A decade ago, I avoided rose-scented perfumes and body lotions like the plague. The smell made me sneeze, a whiff of it in a department store called to mind women with heavy make-up, long fake fingernails engaging in obnoxious gossip about the girl in the next cube over.
That was before I understood the difference between department store imitation rose fragrance and rose absolute -- aka, the real deal. Rose absolute is the concentrated oil extracted from the petals of the rose. There’s a world of difference that, once discovered, made me curious about other artificial scents my nose has become accustomed to. When the pure rose fragrance wafted up from that little amber colored glass bottle, little did I know that the pleasing aroma was only the tip of the iceberg.
I began studying and experimenting with aromatherapy about 12 years ago; I find it an amazing science and one that continually affirms my previous persuasion that God has provided innumerable remedies to our ills through nature, the lovely things that grow.
People have been celebrating the authentic heavenly scent of roses since days of old. I attribute the popularity of roses to the ancient Romans of the 3rd century, whose bathhouses boasted rich fragrant waters and were located throughout the city. I’ve read that Emperor Nero once used four million sesterces of roses (hundreds of thousands of dollars worth)* for one celebration, probably in honor of a military achievement.
In aromatherapy, rose absolute can be used in a number of ways: diffused into the air, mixed with base oils to create a tonic for the hair or skin or mixed with alcohol or sea salts to make a personal essence or luxurious bath. My favorite means of including the essence of roses to my daily routine is as a hair oil and skin tonic. All it takes to add a bit of warmth and long-lasting scent to your locks is to mix 6 drops of rose absolute with 1/2 ounce of jojoba base oil, put a few drops of this mix on your fingertips and run through your hair.
I’ve made various facial oils with rose absolute, although my current application is a product I purchase from Burt’s Bees, Rosewater & Glycerin Toner. I love this product. It feels heavenly on the skin and the subtle sweet aroma makes me smile. Now in my 4th decade, I’m realizing changes in my skin, such as dull and dry patches that call for attention.
The essence of rose is very gentle and a great help to that changing process. Rose absolute has been found to be tonic and conditioning to dry skin, as well as increasing blood flow and strengthening capillaries. It’s also considered an anti-depressant, anti-septic, aphrodisiac, and aids in female hormonal complaints. In other words, a great essential oil to have on hand, anytime.
Roses have their place in church & home altars, too. Last year when visiting Holy Cross Monastery, I was introduced to a new product in their gift shop, a distilled rose water made in Lebanon by Cortas. Fr. Sergius told me it was used for cleaning icons and after one whiff of the stuff, I knew it was made with pure rose water and none of that artificial stuff. I’ve had my bottle of Cortas Rose Water for 10 months now, using it only to dampen a cotton ball to clean my icons, and it still smells just as sweet and clean as it did those many months ago.
I could probably experiment with this lovely stuff, by mixing it with an equal part witch hazel to make my own skin toner...well, maybe if I run out of Burt’s Bees. Here’s a recipe I found if you’d like to try your hand at making your own rose water.
* from Nikki Goldstein, in her book, Essential Energy: A Guide to Aromatherapy and Essential Oils