Wednesday, June 16, 2010
If you are outside a good bit of the day; the sun, bugs and poison rashes can make this part of the year challenging. Look around and you'll find plant neighbors that our great-grandparents formed a partnership with to help make this season more enjoyable.
Right now the Swamp Roses (Rosa palustris) are in full bloom. Those are the pretty, pink 5 petal roses you see growing wild in arches along old fence rows and homesteads. If you are fortunate enough to find these beautiful flowers away from cars and where pesticides and herbicides have not been sprayed, then it's harvest time. Rose buds and hips are a good source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, Niacin, Bioflavanoids, K, E, polyphenols, pectin and Selenium. This is great for energy and combating fatigue during the hot summer. Rose petals contain as much antioxidants as green tea, making them a healthy, caffeine-free beverage (instructions below).
Diluted Rose petal vinegar can be used to pull the heat out of sunburns and a vinegar from any or all parts of the plant can relieve eczema, hives and poison ivy. The vinegar is so versatile, it can also be used to make salad dressings. Rose leaf spit poultices can be used as relief for bug bites, cuts and scratches.
For any of the herbal recipes listed here, do not wash the rose petals, leaves or hips. To make Rose petal Vinegar, fill a glass jar to the top with any type of fresh rose petals (or fill half way if dried), then fill to the top with unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar such as Braggs, tightly close with a plastic cap (if metal lid must be used, line lid with plastic wrap) and let sit for 2 - 6 weeks on a cloth or plate. Shake daily, strain with a cloth and store the vinegar where it will be handy during hot summer days.
Dilute 1 part vinegar to 7 parts water, soak a cloth and place on the forehead for headaches (especially those caused by the heat) or use to wash bites and heat rashes. For sunburns mix 1/3 Cup of Rose petal vinegar with several cups of water. Dip in an absorbent cloth, lightly wring and put cloth on affected areas till the cloth becomes hot. Keep re-applying till the skin is no longer hot to the touch and repeat every several hours letting air dry between. Apply real aloe vera gel at night. If the burns are severe or at risk of becoming infected, seek medical attention.
To make a spit poultice for bites, cuts or scratches; pick several leaves and chew with your front teeth till you have a liquid mash. Apply the mash to the affected area and tie a strip of cloth around to hold it in place if you like. If you hold still long enough for the plant material to slightly dry, sometimes it will stay put on it's own for a time depending on the wound. Some weepy wounds tend to grab and hold on to the poultice.
Eat raw Rose petals for B vitamins, flavonoids and vitamin C, as well as polyphenols and other heart-healthy compounds. Throw them on a salad or pick and eat as you are walking by. Eating the whole rose, including the pollen, has helped many with allergies.
A delicious, healthy summer treat is Rose petal honey. Fill any jar to the top with rose petals, cover with honey, stirring as needed to remove air bubbles, until the jar is full. Cap securely and label. Wait for at least a week before eating, but if you wait for 6 weeks it'll taste even better. This can be strained with a sieve and a cloth or left alone and eaten with the petals right out of the jar. If you leave the petals in the jar, but don't' like their taste, you can tip the jar sideways to access the honey under the petals floating on the top and dip out with a spoon. You can make Rose Hip Honey the same way; be sure to remove all the seeds and hairs from the rose hips before putting them in a jar and adding honey (instructions below). Rose petal or rose hip honey can be used any way you would normally use honey, as a topping for bread, fruit, yogurt, ice cream; or taken by the spoonful to soothe a sore throat. If you feel a cold coming on, put a tablespoon of rose honey in a cup with the juice of half a lemon, then fill the cup with hot water.
The smaller Sweetbrier rose (Rosa rubiginosa) that I find wild has now lost it's petals, but the hips, the fruit of the plant, are forming. Hips of all roses are a rich source of Vitamin C, but this variety has a high content and is harvested commercially for processing into rose hip syrups. In the fall, pick the hips that are vivid red and slightly soft. The best time to harvest rose hips is after the first frost, it helps sweeten the flavor. They can taste unpleasant though if allowed to freeze solid, then thaw and soften. A rose hip is filled with tiny seeds covered with silky hairs. The food value is found in the skin of the hip and is similar to the taste of an apple. To encourage your roses to develop rose hips, don’t trim the rose blossoms and leave them to naturally fade and fall.
