Everything is coming up roses!

From the garden of medical herbalist, Catriona Stewart

The roses are fabulous this year!  My own garden Jacobean or Stuart Rose has just about ‘gone-over’ now, but there is still a myriad of scented blooms all around in my neighbours’ gardens and along the hedgerows.

Rose has long been thought of as a feminine plant for many reasons. Not least of these is that the rose contains ingredients highly prized by women throughout the generations and world-wide for every aspect of life, from reproductive health and childbirth to skin care to menopausal symptoms to old age.

There are many members of the broader Rose family, including some that wouldn’t immediately spring to mind, such as Raspberry for example, which is often drunk as a dried infusion of the leaf in the weeks leading up to childbirth. Research evidence for this practice is mixed in terms of effectiveness, but sometimes it just feels good to do something positive to support yourself and your wellbeing, as long as sensible precautions are taken. *

Another member of the Rose family is Lady’s Mantle, one of my personal favourites and historically a hugely valued partum preparatory herb. It was also used as a skin wash and on very different themes, for infectious diseases and ‘children’s summer diarrhoea’.

The Rose family members commonly contain key ingredients that have a specific effect, one main one being a group of chemicals called tannins (as in, tanning leather!). These are very astringent, which means they cause the tissue they are applied to ‘tone up’. So, think of the toner you use on your face or the effect of after-shave and you’ll get the idea. In fact Rose-water has been used for millennia across the world for skin-care; it is still used in preparations for acne, acne rosaceae especially, small broken blood vessels and for general skin health.

As a circulatory stimulant, Rose extracts are used both internally and as topical applications for varicose veins and cellulite. And of course, we all know that the scent of the Rose lifts the spirits and soothes the heart.

Last summer, I tried a new approach to preserving Rose petals – I made Rose vinegar using a base of organic cider vinegar and Rose petals out of the garden and it was truly lovely; the vinegar seems to capture the scent and taste of Rose more powerfully than a tincture.  I used it to drizzle on salads and to add to marinades and I plan to make more this year, it’s so easy.