What drew me to the wonders of rose water? In 1991 I sampled a traditional eastern Indian dessert that was soaked in rose water. At first, I was not a big fan of this exotic taste, but after learning about the rich history and the powerful healing properties, my fascination began to grow. Rose water can be applied topically to soothe the skin, ingested orally it can aid digestion, and as an aromatherapy it has been known to lift the spirits.
Around the world the rose is known as the “Queen of Flowers.” The use of rose water dates back to ancient civilizations of Persia, Rome, India and Egypt. Cleopatra bathed in rose water and used rose oil to seduce her lover Anthony. Roman banquets were decorated with roses, the Hindus cleaned the altar with rose water, and often, when we think of heaven the angels are frequently depicted enjoying the celestial fragrance of the rose. The ancient Greeks and Romans extracted flavor from rose petals by steeping them in water or oil, and in the 10th century, Persia began the first distillation of rose water. Rose water was first obtained by steam distillation of fresh rose blossoms. It is a pure, undiluted food-grade product that does not contain any preservatives, additives or synthetic ingredients.
Inhaling the unique scent of natural rose water empowers the mind and calms nervous tension. The aroma is one of the most immediate and evocative of sensations. The actual rose oil may be used in a room diffuser or aromatherapy ring and allowed to evaporate throughout the room to restore general balance to the body and mind. And don’t forget, it is an aphrodisiac!
Rose water is used as a flavoring for food in a variety of Indian curries, Greek pastries and Middle East dishes including baklava and marzipan. The water should be used in small amounts as a flavoring and can be streaked through cream, custards, ice cream, baked sweets and fruits for an element of surprise. In Morocco they combine fresh squeezed orange juice with a splash of rose water to begin the day. I have used it to flavor fresh lemonade on a hot summer day to help cool the body. When ingested, rose water is known to have a cleansing, cooling and soothing effect on the body, and will aid digestion.
The use of the rose is far and varied, especially in the area of skin care. Rose water is a toning, hydrating and cleansing product for all skin types and is often substituted in place for water in lotions and cosmetic recipes. As an emollient, rose may alleviate dry, chapped and itchy skin. It has a tonic and gentle astringent effect on the capillaries just below the skin’s surface which makes it useful in diminishing mild skin redness. You can spray it on acne or sunburn to help calm the irritation. Add rose water to your bath for some extra moisture and your skin may become more evenly textured and supple.
The rose has been used throughout the millenniums and is still the oldest cultivated plant in the United States. It is always important to look for rose water that contains only pure natural rose oil because synthetic rose ingredients do not have any therapeutic value. Store rose water in the refrigerator after it is opened to maintain the freshness. This versatile water can be found at specialty food markets, natural food stores, delicatessens, and Asian grocery stores.
I now use “rose power” on a daily basis to create sensational aromas, transform a simple glass of juice, soften my skin, or to balance the emotions after a long day.