Photo by Lucy Wayland
Roses are beautiful, but rose hips are bursting with phytonutrients and health benefits. Indeed, they have a long history of being used to treat disease in traditional medicines around the world. We can now validate this with scientific research.
In this article, you’ll find the latest discoveries about rose hips’ amazing health benefits, their ability to treat a number of diseases, along with information on how to harvest and prepare them.
Okay, but just what are rose hips?
If you have roses growing in your yard, you should also have a plentiful supply of rose hips. Rose hips are the fruit bulbs that appear below the rose flower. If you pick off the petals of the flower, you will find the hip bulb below.
This rose hip bulb will typically look smooth on the outside, or may be a bit hairy, depending upon the species. Inside of this rose hip bulb, you’ll find a mash of seeds and some stringy pulp. The taste of a good fresh rose hip can be like a tart apple. Rosa rugosa probably has the tastiest rose hips.
Health Benefits of Rose Hips
Let’s get right to it. Recent research has established that rose hips can be used to treat the following health conditions:
1. High blood pressure (anti-hypertensive)
A 2011 study from Sweden’s Lund University tested 31 people who were obese and diabetic. About half were given a daily dose of 40 grams of rose hip powder in a drink and the other half were given a placebo drink for six weeks. After the six weeks, those who got the rose hips had an average of 3.4 percent reduction in systolic blood pressure.
2. High cholesterol (lipid-normalizing)
In the same study above, those who consumed the rose hips drink for six weeks showed a 6 percent reduction of LDL-cholesterol and a LDL/HDL ratio reduction of 6.5 percent. The researchers concluded:
“Daily consumption of 40 grams of rose hip powder for 6 weeks can significantly reduce cardiovascular risk in obese people through lowering of systolic blood pressure and plasma cholesterol levels.”
3. Rheumatoid arthritis (anti-rheumatic)
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen tested 89 rheumatoid arthritis patients in two outpatient clinics for six months. They gave about half the patients five grams of rose hips powder in a capsule each day. The other half were given a placebo. The researchers found the rose hips group had significantly better arthritis physical scores and function scores compared to the placebo group. This is pretty good considering the average arthritis duration before the study was nearly 13 years.
4. Osteoarthritis (anti-arthritic)
In 2008, researchers from Denmark’s Frederiksberg Hospital analyzed the data from three clinical studies of 287 osteoarthritis patients. The studies lasted an average of 3 months. The research found the rose hips powder helps reduce osteoarthritis pain and doubles the patient’s ability to respond to other therapy. One of the studies found the rose hip group had improved hip flexion (ability to rotate the joint).
In another study of 47 osteoarthritis patients, three weeks of treatment with 5 grams of rose hips powder resulted in a significant reduction of pain using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) pain questionnaire – compared to the placebo group.
5. Bacterial infections (antibiotic)
A 2015 study from the Institute of Medicinal Plant Research in Belgrade tested rose hips against several bacteria, and found they inhibit the growth of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Leishmania monocytogenes and Escherichia coli. Up to 90% inhibition was accomplished – a significant antibiotic result.
Another study tested rose hips against Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Micrococcus luteus, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Proteus mirabilis. Again, the rose hip compounds were found to inhibit bacteria growth.
6. Candida infections (antifungal)
A 2015 study from the Medical University in Lublin, Poland tested rose hips against Candida albicans and Candida parapsilosis, and found they inhibit the growth of these fungi.
7. Cancer (anti-carcinogenic)
The same researchers tested R. rugosa rose hips extracts against cancer cells derived from human cancer patients. These included cervical cancer cells and breast cancer cells. The researchers found the rose hips extracts inhibited the growth of these cancer cells. Another study found that rose hips inhibits the growth of human cervical cancer cells, breast cancer cells, adenocarcinoma cells and lung cancer cells.
8. Pain (analgesic)
Researchers from Serbia’s University of Novi Sad tested rose hips puree and jam from Rosa canina and R. arvensis species. They found that rose hips inhibits cyclooxygenase-1 and 12-lipooxygense. Another study, from the University of Copenhagen, found that rose hips inhibit both the COX-1 and the COX-2 enzymes.
These COX and LOX enzymes are that NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and COX-2 inhibitor drugs target for pain relief. This analgesic ability is likely linked to (but not limited to) the salicylic acid content in rose hips as listed below. Aspirin is a synthesized version of salicylic acid – acetylsalicylic acid.
Rose hips’ analgesic ability was shown in a 2011 study of 92 women receiving cesarean-sections. The patients were given either rose hips capsules or a placebo prior to receiving analgesic drugs. The researchers found those given the rose hips had lower pain scores (using the visual analog scale – VAS) and required less analgesia compared to the placebo group.
Rose aromatherapy is also analgesic. A 2013 study tested 64 children who entered the hospital and found that aromatherapy with Rosa damascena significantly reduced postoperative pain after multiple infusions.
9. Inflammation (anti-inflammatory)
The studies above also illustrated that rose hips reduces inflammation. By halting the COX and LOX enzymes, rose hips inhibits the pro-inflammatory process.
10. Vision health: Eye problems such as macular degeneration and other damage to the macula and retina of the eye can be aided with the consumption of the carotenoids lutein, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin and lycopene. Notice in the phytochemical list below that all of these carotenoids are found in rose hips.
