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A Gentle Friend

Roses are easy to love. For some of us, smelling them is not enough. We need to eat them, drink them, imbibe them. I am one of these people. Allegedly, a rose was the first wild plant that enticed me to eat it, sealing my fate as an herbalist. The way my mother tells it, she was walking along with me in her baby backpack, and she saw my little hand reach out, clutch a rosehip and pop it right in my mouth before she could stop me. (I don’t remember this particular incident, but it sounds credible.) Alarmed that I had just eaten a wild plant with presumably limited botanical knowledge ( I was just under two), she asked one of her friends what I had eaten and if it was going to kill me. Her friend told her (correctly) that it was the fruit of the wild rose, and not only edible, but very high in vitamin C.  Perhaps “she just needed vitamin C”, they suggested helpfully.

Having thus averted infant scurvy,  rose and I are still BFF’s. The past few weeks have found me out collecting rose blossoms from these same rosebushes on my family’s land. I infuse their perfect petals in brandy to make my famous Wild Rose Cordial.  The substance produced tastes as good as roses smell (or better even, if you like brandy). You might want to try some.

Beyond the obvious virtues of the rose, there are very practical reasons to love them so much you want to eat them. Roses are medicinal and nutritious. Rosehips, (the cute red fruit of the rose plant) are an excellent alternative to vitamin C supplements, being extremely high in this nutrient, and conveniently packaged with all of the bioflavonoids that your body knows just what to do with. Vitamin C is highly soluble in water and makes an excellent tea, with a slight tartness and a hint of sweet.

The hips are collected after the first good frost of the fall, which “sets” the sugars therein, making their flavor slightly fruit-like. Their texture is a bit lacking (they are what you might call mushy, if you were being ungenerous). The core is filled with an abominable mixture of throat-irritating fluff and seeds, requiring you to eat them like a very small apple, just the flesh. Like many wild foods, it would be hard to stuff yourself on this alone, but if you happen to be in the woods, do try one. The flavor is delicate and perfect, the fruition of the rose.

That petals can be employed in tea, tincture or brandy cordial form with many beneficial effects. Possessed of a gentle cooling and astringent nature, rose is good in cases of tissue inflammation and poor tissue tone, such as gingivitis, sore throats, mouth ulcers, or heavy menses, spotting between periods or after miscarriage or abortion. Specific to the female reproductive system, rose is also indicated for PMS, menstrual cramping, hot flashes, absence of menses, vaginal dryness and infertility. With long standing associations to Venus and Aphrodite, we may infer that rose can help to increase romantic feelings and support healthy sexuality in both sexes.

And then there are the effects upon the mind. Rose softens grief, anxiety and self-doubt. Rose is a gentle friend, inviting you to open, relax and stay present with its disarmingly comforting smell and flavor, and the medicinal actions to back it up. But we must take the first step. Perhaps there is more wisdom in that “stop and smell the roses” bit than we had previously thought?

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