French Rose

Rosa gallica

Herbs gallery - French Rose

Common names

  • French Rose

Rosa gallica, also known as the French rose, is believed to be indigenous to Iran where these species have been cultivated since time immemorial. Plants of this species are deciduous shrubs that often grow up to 1.5 meters in height. Although roses of this species have developed naturally over several centuries into the plants we are now familiar with, they were first developed by breeders during the early 1800's. Plants belonging to this family of roses have even stalks bearing piercing thorns. The stems of the plants possess spikes and bristles with glands. The edges of the leaves are jagged like a saw and each leaf has three to seven pairs of leaflets that are bluish-green. These deciduous shrubs cover a large area forming a green covering. The flowers appear in bunches of one to four, while each flower has five single petals that are aromatic and profoundly pink in hue. The hips resemble globes or have an ovoid shape and vary in diameter between 10 mm and 13 mm. Their color ranges from orange to brownish.

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Documents show that the Greeks and Romans were familiar with these roses since long. While Greek poet Sappho had described Rosa gallica as the 'Queen of flowers' in the sixth century B.C., the Romans linked the flower with all their celebrations. In addition, the Romans also consumed the petals of this flower as a food. It may be mentioned here that Avicenna, an Arabian physician who lived between 980 A.D. and 1037 A.D., was the first to make rosewater with Rosa Gallica or French rose. It is interesting to note that the herbal medicine practitioners recommended the use of rose during the Middle Ages and also during the Renaissance to cure depression as well as sadness.

The Rosa gallica species of roses is said to be indigenous to the southern and central regions of Europe extending towards the east to Turkey and the Caucasus. The variety of Rosa gallica officinalis that is cultivated in many regions across the globe is also known as Apothecary's Rose.

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Parts used

Hips, leaves, flowers, essential oil.

Uses

While rose was once widely used for different remedial purposes, it is unfortunate that present-day herbal medicine practitioners do not use rose as a medicine any more. Nevertheless, presently is an increasing sentiment that now people ought to re-evaluate the therapeutic worth of the rose and use the benefits offered by the flower. In fact, many people still use the oil extracted from the rose known as 'attar of rose' in aromatherapy. People who are involved with aromatherapy utilize the rose as a mild tranquilizer, anti-depressant and also to cure inflammations or tenderness. Several researches have established that the petals of the rose and the preparations with them are similar. In addition to the therapeutic uses of the rose mentioned above, the petals of the flower and medicines prepared with them have proved to lower elevated cholesterol levels in our bloodstream. Conversely, rosewater is mildly caustic or astringent by nature and hence, it is incorporated as an important element for preparing a cream that is used to heal swelling as well as eye pains.

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Many people consume the colourful petals of the rose as food - both raw and cooked. In addition, rose petals are also used as garnishes to decorate salads. While the rose petals can be crystallized or conserved in syrups, many people also dry them and used the dried petals to add essence to beverages, tea and even cakes. In fact, the dried petals as well as the rose buds form a vital element in a spice mixture called 'ras-el-hanout' prepared in North African regions. You can also prepare rosewater in the cold infusion method. While rose water has therapeutic uses, people also use it to add essence or flavour to different confectionery items - particularly a confection called the 'Turkish Delight'. Even the seeds of the rose plant are rich in vitamin E content making it an important natural resource of the nutrient. Many people dry the rose seeds, pulverize them and add them to several food items using them as a vitamin E supplement. However, before you use the rose seeds for edible purpose, it is necessary to get rid of the small bristle-like hairs attached to them.

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As discussed earlier, the petals of the rose flower possesses a number of therapeutic properties. They are astringent, anti-bacterial as well as stimulant. Herbalists recommend taking medical preparations with rose petals internally to treat bronchial contagions, colds, diarrhea, gastritis, lethargy and even depression. Medical preparations with rose petals are also used topically to cure sore throats, eye infections, skin disorders and small injuries. The fruits borne by several species of this genus are rich in minerals and vitamin content, particularly vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E. In addition, these fruits also enclose flavonoids and several bio-active amalgams. Fruits of a number of roses are also reasonable natural source of fatty acids - something unusual in other fruits. Presently scientists are studying whether the rose fruit can help decrease cancer cases and also if it is capable to thwarting or even undoing cancerous growths in the human body. The rose flowers yield an essential oil known as the 'attar of rose', which is widely used in aromatherapy to treat nervousness, melancholy or depression as well as pessimistic feelings.

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The essential oil extracted from the rose blooms is widely utilized in perfume making. In addition, this essential oil also forms an important ingredient in formulations that are added in skincare lotions and lukewarm bath water for treating skin problems. Apart from the essential oil extracted from the flowers, even rose water is used in skin care and bath water formulations. The petals and buds of the rose are dried for use in deodorizers, potpourri or room fresheners.

