant qualities. Rosehips, the fruits of the plant that appear after the flowers have been pollinated, are rich in bioavailable Vitamin C. Plants produce antioxidants in order to protect themselves. The antioxidants they create allow us to absorb them into our bodies and guard us from free radicals.

Dried rose hips have three times the Vitamin C of citrus fruits. Vitamin C is required for collagen production, which is a primary protein in connective tissue in the human body. It reduces inflammation and enhances the integrity of the tissue. Rosehips contain a high amount of pectin, which can draw out environmental toxins, radioactive compounds, and heavy metals, and boosts detoxification after exposure to these substances. It should be noted that much of the natural vitamin C in rosehip products is lost in the manufacturing process. (Further info)


Digestive disorders

Rose is reputed for its ability to strengthen the digestive system. Preparations of R. damascene are used for the treatment of intestinal issues such as diarrhea, sluggish digestion, and constipation. Rosehip seed is rich in dietary fiber, which supports healthy gut microbiota and the increased absorption of nutrients. A human study found that drinking rosehip tea for three weeks increased beneficial bacteria in the bowel. Additionally, rosehip infusions have been found to reduce the abdominal pain for patients with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

Antimicrobial properties

Rose petal extracts have shown antiviral activity and the ability to target various stages of the HIV cycle. The antiviral properties of rose essential oil (citronellol and geraniol) were reported against the flu virus (HSV-1). The oil has also been found to target pesky bacterial infections such as Staph and other resistant strains. Rosa canina is especially useful against E. coli and three types of fungal infections. Bulgarian rose oil, even though it smells divine, has shown no antimicrobial activity.

Depression and insomnia

Rose has long been reputed as a classic aphrodisiac because of its ability to soothe the mind and body. The aroma of rose can encourage happiness, confidence, and feelings of wellbeing. The plant may help boost fertility and libido by increasing sperm count and testosterone production.

The anti-depressant qualities of R. damascena extracts have been confirmed in animal models via its ability to increase antioxidants in the cerebral cortex. Additionally, the hypnotic effects of rose may alleviate insomnia and nervousness. Extracts of R. damascena have been found to possess similar effects to diazepam (Valium), a prescription benzodiazepine indicated for anxiety, insomnia, and muscle spasms.


While a commonly overlooked attribute, rose has shown promise as an anti-inflammatory agent for various conditions. It has shown the ability to inhibit COX enzymes, which are responsible for the production of prostaglandins (pro-inflammatory compounds). The active constituents of Rosa spp. have been found to inhibit pro-inflammatory enzymes, lower the production of cytokines, and reduce oxidative stress, which can suppress inflammatory processes on the broad spectrum (study). Investigation has revealed that CBD (cannabidiol) in cannabis and curcumin in turmeric are inhibitors of COX as well. These plants have the potential to decrease systemic inflammation, with little to no side effects.

Rose has had ongoing investigation as a treatment for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and pain due to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic abilities. A study review observed that rosehip was superior treatment to that of glucosamine, a widely used natural joint remedy. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a type of arthritis that leads to the destruction of cartilage. In a study of 100 people with the condition, participants were given 2.5 g standard rose hip powder or placebo twice a day for four months. Compared to placebo, rose hip powder was shown to significantly reduce pain. Another study of 94 patients with osteoarthritis determined that treatment with rosehips lead to a considerable decrease in pain. Daily use of rose hip powder was correlated with a detectable reduction in the use of conventional medications like opioids, acetaminophen, and NSAIDs (prescription anti-inflammatory drugs).  


Various studies on R. damescana have confirmed the anti-tumor, anti-carcinogenic and cytotoxic effects of the plant against cancer cells. Geraniol, one of the plant’s terpenes, act on different mechanisms to induce apoptosis in cancer cells and slow their proliferation. Rose canina has been examined for its antioxidant effects and the ability to slow the spread of colon, breast, and glioblastoma cancer cells in vitro. One laboratory study found that compounds in R. Canina had a higher inhibitory effect than temozolomide, a chemotherapeutic agent used to treat glioblastoma.

Skin regenerative & anti aging properties

Cosmetically, rose is adept at tightening and toning the skin. The plant’s astringent and antiseptic properties encourages the healing of cuts, rashes, burns, and surface wounds. Various compounds in rosehips have been examined for their anti-aging properties. Investigation has observed its ability to decrease wrinkles, moisturize, and increase the elasticity of the skin. One study discovered that rose was more effective than astaxanthin, a popular anti-aging supplement.

Rose water can be used as a facial toner, or the petals can be dropped in hot water for a facial steam. Rose essential oil has been a strong inspiration for various studies on skin related benefits. Pure rose oil is highly sought after and expensive, as it requires 60,000 roses to make 1 ounce. Rose water may work just as well as the oil, and provide similar properties for those on a budget.


Amenorrhea, anxiety, asthma, bronchitis, cancer (in vitro), colds, colic, cough, constipation, depression, diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, dysmenorrhea, eye inflammation/irritation, fever, frigidity, flu, grief, headache, PMS, irregular menstruation, infertility, insomnia, leucorrhea, Lyme disease (connective tissue tonic), mastitis, metabolic disorders, rash, inflammation, sore throat, sunburn, uterine congestion, abscesses, boils, burns, dermatitis, eczema, rashes, osteoarthritis, rheumatism, gout, wrinkles

By Sarah Russo