I was recently introduced to the beautiful aroma of rose essential oil. Can you tell me a bit about it and what it is used for? It is very expensive. Is there an alternative?
‘You love the roses – so do I. I wish
The sky would rain down roses, as they rain
From off the shaken bush. Why will it not?
Then all the valley would be pink and white
And soft to tread on. They would fall as light
As feathers, smelling sweet; and it would be
Like sleeping and like waking, all at once!‘
I love that poem!
The two major species of rose plants used for essential oil production are Rosa damascena and R. centifolia. The rosa species are considered native to Europe and Western Asia. My favourite rose essential oil, R. damascena, is produced primarily in Bulgaria, Turkey and more recently in Italy and China. The essential oil produced in Kazanlak, Bulgaria is considered the most prized and it is typically the most expensive. (i) You may hear this species of rose or essential oil referred to as Bulgarian Rose, Turkish Rose, Rose Otto or Damascus Rose.
The rosa plants are typically small prickly shrubs measuring up to two and a half meters high. Their leaves have whitish hairs and the blooms are very fragrant. Whole flower, petals and leaves are used, the choice of which depends on the method of distillation or extraction and the product desired. There are four products of the rose.
Rose otto essential oil is derived by way of a two-stage steam distillation process known as cohobation and uses the whole flower. Rose concrete is a concentrated, semi-solid product created by way of using a liquid solvent to dissolve the volatile compounds of the flowers (and sometimes leaves). Rose absolute is formed by extracting the natural waxes present in the concrete by using an absolute alcohol. It is then filtered or distilled through filter paper which removes most of the alcohol. Trace alcohol is removed by passing nitrogen through the essential oil. Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction may also be used to produce rose oil which is marketed as either an absolute or as a CO2 extract. (ii)
Rose essential oil has numerous therapeutic properties and actions including antidepressant, antiphlogistic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, anxiolytic, aphrodisiac, astringent, bactericidal, cholertic, cicatrisant, depurative, emmenagogue, haemostatic, hepatic, laxative, sedative, stomachic and tonic. According to aromatherapy expert Kurt Schnaubelt and many of us who use rose essential oil in our aromatherapy practice, the scent alone has uplifting and tonifying effects which helps to support stabilization of the nervous system. (iii)
With an impressive list of properties you can imagine all the various roles rose essential oil might play. From treating heart palpitations, irritability and insomnia to its use in creams and lotions for sensitive, inflamed, dehydrated or aging skin. It can even assist the regulation of menstruation and provide relief of menstrual cramps.
On a subtle level it helps to release anger, despair and frustration. Rose essential oil is used to encourage contentment, devotion, inner vision, happiness, inner freedom, acceptance, completeness, patience, love, sensuality and purity. In her book, The Fragrant Mind, Valerie Ann Worwood indicates that rose is used to affect positive states, concentration, contentment, creativity, happiness, joy and peace. (iv)
Rose essential oil is an excellent companion during times of major life transition such as puberty, marriage, birth, menopause and death. Rose comforts and is said to give gentle support in times of sorrow. It is useful for relieving symptoms of hysteria, confusion and despair. It allows for fresh growth and new possibilities to flow in while gently letting go of the old ways and patterns needing release. Rose gently reduces fears and reassures that it is safe to let go, to allow the heart to heal. (v)
Spiritually rose essential oil is the supreme oil of the heart and the heart chakra. It is it often indicated for the crown and sacral chakras and is used to promote direct communication with spirit guides. (vi)
Quality rose essential oil is expensive for sure but in my opinion there is no substitute for the real thing. I tend to use rose essential oil when I am creating a blend that will be applied to the skin. If I am looking for a rose-like aroma to diffuse into the air I reach for geranium. Interestingly Pelargonium graveolens essential oil is also known as the poor-man’s rose. I have had clients who found rose essential oil too strong, preferring the more subtle aroma and energy of geranium.
While a good quality rose essential oil is amazing by itself it blends beautifully with angelica, bergamot, benzoin, frankincense, geranium, jasmine, juniper, lemon, mandarin, neroli, petitgrain, Roman chamomile, sandalwood, vetiver and ylang ylang.
The following aromatic recipe from Aromatherapy and Subtle Energy Techniques is said to encourage the mind to receive direction and love from the angelic realm. Either R. damascena or R. centifolia essential oils can be used for this. Into 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of jojoba carrier oil blend 4 drops of rose essential oil, 4 drops of sandalwood essential oil and 2 drops of angelica essential oil. Apply as desired. Heavenly indeed!
Truth be known, I have been sitting here with my dear friend Rosa damascena close at hand; She ever so gently releasing her spellbinding scent, Me embosomed by Her exquisiteness … Caressing heart, mind, spirit and emotion.
Barbara Power, Certified Aromatherapist