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Rose Hips: More than just a pretty flower

Rose Hips ripening on the vine

The Gospels instruct us to judge a tree by its fruit. Yet when it comes to roses, saints and sinners alike are inclined to judge the plant by its fragrant, alluring flowers, while discarding the fruits and allowing them to whither on the vine. True wisdom, however, reveals that Rose Hips — the fruits of the rose bush — contain a veritable treasury of nutritional and medicinal blessings.

Identifying Rose Hips

In autumn, after the rose flowers have dropped their petals, the fruits develop as the receptacle of the seeds. Especially pronounced on wild rose varieties, these bright red fruits are known as rose hips, and also called rose haw or rose hep. If you go hiking in the late fall, you’re likely to find these rose hips growing in abundance. Their bright color makes them hard to miss, as do the thorny vines and branches that can be a real nuisance on the hiking trail. 

Collecting Rose Hips

Wild roses grow profusely in a wide range of climates and habitats, so finding them is not difficult. But harvesting the fruit from the thorny rose bushes can be hard work. Good gloves and good pruning shears are essential. 

This fruit has its greatest medicinal value in the late fall, and it’s best to pick the rose hips sometime near or right after the first hard frost. Throughout the fall, you’ll see rose bushes covered with red berries. But don’t rush to pick them. Be patient. You’re not going to eat them like cherries, so they don’t need to look bright red, plump and delicious. Better actually to wait and allow them to start to get wrinkled and look over-ripe.

Healing Properties of Rose Hips

Rose hips have a long history of medicinal use. Chinese medical records make mention of rose hips around 470 A.D, and Chinese medicine continues to recommend them for chronic diarrhea. Native Americans have used rose hips to treat muscle cramps and kidney ailments. In Great Britain, traditional herbalists have used and revered rose hips for the medicinal properties for many centuries. They are specifically beneficial as an overall cooling tonic, an astringent, a soothing tonic for sore throats, and a superior source of vitamin C.  

Research today shows that rose hips have sixty times the amount of vitamin C as citrus fruit. Rose hips also contain other beneficial supplements, including lie lycopene, beta-carotene, and anti-oxidant flavonoids, as well as many essential minerals for the body.  They are rich in other vitamins — A, B, E, and K.  The naturally high dosage of vitamin C and bio-flavonoids in rose hips help to strengthen body tissues and maintain healthy veins and capillaries. They are also very useful to treat many kinds of infection.  Furthermore, rose hips help build our immune systems to prevent disease.

Culinary Uses and Preparation of Rose Hips

The tart-sweet, cranberry-like taste of these little fruits is used to make jelly, jams, soups, sauces and oil.  Rose hip syrup and tea makes a potent source of vitamin C to be taken daily, especially by people who have difficulty absorbing it from supplements. Rose hips are a key ingredient in Ruth’s Heavy Metal Detox tea.

If you don’t have a dehydrator, dry rose hips by cutting the hips in half and removing the seeds. Then spread them out on cardboard or wax/parchment paper in a single layer and leave them in a well-ventilated, dry place for several weeks. When dry, crush the hips and place the batch in a sieve to remove the hairs which will fall through. The hairs have any unpleasant taste and are terribly itchy. Be very careful to pick out the remaining hairs, stems and debris.

You can store dried rose hips for a long time in a glass jar, and use it to make tea. Keep some rose hips handy to prevent colds and flu this season with a super potent dose of vitamin C.

Related reading: Check out more medicinal plant profiles in our articles on Stinging NettleYarrow, DandelionPlantainRosemary and Lavender.

Photo Credit: Ripening rose hips (Wikipedia)


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