ROSA damascena is an ancient healer.

The rose originally comes from Iran, rosa damascena, more commonly known as the Damask rose, has been cultivated there since antiquity.

It was first described as the 'queen of flowers' by the Greek poet Sappho in 600BC but long before this roses were cultivated in ancient Persia and Egypt.

A bunch of roses was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, possibly placed there by his young wife as a symbol of love.

Just as they are today, roses were worn by Roman brides and bridegrooms, and used to adorn images of the gods Cupid and Venus.

It was used in festivities, and the petals were consumed as food.

Rose water was first made by the Persian physician Avicenna (AD 980-1037), and distillation of roses, now commercially harvested, to produce either rose otto or rose attar, began in Persia in the late 16th Century.

During the middle ages and the Renaissance, the rose was esteemed as a remedy for depression.

The apothecaryÕs rose probably reached France from Syria in about 1240 and was named officinalis as it was grown mainly for medicinal purposes. (An officinal was an apothecaryÕs shop).

During the 15th Century civil war (war of the roses) in England, the red rose was adopted by the house of Lancaster and the white rose by the House of York.

The stripped York rose and Lancaster rose, dates from around the time that Henry VII ascended the throne in 1485, uniting the two factions.

Healing properties of rosa damascena.

Rose oil and water are soothing, exquisitely scented astringents, widely used in skin care products, it takes a thousand roses to produce a pint of rose water, and one tonne of petals yields 300grams of essential oil.

Almost all of women perfumes contain rose oil, and surprisingly 42 per cent of menÕs fragrances also do.

Rosa mosqueta oil is rich in essential fatty acids, that encourage tissue regeneration, this has hydrating properties therefore is anti-wrinkle and reduces scarring, and it is very beneficial for calming skin problems.

It is astringent so will have a drying, cooling effect, this can be added to a base cream or lotion, like shea butter, or I like to put some into an atomiser to use as a spray, this is very cooling and has an instant calming effect, as rose is a nervine.

This means it acts on the nervous system, so would be good for anyone who is feeling stressed, spray at a distance above the face so the aroma drifts down, this can be carried in a handbag and used whenever necessary, or sprayed in a room before sleeping.

This could also be added to an oil like almond, and massaged into the neck, shoulders and temples, or add to a hot bath.

In practice any rose can be used medicinally, although the fragrant deep pink varieties are preferred, I get my supply for making these creams, tinctures and aromatic water from a herbalist who collects the petals that are growing on Mount Lebanon.

Because these rose bushes have little water they concentrate their perfume, so the fragrance is pure.

Rose petals are also used to flavour tea, wine, vinegar and sugar, are made into jelly and crystallised.

Middle Eastern cuisine is especially fond of rose flavoured deserts and treats, like Turkish delight, jams and rice pudding. Rose water is often sprinkled over many meat dishes, whilst rose powder is added to sauces, a most popular use is with chicken, and is a main ingredient of the spice mix known as ras el hanout. In Europe rose is added to turron, which is like our marzipan.

Rose tea is especially good to drink before sleeping or during the day if feeling stressed, rose petals and the aromatic water are safe to use internally but rose oil is not, this would need to be applied externally.

And last but not least the rosehips that are produced once the rose has finished flowering, contain very high levels of vitamin C.