The rich perfumed fragrance of the rose is unmistakable. The aroma of the rose has enamored cultures around the world for centuries, rivaling even the renown of the prized sandalwood. The first rose came from a Persian garden, and the bush quickly spread around the ancient world. The Romans used rose petals when they had extravagant banquets, and they extracted the oil for medicine and perfumes. The rose symbolized love, passion, innocence, and desire as well as beauty, elegance, and grace.
In Greece, India, and Egypt, roses were macerated in hot fat. Fragrant pomades were the end products and they were shaped into cones, which were placed on top of the head. When the sun melted the fat, fragrant rose-scented oil would trickle down the face and the scent would linger all day.
The healing qualities of rose oil are as remarkable as its beauty and fragrance. In the 17th century, the English physician Culpepper wrote that red roses strengthen the heart. He may have meant the action of giving someone a rose, but anyone who has been exposed to the aroma of a rose or rose oil and inhaled it for aromatherapy purposes knows that the heart is strengthened emotionally as well as spiritually by rose oil.
Culpepper wrote about the astringent properties of rose oil and recommended it for tired eyes and headaches. He suggested a rose ointment to relieve annoying acne as well. Today rose oil is used in lotions, creams, and oils for its bactericidal and antiviral properties. Rose oil and rose water are used to cleanse and refresh dry sensitive skin.
The difficulty of extracting the oil from the plant has always been an issue. One rose blossom only contains 0.02% oil and this makes the essential oil expensive. It takes about 40,000 pounds of rose blossoms to produce one pound of rose oil. Even though the oil is expensive, it’s a great investment, especially in aromatherapy sessions.
Some rose oil aficionados claim that the best rose otto oil comes from Bulgaria. The oil is distilled from newly opened flowers that are picked in the cool mornings. Distillation is done in two phases. The first phase produces a little concentrated green oil and a lot of rose water. The second phase distills the rose water, and the result is a yellow oil that is combined with the green oil to produce the final essential oil. Most of the rose absolute used in perfumes is harvested and extracted in Morocco using a hydrocarbon solvent. Most aromatherapists prefer rose otto oil because they feel that the rose absolute extraction process may have an impact on the therapeutic properties in the oil.
Check out this video on the distillation of rose oil!