Mindfulness & Anxiety

Rose Essential Oil: Benefits, History, and Uses

By Justin Fowler-Lindner

Rose oil is one of the rarest and most expensive essential oils in the world.

Just two grams can cost over a hundred dollars, and that’s because it takes roughly 2000 petals to make a single drop of oil.

Although rose essential oil is known mainly for its sweet, seductive smell, it also has a ton of therapeutic benefits, including:

  1. Pain management 
  2. Hormone balance
  3. Enhanced libido
  4. Stress and anxiety reduction
  5. Skin care advantages

Rose products have been used in the Middle East for thousands of years to boost sex drive and ease tension, but now modern research is beginning to support these ancient claims.

Like most essential oils, rose oil can deliver fast-acting antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects through the skin and nose.

Are you ready to explore the rich history and broad health benefits of this sweet-smelling oil?

What Is Rose Essential Oil?

Rose essential oil is made from Damask rose (Rosa damascena) or cabbage rose (Rosa centifolia).

Roughly 95 unique compounds have been identified in the Damask rose. The most abundant are:

  • Citronellol
  • Nonadecane
  • Geraniol

Citronellol is a natural mosquito repellant, and geraniol is commonly found in perfumes. Rose essential oil also contains eugenol: one of the most powerful antioxidants in the world, and carvone: an effective digestive aid.

History of Rose Oil

The earliest use of rose products dates back to the late 7th century AD, when rose water was used as aromatherapy in what is now Iran. However, the ancient Greeks were the first to extract the oil. Iran remained the main producer of rose oil until the 16th century.

Today, roses are cultivated all over the world, including Europe, India, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Morocco, and Azerbaijan.

In Iran, locals eat dried rose flowers with yogurt to treat digestive problems. Other traditional uses include treatments for:

  • Chest and abdominal pain
  • Cough suppressant
  • Laxative
  • Digestive problems
  • Skin issues
  • Headaches

In ancient Persian medicine, rose was also alleged to have anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and wound-healing properties. They were right!

How Rose Essential Oil Is Made

Rose essential oil is extracted from rose petals using steam distillation.

Due to the delicate nature of the petals, manufacturing typically takes place under careful scientific control in large factories.

Part of the challenge is that rose petals contain very little oil, and about 3000 parts rose petals yields only one part oil. This makes it very expensive and the industry is very prone to manipulating products with false ingredients.

Once extracted, rose oil is often combined with a carrier oil like almond oil.

Other common carrier oils include:

  • Coconut oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil

Their fatty content makes for a smoother texture and prolongs the aromatic effects.

How to Use Rose Oil

Rose oil can be ingested, applied topically, or aromatically. All it takes is a few drops of rose oil to experience the benefits.

  • Topically: Add a few drops of rose oil to a carrier oil and patch test it in small amounts. This will minimize the chance of triggering a severe skin reaction. Most of the time, though, rose oil reduces skin inflammation rather than causes it.
  • Aromatically: Diffuse a small amount of rose oil in water, put it in a spritz bottle, and spray it around the room. Rose oil aromatherapy may reduce stress and treat anxiety
  • Orally: Rose essential oil can have digestive health benefits when taken orally. Rose oil products do not have to be evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, so it’s always best to confirm that it’s food-grade if you plan to take it orally.

Rose oil goes well with geranium, chamomile, lavender, patchouli, lemon, bergamot, fennel, and sandalwood.

5 Health Benefits of Rose Essential Oil

Unlike other essential oils like oregano and ginger oil, rose essential oil is rarely ingested. Instead, it’s applied topically or inhaled.

From mental health to skin health, here are some of the top health benefits of rose oil:

1. Pain Management

In several clinical studies, rose oil aromatherapy has been shown to effectively reduce pain.

In a 2013 study, 80 patients in the emergency room with renal colic were divided into two groups. One was injected with 75 mg of intramuscular diclofenac, while the other was treated with rose oil aromatherapy.

Here’s what they found:

The VAS values 10 or 30 minutes after the initiation of therapy were statistically lower in the group that received conventional therapy plus aromatherapy.”

In other words, rose oil was more effective than diclofenac at reducing pain.

Researchers think that inhaling rose oil may treat pain by reducing stress hormones like noradrenaline while increasing neurotransmitters that increase parasympathetic activity.

A 2015 study found that rose oil may be effective at treating menstrual pains. When 75 students were treated with either rose oil massage therapy or conventional massage therapy, patients in the rose oil group experienced less menstrual pain. 

In another 2015 study, inhaling rose oil reduced postoperative pain in children ages 3 to 6.

2. Balances Hormones

Rose oil aromatherapy can influence the endocrine system and balance hormone levels in both men and women.

A 2007 study found that rose oil decreased cortisol in both sexes, decreased testosterone in women, and had no effect on testosterone in men.

At the same time, a 2017 study found that a combination of rose oil and geranium oil aromatherapy can boost estrogen levels in postmenopausal women.

3. Treats Sexual Dysfunction

Rose oil aromatherapy may improve sexual function in patients with depression.

In a 2015 study, rose oil aromatherapy successfully reduced SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction in men. Sexual dysfunction is a common side effect of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors): a conventional first-line treatment for depression.

A separate 2015 study found that inhaling rose oil can increase sexual desire and satisfaction in women taking SSRIs.

4. Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Rose essential oil may reduce stress and anxiety by normalizing stress hormone production.

Several studies show that rose oil can produce immediate changes in stress indicators like muscle tension, heart rate, blood pressure, and brain activity.

For example, a recent study found that inhaling rose oil can reduce systolic blood pressure and heart rate in healthy adult women.

Similarly, a 2014 study found that inhaling rose oil for just 90 seconds can decrease activity in the right prefrontal cortex and increase feelings of comfort.

A 2016 clinical trial found that inhaling rose water can reduce anxiety in patients undergoing hemodialysis treatment.

5. Skin Care

Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, some researchers suggest that topical rose oil may treat acne and other inflammatory skin conditions.

In a 2010 lab test, exposure to rose oil successfully killed acne cells.

Other researchers believe that, “Rose oil can be utilized as an astringent to tone and clean the skin.”

Studies also show that rose essential oil can…

  • Guard against brain degeneration
  • Improve sleep
  • Support cardiovascular health
  • Treat digestive issues
  • Reduce seizures
  • Kill cancer cells

One thing is for certain: rose oil is packed with phenols: compounds that are known for their anti-inflammatory, anticancer, anti-depressant, antimutagenic, and antioxidant effects, making rose essential oil an ideal natural remedy for a wide range of health conditions.

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