Thoughts of Valentine’s Day always evoke roses. Striking in its beauty and sensuality, the rose is a seemingly universal symbol of love and divinity. Over 5,000 years ago, Egyptians revered this flower as sacred to the goddess Isis. To the ancient Romans and Greeks the rose was the flower of Venus and Aphrodite, respectively, formed from foam that covered each goddess of love at birth. The Ancient Persians were likely the first to cultivate the rose; to the Sufis it symbolized divine love. When Arab Muslims invaded in the sixth century, they appropriated the rose, holding that it was created by a drop of sweat from Mohammed’s brow. Early Christianity associated the rose with the blood of Jesus and with the Virgin Mary.
Over 2,500 years ago, Sappho proclaimed that the rose was ‘the queen of flowers’ and the rose has long been the flower of queens. Cleopatra is inextricably linked to the rose; legends recount that she perfumed her ship’s sails with rose when she sailed to meet Mark Antony, and rose petals eight inches deep are said to have carpeted her chamber during their first encounter. Wild dog rose (Rosa Canina) has long been the royal flower of England; during coronations, British kings and queens are anointed with a holy oil containing rose essence. Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, gathered all known rose varieties in the early nineteenth century to create a rose garden that inspired the cultivation and creation of hybrids. Today there are over 20,000 varieties, according to Susan Kurz, president of Dr. Hauschka Skincare, where rose is used in over 60 products.
Valued for more than beauty and scent, the rose was featured prominently in traditional Indian, Chinese, Persian, Arabian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman medicine before making its way to European apothecaries. It has been used to treat ailments ranging from reproductive disorders to hangovers. Kurz recounts that 12th century Christian visionary Hildegard Von Bingen used roses to heal lepers. An entire industry based around medicinal use of rose emerged near 13th-century Provence, France.
Today the rose has garnered renewed respect for its manifold healing properties, especially in skincare. Every part of the rose is used for its specific attributes. For example, the same wax that shields delicate petals is used to protect the skin in Dr. Hauschka’s lip care and sunscreen sticks. Rose leaf contributes astringent and antibacterial qualities to Weleda Wild Rose Facial Toner and the line’s deodorant, while the petals themselves add visceral appeal to the Rose Face Mask from Fresh. The mildness of rose lends itself to use for babies’ tender skin, as in Rose & Jojoba Body Rub for Newborns from Carol’s Daughter.
Rose essential oil also happens to be one of the costliest elements used in skincare; 5,000 pounds of petals yield just one pound of essential oil. Apart from its aromatherapeutic and moisturizing properties, rose oil is recognized for the gentle toning effects of its tannins, which support the skin’s elasticity and aid circulation, helping to diminish redness caused by dilated capillaries. Rose oil is also rich in bioflavonoids, which increase capillary strength, improving the structure of the skin’s connective tissue and easing rosacea. Its nourishing and harmonizing properties make it a key ingredient in cleansers and lotions for dry and sensitive skin, such as Martina Gebhardt Naturkosmetik’s Sensina and Rose skincare systems. Body washes utilize its mild antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties. Rose oil is also said to have a regenerative and rejuvenating effect on cell tissue. Kathy White, ingredient information specialist at Dr. Hauschka cites research on the use of rose oil to heal the radiation burns of cancer patients. Both Dr. Hauschka and Weleda support organic, biodynamic fair-trade farms in Turkey’s Valley of Roses, ensuring a source of pure, unadulterated rose oil for their holistic products. Weleda is the world’s largest purchaser of Rosa Damascena and Centifolia roses.
Rosewater has graduated from grandma’s body splash and assumed a starring role in Rose Marigold Floral Water, a facial hydrating toner from Fresh, and Rose Camellia Plum Soft-Water body mist from Red Flower Japan. Hair care, including Jason Natural’s rosewater shampoo and conditioner and Fresh’s Milk & Rose Shampoo, has also incorporated rosewater’s healing properties.
