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Damask Rose

Damask rose (Rosa damascena, Rosaceae), a prickly shrub with fragrant, pink flowers, grows from 3-6 feet and requires specific climate and soil to prosper.1 The damask rose is thought to be native to the Orient, but has been cultivated in Bulgaria, Turkey, and France. Rose fossils have been found in Oregon and Montana and have been dated to around 35 million years old.2 One of the first written mentions of roses appears in Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets. Mary Lawrence’s A Collection of Roses, published in 1799, is considered the “first modern book” about roses, and rose and its various forms appear numerous times throughout history, in medicinal, historical, and mythological texts.

Rose otto is steam distilled from the fresh flower petals and is pale yellow to olive-yellow with a heady, sweet-floral and spicy note.1 A concrete and absolute are produced by solvent extraction from the fresh petals as well. The absolute is more reddish-orange to olive with a strong spicy-floral note. It takes about 60,000 roses to yield one ounce of rose otto or absolute.3 Chemical constituents include citronellol, geraniol, nerol, and stearopten, along with several other constituents.1 The R. damascena varietal ‘Kazanlik’, has over 400 constituents with four materials making up 85%, ten making up 10%, and with the remaining 5% consisting of several hundred constituents.2 As mentioned earlier, climate and soil are important in the production of the damask rose, and the location where the rose is grown can affect the oil. Rose oil from Bulgaria is considered the most highly prized, while the Turkish essential oil is also widely used.2

Historically, the rose was considered to be cephalic, because of its fragrance, but also cathartic.4 The rose oil is said to cool inflammation and swelling and “to bind and stay fluxes of humours and sores.” European physicians have used rose oil for mouth sores and to heal wounds.3 It is thought to strengthen digestion and relieve headaches.

Rose otto and absolute may be helpful in PMS, regulating the menstrual cycle, and easing menopausal symptoms. Rose essential oil can aid in the healing of skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and is a good for mature skin. It is thought to be an aphrodisiac and antidepressant, and has been found alleviate stress and promote relaxation through dermal application.2 Because rose is a gentle essential oil, it is safe to use on children. A 2013 trial demonstrated that the inhalation of damask rose essential oil was more beneficial than sweet almond (Prunus dulcis, Rosaceae) seed oil in children with post-operative pain.5


1Lawless J, The Encyclopaedia of Essential Oils. Shaftesbury, Dorset, UK: Element Books Ltd.; 1992.

2Rhind JP. Fragrance and Wellbeing – Plant Aromatics and Their Influence on the Psyche. London, UK: Singing Dragon; 2014

3Wilson R. Aromatherapy – Essential Oils for Vibrant Health and Beauty New York: Avery; 2002.

4Culpeper N. Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. London: Richard Evans; 1814.5Marofi M, Sirousfard M, Moeini M, Ghanadi A. Evaluation of the effect of aromatherapy with Rosa damascena Mill. on postoperative pain intensity in hospitalized children in selected hospitals affiliated to Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in 2013: aA randomized clinical trial. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2015;20(2):247-254.

Lori Glenn,  Managing Editor