To remove the hairs from dried hips, grind them up a bit in the food processor then shake the batch in a sieve, the hairs will fall loose OR cut in half and shake or scrape out seeds, but this takes the longest time. You could also cover fresh hips with water and simmer, then rub through a sieve and use the puree.
To make a refreshing Rose petal beverage with more essential oils than a hot brewed tea, steep the petals in cold water and cover for 12 hours. This is my absolute favorite way to drink it. When working in intense heat, I have a cup of cold steeped rose petal tea with rose honey and iced down. It takes that core of hotness away from your breastplate area. You'll still be hot outside, but won't feel like all your energy is being drained away.
For a highly nutritious drink that will also help promote the cooling down of the body temperature during the summer, you can make an infusion by pouring boiling water over a jar full of petals and leaves, cover and steep for 30 minutes, strain with a cloth and refrigerate. Steeping much longer may result in a puckering taste because it will extract more tannins (an astringent) from the petals. This way of brewing the tea gives it a more traditional "tea" taste. Use within 3 days. I like mine iced down and with a little rose honey. An infusion of just the leaves and/or rose hips can be made, but for those steep for 4 hours for maximum benefit.
To make a vitamin rich rose hip juice for use in jams and jellies, wash the hips, remove the blossom ends and stems, cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes. Then steep (let sit in hot water), covered, for 24 hours and strain. Use the strained juice immediately or freeze it for as long as a year.
A Rose hip jam can be prepared by first deseeding and drying the hips or buy already dried and deseeded rose hips. After they have dried, cover with fresh apple juice and let soak overnight. The next day it's ready to eat and is jam consistency. Cinnamon and other spices can be added if necessary, but is good as is.
Rose petals are slightly astringent and can be made into a refreshing, cooling skin toner. Fill a glass jar with dried or fresh rose petals and cover with distilled witchhazel. Use a chopstick or butter knife to stir the mixture to remove any air bubbles, then top off the jar so all petals are covered. The petals float to the top and if they are not covered with liquid, they will go brown within a couple of hours. Screw on lid, label and date. Leave the jar to infuse in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks. Strain and pour back into the original dark glass witchhazel bottles. Use on face with cotton pads or after shaving.
The Rose family has anti-inflammatory and sedative properties so a liniment is good externally for insect bites, to stop spasms, reduce heat locally, increase circulation, can be rubbed on overexerted muscles or a sore back. A liniment can be made with rubbing alcohol and ONLY used externally. A tincture can be made with vodka or brandy and rubbed on externally like a liniment or a few drops can be taken internally with a little sip of water. To make either a liniment or tincture, fill a jar with rose petals, fill with your choice of either 100 proof vodka, brandy or rubbing alcohol; cap tightly and set on a rag or plate (they can weep). Top off again the next day and allow to sit for 6 weeks. Shake daily or as often as you think of it. Strain with a cloth, bottle and store.
A rose petal elixir is excellent for sore throat, as well as other types of inflammation, including digestive inflammation. It is also a good remedy for heart palpitations. Taken in small amounts (like Rescue Remedy) for anxiety and fatigue or used externally for bug bites.
Rose Petal Elixir (from Kiva Rose)
1 pint Mason jar
Fresh wild or domestic rose petals to fill your jar
A little less than 1 pint of good quality brandy (vodka willl also work)
Approximately 1/3 pint of raw honey
Fill jar with fresh rose petals. They don’t have to be packed down, but they should fill the jar so that there isn’t a lot of empty space. If you don’t have enough rose petals to fill the jar, bee balm petals, chopped fresh ginger, zest of orange, lime, or lemon, etc. can be added. Next, add honey to coat the rose petals and fill about 1/3 of the jar. Add brandy or other alcohol to the top of the jar. Use plastic lid or place plastic wrap over the top and then screw on your metal lid. Allow to sit in a cool, dark place for 3-6 weeks before using.
Enjoy your summer and making your own rose recipes. Let me know if you have any other great remedies using roses!
Note: The information here is intended for entertainment and educational purposes only, and not as any form of medical advice. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider.
Various writings by the herbalists: Susun Weed, Kiva Rose, Rosemary Gladstar, Karen Vaughan, Tammy Herring, Winnie Abramson and Henriette's herbals.