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What is so special about Rose otto essential oil?

The Rose is the UK's favourite flower according to the BBC's cover of the Chelsea Flower Show and as stated in both the Daily Mail and the Telegraph newspapers in the past few years. In the English language, we have made many positive associations with the rose: coming up roses, seeing things through rose tinted glasses, everything is rosy and of course we give red roses to symbolise love, especially on Valentine's Day. Did you know that Roses have also been attributed with aphrodisiac properties? There appears to be quite a few religious connections with Rose oil too. The Roman God Venus and Greek God Aphrodite (thought to relate to the same deity) are linked to roses, as is the Virgin Mary (Davis P. (1991). Additionally, there is a legend told in the Koran that when Mohammed rose into Heaven, his sweat fell to earth and he said, “whosoever would smell my scent would smell the rose (Bensouilah J (1996). Rose is apparently the favourite perfume of Angels according to Davis (1991).

“Roses have been known throughout the northern hemisphere as far back as literature records” (Rochdale Press (1979). Considered a herb, 296 species have been classified. Of these, Rosa damascena is a principal ancestor of the many hybrids and Culpeper’s Herbal (1983) states that it is of obscure origin. Price (1993) informs the reader that Rosa damascena was probably a hybrid of Rosa gallica (the apothecary rose (Lawless J. (1994)) and Rosa callina and that it is native to Syria. Conversely, Reid (1995) states the rose “had its birthplace in Persia, known today as Iran”.

The name rose comes from the Greek word “rhoden” which means “red” (Reid S. (1995). The best oil is generally agreed to come from Bulgaria and called “Bulgarian Rose Otto”, specifically a special mountain district around the town of Kazanlik. Tisserand (1988), states that this particular damask rose can only be cultivated at high altitudes (1300 feet above sea level) in an area of only 240 square miles. Rose otto or attar actually comes from the Persian word “’atir”, meaning perfumed (Price S. (1993), so it may well be that Reid has it right it terms of its origin. You know when you have a true Rose otto essential oil because first of all it is very expensive and secondly, it should become solid when cold. You always need to buy essential oils from a reputable supplier and we always recommend that you purchase from a company that is registered with the Aromatherapy Trade Council (ATC), whose website is I personally like the Rose otto from Absolute Aromas.

The essential oil is very complex chemically with between 2-300 constituents, which are mainly alcohols (60%) as confirmed by Price (1995) plus around a further 20% of monoterpenes and a small proportion of esters and others we will not mention here. One thing that is for certain about blending rose oil is that it blends well with everything and that you only need 1 drop because it is so intense. That is not surprising when you learn that it takes about 30 roses to make one drop of Bulgarian Rose Otto and 60,000 roses to make one ounce; hence its rather hefty price tag as it is very labour intensive to produce. It is certainly a very interesting oil in many ways so please also read the research article I shared this week on Facebook about the use of Rose oil for pain releif in burn patients.

Rose has been attributed with many therapeutic properties, which you can find in the books and all seem to agree that it is the Queen of Essential Oils and good for female problems, including helping to regulate the menstrual cycle and serve as an antidepressant. However, men do like the scent of roses too and the Romans in particular used to scatter them all over their marital beds as an aphrodisiac. We still do this on wedding nights and it is thought to be romantic! “Rose essence was called the blood of Venus” (Tisserand M (1993) and Marguerite Maury (1964) also confirms the aphrodisiac properties of rose oil and states that this is further confirmed and printed in the Hindu pharmacopoeia.

Rose is excellent for hayfever which can be vouched for from personal experiences on over 30 patients, but I can only find this listed in two resources of which one is in a paper by Dietrich Wabner, who was an expert on the essence of rose and the other by Lawless (1992). However, Wildwood C (1999) does state that Rosa damascena is used for hayfever in homeopathy. My husband has basically "cured" his hayfever using Rose otto oil. He used to suffer so badly starting around May each year and I suggested he put a drop on his shirt collar. It worked immediately and the relief was amazing. So he started using it every day and for that was nicknamed "Rosie" at work - just that one drop on his collar used to fill the office with the aroma! One summer when we were in Cornwall, I was stung by a wasp on my right forearm, which is the only time this has ever happened. We were in the middle of nowhere at the time and I had nothing with me. My husband had sneaked by beloved and expensive Rose otto bottle in his jacket pocket and I could not complain as the anti-histamine effects worked equally as well on the sting. I put one drop neat onto the sting and watched in amazement as the capillaries in my arm rose up and then shrank back. By the time we got back for tea, you could not tell that I had been stung at all.

Rose is a very safe oil to use. Tisserand (1993) advises that rose is the most antiseptic of all the oils and the least toxic. There is quite a lot of confusion and misinformation in the aromatherapy texts about using rose oil in the first few month of pregnancy but I would always advise extreme caution during this time for any woman as there is insufficient research on essential oils in early pregnancy and so why take any chances? For me personally, my favourite blends for use on me always contain rose. I love a massage with a blend of just one drop of Rose otto and 1 or 2 drops of Vetivert. I find this deeply relaxing physically, emotionally and mentally. I always add it to my face creams too. Please add your comments and your favourite rose blends below.

Spiritually, Rose oil is said to have an affinity with the heart chakra but from experience as a therapist I feel that it has a positive effect on all of the chakras as its energy resonates with universal love. That is probably why we have so many positive feelings about roses and their delicious aromas. The best roses to buy for your garden for the scent are David Austin's. If you ever get the chance, you should go and visit their gardens and shop near Wolverhampton. For more information see

If this article has inspired you, why not train as an aromatherapist with us through our unique blended learning programme. If you do not want to study massage, we also have an Essential Oil Practitioner Diploma, which is an online only course that will allow you to practice and gain membership with us and insurance to practice.

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