Thanks for your thoughtful questions

Back in February, I reported on the many medicinal uses of the rose.  I described how to make your own tea by steeping rose hips in water. But I warned against selecting rose hips from flowers treated with pesticides.

Carol M. wanted to know more about how to grow non-toxic roses. Here’s what she had to say…

I enjoyed your article on roses, but I keep looking for what to do about all the toxins on today’s roses from current growing practices.

Farmers use traditional horticultural practices around the world–from China to Burgundy, France–without resorting to pesticides.

They don’t grow the same plant on acre after acre. That is called mono-cropping. Instead, they grow a variety of different plants together. Each plant has natural compounds that ward off different predators. So, no one pest can specialize on any individual plant. This protects each plant from pests, without having to use pesticides.

There are small gardens all over the U.S. that now grow plants in this way. And sustainable agriculture and local agriculture movements employ the same principles.

If you want to find organic roses, and don’t want to grow them yourself, look no farther than your local farmer’s market. You may find a local organic vegetable farmer who also grows organic flowers. Ornamental flowers, produce and herbs can all grow perfectly happily together on the same ground. In addition, you can find organic roses on the internet. Many nurseries will ship the organic rose bush straight to your doorstep.

Here’s another rose comment from a thoughtful reader. Tom K. wrote this to me…

My botanist friend tells me the aroma is a measure of the beneficial qualities of a rose. The stuff we buy in the flower shop usually doesn’t have an aroma, hence no medicinal value. Cross breeding for market purposes seems to interfere. The botanist friend is my daughter, who works in her profession every day. So using the roses from Valentine’s Day may have minimal value. What might you feel about this subject?

The aroma from any plant comes from volatile oils in the plant that escape into the air. We inhale these compounds when we use “aromatherapy.” But they aren’t always present in the plant, when ingested as an herbal remedy. And many essential oils from plants are not suitable for internal consumption.

I agree that most flowers and foods are grown today to emphasize appearance and “shelf-life.” With no attention paid to the phytochemical, nutrient, or aromatic properties.

However, those who grow plants for the perfume industry are well aware of these issues. You find some of the finest plant specimens in the lavender fields and rose gardens of southern France that surround the “alembics” and “parfumeries.”

Curiously, the modern perfume industry grew up on the hillsides of southern France because this was the location of goat herds, from which women’s gloves were made.

The gloves had a “particular” odor, so manufacturers used local perfumes to make the gloves smell better.

But back to the rose and its aroma.

The potency of the rose hips does not necessarily correspond to the strength of the petals’ aroma. However, you are probably wise to avoid grocery store or flower shop roses to steep your tea. Instead, when making a tea with rose hips, use roses never treated with pesticides. As I suggested to Carol M., you can find organic roses at local farmers markets and on the internet.

Please let me know if your daughter has any other suggestions for where to find pesticide-free organic roses. And I will share it with my readers.