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"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul."
Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
“What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
   Romeo and Juliet (II, ii 1-2), William Wordsworth (1564 - 1616)

Rose essential oil is one of the most well known essential oils although its high price deters many.  Rose oil has historically been used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

Rose (Rosa damascena) is perhaps one of the most famous plants in historical aromatherapy use as it was one of the first plants to be distilled successfully by Arab scientist Avicenna (Ib'n Sina) (980 - 1037 A.D.). Rose is said to be native to the Orient and it was eventually brought to Europe where it was extensively cultivated.  Rose oil was used in cosmetics, medicine and perfumery by the ancient Greeks, Romans and Arabs.

Ancient Rose Pomades

The ancient Egyptians were amongst the first to macerate fresh roses and make them into fragrant pomades.  Rose pomades were cone-shaped and placed on top of the head.  Heat from the body melted the fat, resulting in an aromatic rose-scented oil which trickled down the neck and the face. The ancient Greeks and Indians also made some sort of pomade with roses. 

Properties of Rose Essential Oil

Rose is an aphrodisiac and, as such, enjoys an association with love and romance!  Roses are used in weddings, on anniversaries and to woo a potential new love.  Rose oil is also useful to treat depression and stress related problems; it is excellent for general skin care (especially dry, sensitive or mature skin) and  helps ease wounds and sprains.  In addition, rose oil can be used to treat insomnia and a number of problems of the female reproductive system (hence its association as a “woman's oil”).  It is also anti-viral and anti-infectious.

Other Uses of Rose

Rose is extensively used in soaps, toiletries, cosmetics and perfumes; it is used in the production of Turkish Delight and it is also used as a household cosmetic and for some culinary purposes.

The Adulteration of Rose Oil

Rose is one of the most expensive essential oils to distill and as a consequence of this, it is often substituted by a lesser oil or adulterated.  Common substitutions for pure Rose essential oil include Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) and Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini).  It takes 60,000 rose petals to distill one ounce of pure rose essential oil, hence its prohibitive cost.

Rose essential oil contains over 300 constituents.  This is one of the reasons why many attempt to replace, dilute or fractionate rose oil.  However, rose oil which has been diluted, fractionated or replaced with other chemical components does not possess the same therapeutic properties as pure rose essential oil.  Consequently, adulterated rose oil has no place in the practice of aromatherapy.


Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils London: Element

This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Rose Essential Oil

It is expressively prohibited to copy or use this article in any way unless written permission is given by the author Sharon Falsetto.  If it is discovered that copyright laws have not been complied with, legal action will be pursued by the author Sharon Falsetto.

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