Lesser-known than rosewater, but perhaps most potent, is rosehip, the oil from a rose’s fruit and seed. In Chile, oil from the wild rose, known as Rosa Mosqueta, has long been used by the native peoples of the Andes to protect skin from the harsh climate, reduce signs of aging, and treat blemishes, scars, and burns. Rosehips have more vitamin C than oranges, while rosehip seed oil is rich in omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids (EFAs). Rosehip’s inherent linoleic acids also enable it to quickly penetrate the skin to repair damage.‚ Hyla Cass, author of 8 Weeks to Vibrant Health (McGraw-Hill, 2005), recommends ‘essential fatty acids topically’ not only for their emollient value but also for their ability to neutralize free radicals that accelerate the aging process. Research shows that rosehip oil delivers a large quantity of essential fatty acids. At least two major natural skincare companies have taken note, creating complete roseship-based product lines: Aubrey Organics Rosa Mosqueta and Weleda Wild Rose.
Catherine Wells learned first-hand the efficacy of rosehip seed oil. In her thirties, the New Zealander developed a serious eczema problem, which she treated with harsh hydrocortisone-based products. “Although [they]helped control my eczema” she says, “they were making my dry skin even worse” Catherine’s sister Sarah Wells owned a cosmetic ingredient manufacturing business based on a natural extraction method. One day she sent Catherine a jar of rosehip seed oil. “She didn’t know too much about the cosmetic application of the oil” recounts Catherine, but she said to me, “Give it a go, I’ve heard it’s good for eczema.” I tried the oil that day, and overnight my eczema disappeared. In no time at all I had thrown away all my hydrocortisone creams and was relying totally on rosehip oil. Her experience led the sisters to create the Trilogy line of rosehip seed oil-based products, using organic rosehips from a fair-trade farming cooperative in Lesotho, Africa. In addition to containing over 80% EFAs, Trilogy rosehip oil is also particularly rich in antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene.
Needless to say, there’s nothing like roses to convey a sense of luxury and pampering. Ensuring you your Cleopatra moment beyond Valentine’s Day, rose-filled treatments are available at spas around the world. The Pura Vida Spa in Costa Rica offers a Rose Petal Massage with rose essential oil on a rose-covered treatment table. In Dubai, opt for the Six Senses Spa’s Rose Heaven, with rose incense, steam, Rose of Damascus body polish, a rose milk bath, a water massage, plus a full-body massage with Rose Bliss Balm at the Madinat Jumeirah resort. Back on U.S. soil, travel to Berkeley, California to enjoy the Spa Claremont Rose Journey, which begins with a rose, lavender, and eucalyptus-scented bath. The treatment also includes a body polish and wrap of honey and rose petals, an aromatherapy massage, and a manicure. You’re sure to emerge smelling like roses.
Dry Skincare Line featuring Rosa Mosqueta
Rose Blotting Linens. Rose water on 100% natural abaca leaf fiber.
Rose & Pear Sea Salt Body Scrub, Roses & Honey Body and Bath Oil
Dr. Hauschka Skincare
Rose Day Cream, Rhythmic Night Conditioner
Rose Face Mask, Rose Marigold Floral Water
Rosewater Hair Balancing Shampoo and Conditioner
Naturkosmetik Rose Skin Care System for Dry and Sensitive Skin
Japan flower skin Moroccan Rose cleansing body wash and moisturizing body lotion
Rosehip Oil Cleansing Cream, Hydrating Mist Toner
Wild Rose Cleansing Lotion, Facial Toner
Luxury Rose Body Oil
1/4 oz jojoba oil or almond oil
2 tbs. rosehip oil (rose mosqueta oil)
2-3 drops of pure rose essential oil
Mix ingredients and pour in a small glass bottle. Apply oil after shower or bath using a few drops at a time. Keep refrigerated after use.
Luise Peyton, Founder of Eco-Beauty Organics.
By Bess Hochstein
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