Plus, how it can help silence that nagging cough, deflate that “spare tire,” derail diabetes…and MORE
I’m sure you’ll be hearing all about the health benefits of eating chocolate with the celebration of Valentine’s Day this month. Indeed, as I’ve often reported, just a few ounces of dark chocolate can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, boost your mood, and even help improve your cognitive function.
But not many people know that another traditional Valentine’s Day gift has just as many healthy qualities as chocolate—if not more. In fact, this symbol of love has a long history as a highly beneficial medicinal plant.
I’m talking, of course, about roses.
Science shows these blossoms have a wide variety of health benefits—from suppressing coughs, to regulating blood sugar, to sharpening memory, just to name a few.
So, let’s dive right in…
One flower, 32 different medicinal uses
The rose is one of the oldest cultivated flowers. It was first mentioned nearly 5,000 years ago on clay tablets in ancient Mesopotamia.1
And Pliny the Elder, the first-century Roman natural philosopher, may be the earliest known source on the medicinal properties of roses. In fact, he described 32 different medicinal uses for the rose in his encyclopedia, Natural History.
In the next generation, the Greek physician Discorides wrote about using roses for headaches and as an external pain reliever.
In addition, physicians in ancient India and China used the rose medicinally. But it was the Persians and other Middle Easterners who truly embraced the flower’s natural healing powers.
Indeed, roses are an important part of the mystical tradition in Islam known as Sufism. The famous Sufi poet Rumi wrote: “Rose is sent to earth by the gardeners of paradise for empowering the mind, the eye, and the spirit.”
Ancient Islamic medicinal practitioners used rose oil to treat burns, ulcers, and hemorrhoids. And they used rose water to reduce fevers and alleviate drunkenness. They believed roses were such a powerful medicine that during rose blossom season, they instructed that the sick be carried to wells and immersed in rose pulp residues.
In the 11th century, the great Persian physician Avicenna first recognized the beneficial effects of the rose for the brain and the body. He spoke of roses benefiting both the heart and the soul, like the mind-body approaches used today. He also described rose oil’s effect on comprehension and memory, and how it could help alleviate anxiety and put the mind at rest.
(You can learn more about Avicenna and his approach to medicine in the translation I edited of his medical textbook, Avicenna’s Medicine, found under the books tab of my website.)
But since Avicenna’s time, modern medicine has found even more medicinal uses for roses…
The delicate flower that fights some of today’s deadliest epidemics
Research shows that roses have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties, all of which help promote overall health.
But some interesting studies have pointed to some specific—and surprising—benefits of roses.
For instance, one study on guinea pigs conducted by researchers in Iran found that rose extract actually acts as a powerful cough suppressant.2 It appears to work, at least in part, by reducing airway and bronchial inflammation.
Another study published in the journal Phytomedicine found that rose extract helps lower blood glucose levels, which could make it a powerful tool in managing Type II diabetes—a disease that has reached epidemic proportions in recent years.3
Plus, clinical trials demonstrate that rose extract has powerful effects on brain function. Laboratory studies in animals show that it supports strong brain cell growth.4 And one placebo-controlled, human clinical trial showed that combining rose extract with a common dementia drug significantly improved cognitive impairment, depression, and behavior issues in Alzheimer’s patients.5 This finding is especially noteworthy considering the dismal failure of pharmaceutical approaches to treating Alzheimer’s.
And, as Avicenna discovered long ago, recent research shows that roses appear to benefit the heart most notably by regulating blood pressure.6,7
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the rose hails from the same botanical family as hawthorn (Rosaceae). Hawthorn has a long, established history as a safe and effective remedy for early-stage heart failure.
But perhaps most intriguing of all, a study conducted at the University of California found that rose extract significantly increased lifespan in fruit flies.8,9 Which may not sound like it has anything to do with you or me.
But the fact is, when I look for good scientific data from valid, well-designed studies on prolonging lifespan (versus the hype you typically hear from the “anti-aging” gurus), I often turn to research using animal models—particularly fruit flies. After all, scientists have been studying these insects for over a century, following their entire lifespans over multiple generations.
Much of the basic science of genetics, for example, was originally determined in inexpensive fruit fly experiments (long before the billion-dollar, big-science Human Genome Project, which was the big government medical research boondoggle in between its two “decades of the brain” redundant research).
In this case, the researchers found that rose extract extended the fruit flies’ lifespan by as much as 32 percent, with no adverse effects. The average human life expectancy is currently 79 years. So if this research translates to humans, that could mean an additional 23 years of healthy longevity!
But what struck me most about this study was the potential mechanism of action suggested by the researchers. They believe rose extracts’ life-extending benefits may be due, at least in part, to its ability to protect against the damaging effects of excess iron—which I’ve discussed numerous times here in Insiders’ Cures and in my Daily Dispatch e-letter.
