By Ofelia M. Sierra
In herbal medicine there is a phenomenon known as the doctrine of signatures. This is where the physical attributes of the plant symbolize the attributes that the plant can bring to help with those organs. For example, walnuts look like the folds of the brain, and they happen to have great omega 3 useful for that organ. The pith in the cross section of a carrot can symbolize- and be good for the eyes. Ginger for stomach. Mushrooms look like…well never mind that one.
As such, roses have a deep connection with the heart. The deep rich color symbolizes the liquid essence that makes our heart pitter patter. The prickles represent the mechanisms we must employ to protect our most vulnerable organ. And it just so happens that in ancient cultures including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Unani (Greek-Arabic traditions) that the rose is effective at treating maladies associated with the heart. It is said in these traditions that the heart is the seat of consciousness. I recently heard of a man who underwent a heart operation and it didn’t just affect him physically, it also deepened his connection to his emotions and he admitted to being quite weepy. His name is Antonio Banderas!
The rose has an uplifting effect on the spirit. It’s a well respected anxiolytic, meaning it can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. I like to give it to people who have gone through loss or grief. It can pair delightfully with hawthorne and motherwort as well as lemon balm. Rose is also considered an antispasmodic and serve as an anti-inflammatory agent. Perfect for those needing a boost in relaxation. Then, after the bloom wilts away, the rose hip is a wonderful source of vitamin C, and E. Rose is used in the beauty industry because of its astringent effect which tightens and tones the skin.
Science has been slow to study the effects of this family of plants, but there have been a few with potential promises. One is for its anxiolytic effect [1] which of course has anecdotal evidence throughout time. Another exciting study in 2003 was how it can slow seizures [2]. Although all essential oils are antimicrobial, a combination of thyme and cinnamon with rose was found to be quite effective with some bacteria and toxicology against human cancer lines [3].
If you can get a hold of a good quality rose essential oil, I suggest you keep some in your home. You may find adding organic rose petals to your tea a lovely addition to your heart ceremony. I’ve heard herbalists making a rose glycerate, which is much tastier than an alcohol tincture, and hope to make one soon. One may also infuse rose petals into honey. A hydrosol (a safe and less expensive product made during the essential oil extraction process) for the face will leave you uplifted. I use it in my February massages. I also infuse rose essential oil into my massage oil to benefit the whole body with this lovely medicine.

[1] Setzer W. N. (2009). Essential oils and anxiolytic aromatherapy. Natural Product Communications, 4(9): 1305–1316. Retrieved 21 March 2013 from
[2] Ramezani R., Moghimi A., Rakhshandeh H., Ejtehadi H., & Kheirabadi M. (2008). The effect of Rosa damascene essential oil on the amygdala electrical kindling seizures in rat. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, 11(5): 746–751. Retrieved 21 March 2013 from
[3] Basim E. & Basim H. (2003). Antibacterial activity of Rosa damascene essential oil. Fitoterapia, 74(4): 394–396. Retrieved 21 March 2013 from