The International Herb Association (IHA) is celebrating the rose this year, for its beauty as well as its other helpful qualities. IHA members have selected an herb to highlight every year since 1995, using the criteria that the herb chosen must be outstanding in at least two of three categories: medicinal, culinary, or decorative. With its versatility and long and colorful history, the organization’s Herb of the Year for 2012, the rose, falls into all three.
Centuries of Thorns and Flowers
Fossil evidence traces the genus Rosa back 35 million years. People began to cultivate roses in gardens some 5,000 years ago, most likely in Asia. In the centuries since then, they’ve been symbols of love, beauty, war, and politics. During the Roman period, they were grown extensively in the Middle East, and used as confetti at celebrations, for medicinal purposes, and to make perfume. The factions fighting for control of England in the 15th century were symbolized by roses, with the white rose symbolizing the House of York and the red rose the House of Lancaster; hence the conflicts became known as the Wars of the Roses.
Stop and Smell Them
The aroma of the rose is healing: Its essential oil has antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and calming properties. Rose essential oil soothes skin conditions; a massage with rose oil can help alleviate symptoms of PMS as well as menstrual cramps.
Rose hips—the fruit of the rose—are packed with vitamin C, which stimulates collagen production in the skin, thus making it a favorite ingredient in soaps and skincare products. Rosewater, made from the petals of the flower, is found in cosmetics and is touted as an antiseptic that’s soothing to sensitive skin.
Have your Roses and Eat Them Too
You can add taste to the list of senses that roses appeal to. From tea and jam made from rose hips to salads and desserts that contain rose petals or rosewater, the Herb of the Year has its own unique culinary flavor. The IHA suggests adding rose water to sliced strawberries, fresh lemonade, or hot or iced tea, for starters.
Visit the IHA website for more ideas on using roses in cooking and information on the many ways to use and enjoy this versatile herb.