11. Heart health (cardiovascular)
The research above on LDL-cholesterol and blood pressure means there will be less artery damage as a result of rose hips’ intervention. This is due to reduced lipid-peroxidation, which damages blood vessels – including those that supply the heart and brain. Other research has found that carotenoids in rose hips such as beta-carotene, zeaxanthin and lycopene help prevent the oxidation of lipoproteins. This means they reduce damage to the arteries, which result in atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This would naturally result in a reduced risk of heart disease and strokes.
12. Oxidative radicals (antioxidant)
This last benefit regarding rose hips preventing oxidation is significant to helping prevent many degenerative diseases, including those related to the brain, the liver, the kidneys and other organs. These can each be damaged by an overload of oxidative free radicals.
Rose hips’ extreme antioxidant abilities also make it an excellent remedy for colds and influenza – as well as reduced immunity in general. Many of the studies mentioned above also examined and confirmed rose hips’ superior antioxidant abilities.
The carotenoid compounds in rose hips are not the only antioxidant elements that neutralize free radicals. Rose hips’ gallic acid, isoquercitrin, kaempferol, quercetin, ascorbic acid and rutin also neutralize free radicals throughout the body.
Rose hips’ vitamin C content is not only significant, but it is extremely bioavailable due to the amount of rutin that complexes the ascorbic acid.
Rose hips also contain both alpha- and gamma-tocopherols. These are some of the most bioavailable natural forms of antioxidant vitamin E.
Okay, but what makes Rose hips so special?
As hinted above, rose hips contain an astounding list of polyphenols, flavonoids and other medicinal plant compounds. Here is a short list of the incredible array of compounds that give rose hips their benefits.
• Ascorbic acid
• Caffeic acid
• Coumaric acid
• Gallic acid
• Gentisic acid
• Hydroxybenzoic acid
• Linoleic acids
• Linolenic acids
• Protocatechuic acids
• Salicylic acid
• Synapic acid
Yes, that’s a lot of biochemicals – but there’s more. Rose hips contains hundreds of biocompounds. The point is that this is a very medicinal herb.
When are rose hips ripe?
Once the petals drop off, rose hips will typically change from a green color to a red or orange color as they ripen. At their deepest red or orange color, the rose hip will have the highest antioxidant and vitamin C levels.
Once the flower has lost its petals, you can watch the hip for its color development. When the color is greatest, prune the hips a quarter to a half-inch below the bulb. Then you can set the hips in a cool, dark place until you are ready to eat or prepare them. Or you can just wash them and chomp them raw (get ready to pucker up).
Preparing rose hips
Depending upon the preparation and timing of the harvest, two or three rose hips will equal the amount of vitamin C in an orange. But be careful, because if the rose hips are harvested too late or they are dried for too long, they will lose a lot of potency.
Most people will dry the rose hips in order to make them easier to prepare. Because the fresh rose hips can be a little gooey and hairy, many figure the dried version is better (think dried fruit).
The problem here is that if rose hips are dried in the sun or near heat, they will lose potency. Drying in the dark at room temperature will be better.
But consuming or preparing with fresh rose hips will result in the best potency. The whole bulb can be scrubbed and eaten raw. Or it can be crushed into a pulp and made into jam. One of the studies above used the jam to test patients.
A number of suppliers provide rose hips in powders. So convenient. These can be added to foods or smoothies. These will not have the vitamin C content of the raw rose hips due to the drying process. Still, the use of rose hips powders is also supported by some of the studies listed above that used rose hips powder.
So don’t just smell the roses: Eat them.
Discover: Organic Rose hips powder
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Olech M, Nowak R, Pecio Ł, Łoś R, Malm A, Rzymowska J, Oleszek W. Multidirectional characterisation of chemical composition and health-promoting potential of Rosa rugosa hips. Nat Prod Res. 2016 May 6:1-5.
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Saliha Erenturka, Sahin Gulaboglua, Selahattin Gultekinb. The effects of cutting and drying medium on the vitamin C content of rosehip during drying. Journal of Food Engineering. Volume 68, Issue 4, June 2005, Pages 513–518. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jfoodeng.2004.07.012
Marofi 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: A randomized clinical trial. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2015 Mar-Apr;20(2):247-54.
Gharabaghi PM, et al. Evaluation of the effect of preemptive administration of Rosa damascena extract on post-operative pain in elective cesarean sections. African Jnl of Pharm. Vol.5(16), pp. 1950 – 1955 October 2011. DOI: 10.5897/AJPP11.054.
Rein E, Kharazmi A, Winther K. A herbal remedy, Hyben Vital (stand. powder of a subspecies of Rosa canina fruits), reduces pain and improves general wellbeing in patients with osteoarthritis–a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial. Phytomedicine. 2004 Jul;11(5):383-91.
Willich SN, Rossnagel K, Roll S, Wagner A, Mune O, Erlendson J, Kharazmi A, Sörensen H, Winther K. Rose hip herbal remedy in patients with rheumatoid arthritis – a randomised controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2010 Feb;17(2):87-93. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2009.09.003.
Christensen R, Bartels EM, Altman RD, Astrup A, Bliddal H. Does the hip powder of Rosa canina (rosehip) reduce pain in osteoarthritis patients?–a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2008 Sep;16(9):965-72. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2008.03.001.
Winther K, Apel K, Thamsborg G. A powder made from seeds and shells of a rose-hip subspecies (Rosa canina) reduces symptoms of knee and hip osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Scand J Rheumatol. 2005 Jul-Aug;34(4):302-8.
Jäger AK, Petersen KN, Thomasen G, Christensen SB. Isolation of linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids as COX-1 and -2 inhibitors in rose hip. Phytother Res. 2008 Jul;22(7):982-4. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2446.
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