Other medical uses

Habitat and cultivation

Documents available from the past suggest that rose is native to the Middle East region, but is now cultivated in several regions globally. Nevertheless, unlike in the ancient past, the rose does not grow naturally any more, but is grown in gardens. There is ample documentary evidence that proves that the rose has been cultivated for over 3,000 years now and is presently among the most preferred flowers owing to their hue as well as aroma. As discussed earlier, the flowers of different species of the rose possess high therapeutic properties and they are usually harvested during the summer.

All varieties of roses can be grown without much effort on soils having adequate drainage and in places that have bright sunlight to partial shade. The rose plant or shrub has the aptitude to survive even in temperatures as low as -25°C. Rosa gallica happens to be among the types of roses that have been grown since time immemorial. In fact, even the Romans and Greeks cultivated the rose and during the Medieval period, this species was widely grown in gardens. During the 19th century, Rosa gallica was the most significant rose species that were produced by breeding in several regions of the world. It is interesting to note that majority of the modern European rose species that are cultivated have received some or other contribution from Rosa gallica in their heritage.

Different species of Rosa gallica that are produced by breeding as well as different hybrids that have almost similar appearance are often denoted to a Cultivar Group the same as the roses belonging to the Gallica Group. Generally, the heritage of these cultivars and hybrids are unfamiliar and even the influence of other species of roses may be likely. Roses belonging to the Gallica Group have similar vegetative makeup of other varieties of roses in this species having suckering (small shoots rising from the subterranean stem or roots) bushes. The flowers of roses belonging to the Gallica Group are usually solitary or double and sometimes semi-double. This variety of roses has a wide assortment of hues ranging from white (which is rarely seen) to pink and profoundly purple. All roses belonging to the Gallica Group can be grown without much effort and they flower only once in a year.

Rosa gallica has the aptitude to thrive on almost all types of soils. However, the plants prefer a well drained soil and sufficient sunlight. While the plants of this variety of rose develop well in heavy clay soils, they cannot withstand wet or drenched soils. This plant may be grown with parsley, alliums, lupins and mignonette, and when garlic is grown close to these plants, it helps them to keep off diseases as well as invasion from insects. However, Rosa gallica does not grow well at all with boxwood plants. This variety of rose is essentially a decorative plant and its blooms emit a spicy aroma. In Eastern Europe, Rosa gallica is especially cultivated for the essential oil yielded by the flowers. Rosa gallica has many varieties, for instance, 'officinalis' is known as the Apothecary's rose and is grown particularly for its therapeutic properties. This species of the rose easily hybridize with other species belonging to the genus. It may be noted that plants belonging to this genus are prone to invasion from honey fungus - a honey-hued edible mushroom.

The rose is primarily propagated by its seeds, which usually takes two years to sprout. The long time taken by the rose seeds to germinate is primarily owing to the fact that they possibly require a temperate stretch of weather following a cold stretch with a view to develop the embryo as well as lessen the seed coat or the casing around the seed. However, the time frame usually required for the rose seeds to germinate may be reduced considerably if you scratch the seeds and keep them in humid mulch at temperatures ranging between 27°C and 32°C for around two to three weeks. This will help the seeds to absorb sufficient moisture and become mature sooner. Subsequently, the seeds are stored in a temperature around 3°C for approximately four months. It is expected that the seeds would begin to sprout by this time.

Another way of facilitating the germination process of rose seeds is to collect them 'green' - when they are already mature on the plant, but dehydrated, and sown soon after harvesting. Sowing the 'green' seeds will ensure that they sprout some time during the later part of winter. Sowing the seeds in a cold frame immediately after they have ripened may occasionally help them to sprout during spring. However, even this alternate process may take as long as 18 months for the seeds to germinate. Seeds that have been stored for some time ought to be sown right at the beginning of the year and kept in layers of earth (stratified) at around 5°C for approximately six weeks. In this case, the seeds will require at least two years' time to germinate.

Once the seeds have germinated, cautiously prick out the seedlings and plant them in separate containers when they have grown sufficiently to be coped with. If the plants have grown over 25 cm in height, plant them in their permanent position outdoor during summer. Conversely, if they do not attain the desired growth, you may continue growing them in a cold frame throughout the winter and plant them outdoors during the later part of spring.

Alternately, rose plants may also be propagated by cuttings of semi-mature wood with a base or heel during July and plant it in a shaded frame. Allow the cuttings to produce new sprouts during the winter and plant them outdoors during the later part of spring. The survival rate of these new plants grown from the cuttings is known to be quite high. It is important to make the cutting from mature wood of the plants during the growing season. Opt for shoots that are as thick as a pencil and 20 cm to 25 cm in length in early autumn. You may plant them in a cold frame or in a shaded place. Although it takes around a year for the cuttings to develop into robustly growing plants, on the whole, a very high percentage of them manage to survive. Propagation of rose may also be done by sucker (small shoots sprouting from subterranean roots or stem) division when the plants are not in their growing season. Plant the sucker divisions straight away in their permanent position outdoors. It takes around a year for these suckers to develop into new plants.

Constituents

Rose contains a volatile oil consisting of geraniol, nerol, citronellol, geranic acid and other terpenes, and many other substances.

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