Now, all of these studies used rose extracts made from rose petals. But there’s another overlooked part of this plant that also confers a number of health benefits…
Get hip to rose hips
Rose hips form after the petals of the flower fall off. They are the fruits of the flower blossom and grow just below the petals. They also contain the seeds of the rose plant.
Fresh rose hips contain high levels of vitamin C. In fact, rose hips are the single-most potent sources of vitamin C occurring in Nature. And in olden times, when people couldn’t get “greens” during the cold, winter months, they got their vitamin C by gathering rose hips in the wild and adding them to foods and beverages.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that rose hips offer many other health benefits…
In fact, research shows one of the flavonoids in rose hips reverses liver toxicity and suppresses fat accumulation in the liver.10
And in one clinical study, obese individuals ingested 40 grams per day of rose hip powder for six weeks. As a result, this reduced the patients’ blood pressure and blood lipids (fats), and improved their overall heart health profile.11
Plus, rose hips could be a natural way to maintain a slim stomach.
In one animal study, rosehip extract promoted healthy weight and body fat accumulation in mice—without any changes in their diets or the number of calories they consumed.12
But the latest study involved 32 people who were divided into two groups. One group was given 100 mg of rosehip extract daily for 12 weeks, and the other group was given a placebo.13
All of the participants were asked to maintain their regular diets and lifestyle patterns. Throughout the study, the researchers observed that both groups had almost identical food-intake rates.
But at the end of the study, the researchers observed that total abdominal fat, visceral fat (fat around the internal organs), body weight, and body mass index (BMI) all decreased significantly in the rosehip group—even though they ate just as much as the placebo group!
Additional research suggests rose hips’ weight loss benefits come from its ability to convert white fat (the “bad” kind) into brown fat (the “good” kind), so the body can burn it rather than store it.14
So, take advantage of these benefits by looking for dried, powdered rose hips as a dietary supplement. I recommend 1,000 mg (or one gram) per day. This amount borders on a food quantity—so you may find it more convenient to use in a water-soluble powder, which can be added to any beverage of your choice.
You can also harvest wild rose hips, as they did in olden times. In fact, bright red rose-hip seedpods flourish during the winter. They stand out beautifully on stark, bare rosebush branches, especially against the contrast of a white blanket of snow. It’s worth trekking into the cold to harvest them—as I do.
As for rose extract, you can often find it in baking supply stores, as it’s often used as a flavoring for cakes and other confections. Or you can make your own rose water extract by pouring boiling water over fresh rose petals. Let the liquid cool, remove the petals, and store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator. You can then add a small amount to your food and drinks.
There are also many commercially available teas made from dried rose petals and blossoms. Choose an organic version and consider adding honey or ginger to the brewed tea for extra health benefits.
1“A Review of the history, ethnobotany and modern uses of rose petals, rose oil, rose water and other rose products,” HerbalGram: Journal of the American Botanical Council 2013; 96: 40-53.
2 “Pharmacological Effects of Rosa Damascena,” Iran J Basic Med Sci. 201; 14(4): 295–307
3 “Inhibitory effect of methanol extract of Rosa damascena Mill. flowers on alpha-glucosidase activity and postprandial hyperglycemia in normal and diabetic rats.” Phytomedicine. 2009; 16(10): 935-41.
4“Effects of the hydroalcoholic extract of Rosa damascena on learning and memory in male rats consuming a high-fat diet.” Pharm Biol. 2017; 55(1): 2065–2073.
5 “Novel Effects of Rosa damascena Extract on Patients with Neurocognitive Disorder and Depression: A Clinical Trial Study,” International Journal of Preventive Medicine 2018; 9(1): 57
6 “Preventive Effect of Hydroalcoholic Extract of Rosa damascena on Cardiovascular Parameters in Acute Hypertensive Rats Induced by Angiotensin II,” Int J Prev Med. 2018; 9: 92.
7 “Effect of hydro-alcoholic extract of Rosa damascena on cardiovascular responses in normotensive rat,” Avicenna J Phytomed. 2015; 5(4): 319–324.
8 “Rosa damascena decreased mortality in adult Drosophila.” J Med Food. 2008;11(1): 9-13.
9 “Extension of Drosophila lifespan by Rosa damascena associated with an increased sensitivity to heat,” Biogerentology 2012; 13(2): 105-117
10 “Therapeutic Applications of Rose Hips from Different Rosa Species,” Int J Mol Sci. 2017; 18(6): 1137.
11 “Effects of rose hip intake on risk markers of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease: a randomized, double-blind, cross-over investigation in obese persons,” Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012; 66(5): 585-590.
12 “Potent anti-obese principle from Rosa canina: structural requirements and mode of action of trans-tiliroside.” Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2007;17(11):3059-64.
13 “Daily intake of rosehip extract decreases abdominal visceral fat in preobese subjects: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial,” Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2015; 8: 147-156.
14 “Rose hip supplementation increases energy expenditure and induces browning of white adipose tissue,” Nutrition & Metabolism 2016; 13:91.