Botanical Name: Rosa damascena
Part Used: Flowers
Process: Steam Distillation
The Greek Poetess Sappho (6th Century BCE) called rose “the Queen of flowers” – a tribute still fitting for this ever-popular botanical. Most of the modern rose varieties found in the typical garden have had their rose scent bred out of them in favor of showy blossoms. That is not the case with Rose damascena whose flowers yield Rose Otto an essential oil widely revered for its exquisite aroma and considerable therapeutic value. Bulgarian Rose Otto is considered the premier Rose Otto.
Plant Description: Native (generally conceded) to the Middle East, Rosa damascena is a hybrid of Rosa gallica and Rosa moschata, though it is uncertain when this occurred; it is thought that these two varieties and others originated in the area of ancient Persia and the surrounding regions in general. Rosa damascena is now grown commercially for the perfume industry in Bulgaria, Turkey, France, India, and Morocco. It can be found growing wild in Morocco, Caucasus, Syria and southern Spain. Rosa damascena is a deciduous shrub growing to a height of 3-6 feet with deep green leaves and stems protected by sturdy thorns. Propagation is done in very early spring by taking 1-2 foot long woody cuttings from the bases of healthy older rose bushes, removing the upper growth from them, and placing them in prepared rose beds. New shoots appear about two months later. Roses are labor intensive, if the rose beds are carefully tended throughout the year – hoeing, weeding, mulching, manuring, winterizing – they remain productive for up to forty years, with the first harvest occurring in the third year of growth and one or two harvests each year thereafter.
Blossoms appear in early summer for several weeks and are harvested very early in the morning. Distillation occurs as quickly as possible after harvest and is a two step process. The condensed water collected from the first distillation contains a greater portion of essential oil (usually about 80%) than is collected directly; this water is redistilled to capture the essential oil contained therein, a process known as cohabation. The oil from this second distillation is combined with the essential oil that is acquired directly from the first distillation to yield what is known as otto (essential oil via steam distillation) of Rose.
Oil Description: Pale yellow or olive-yellow liquid. Below 70 degrees F (~21 degrees C), white blades or crystals of the stearoptene portion of rose oil separates out at the top of the container, and with further cooling the entire contents will solidify into a translucent mass. Very gentle warming will restore the oil to a liquid. Rose Otto essential oil has an immensely rich, deep, exquisitely sweet floral aroma often with a slight spicy, honey, fruity, tea-like, or citrus-like nuances. Interestingly, those smelling undiluted Rose Otto for the first time may find the scent unpleasant due to its strength. Upon dilution in carrier oil, the scent is more true to the scent of a rose blossom.
Historical/Traditional Uses: The use of rose for medicinal purposes, most likely in the form of unguents made by macerating rose petals in fats or oils, is mentioned in the Ayurvedas (~1500 BCE to 500 CE) and in Dioscorides De Materia Medica (1st century BCE). The Arab physician and alchemist Avicenna was supposedly the first to distill rose oil in the 11th century. In his book the Complete Herbal published in 1653, Nicholas Culpepper states that oil of roses is used by itself to cool hot inflammations.
It is believed that rose cuttings were brought to the area now known as Kazanlak, Bulgaria in the early part of the 15th century; roses were cultivated for the production of rose oil most likely starting in the 16th century. Today the area around Kazanlak is called the Valley of the Roses where most of the worlds Rose Otto is produced. A noteworthy fact: it takes up to one million blossoms to make one ounce of Rose Otto.
Applications (Uses and Indications): In aromatherapy, Rose Otto has been renowned throughout history for its usefulness in skin care, its aphrodisiac properties, and its effectiveness on the reproductive system. It is indicated for healing emotional wounds and restoring trust and self-worth; for moisturizing, hydrating and soothing mature skin; and for helping to regulate the menstrual cycle. It is also beneficial in cases of frigidity and impotence in women and men. In perfumery, Rose Otto essential oil is used to round-off blends; it is considered a middle note and blends well with bergamot, carnation, cedarwood, chamomile, clary sage, galbanum, geranium, jasmine, lavender, lemon, neroli, orange, palmarosa, patchouli, petitgrain, sandalwood, vetiver, and ylang ylang.
Contraindications (Safety and Precautions): Rose Otto essential oil is non-irritating, non-sensitizing, and non-toxic.
Standard Safety Precautions: Always dilute essential oils before using. Keep essential oils out of the eyes and mucous membranes; in case of contact, DO NOT use water, instead place a drop or two of vegetable oil on a tissue to gently wipe out of eye or off area of contact. In severe cases, seek professional help immediately. Keep out of the reach of children. In case of ingestion, call 911 immediately.
The FDA has not evaluated the statements on this website. No claims are made as to any medicinal value of this or any products from Ancient Ways Botanicals. The information presented here is for educational purposes of traditional uses and is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. For external use only. You are responsible for understanding the safe application of these products.