It was a partly-cloudy, windy and warm Thursday. Off to the river with my school friends. We went to a place I have never been, the Camus river in Washington. » Read the rest of this entry «
Best and dearest flower that grows,
Perfect both to see and smell;
Words can never, never tell
Half the beauty of a Rose -
Buds tht open to disclose
Fold on Fold of purest white,
Lovely pink, or that glows
Deep, sweet-scented. What a delight
To be a Fairy of the Rose!
-Cicely Mary Barker
Portland calls itself the City of Roses and I must agree that it lives up to its name. Rose bushes adorn meridians and lawns, whole parks are dedicated to hybrid roses. The Rose Test Garden has over 500 variates of roses in just about any color you could imagine. The Shakespeare Garden is my favorite part of the Test Garden, which only contains plants mentioned in his plays (which makes for lots and lots of culinary and medicinal herbs). Unfortunately, the majority of these test, hybrid roses are lacking the most transcendent, beautiful and impactful quality of roses: scent.
What the hybrid roses lack, the wild and forgotten roses more than compensate. They are teeming with the heady, rich, intoxicating and lingering scent. So much so that sometimes I catch a whiff of rose before I actually see them. That is precisely how I stumbled across roses growing in some trees on the far edge in the park adjacent to where I live. Pink, butter-cream and white roses where each in a tree which where, incedently, climbing in a hawthrone, wild cherry and a Japanese maple – all members of the rose family themselves. Coincidental?
During a walk through the woods, I saw a fine, delicate set of leaves arranged in a rose-like fashion. One frond could fit in my hand. Upon closer examination, I saw teeny, tiny little roses smaller than my pinky finger nail (and I have small hands). Sure enough, there were rose blossoms that were silver dollar to quarter size, with a larger-than-life fragrance.
This dwarf rose may very well be the Baldhip rose, Rosa gymnocarpa, but the confirm this I will have to check the hips out too see if they are indeed “bald” (no sepal remnants on the tip of the hip, or hip tip if you prefer). I made a tea from the fresh leaves and it was deliciously delicate and soothing.
Before I left Minnesota in June, I wanted to immortalize the fragrant roses from my neighborhood. I still have a few ounces of delicious and handy rose elixir from last season, so I decided to mix it up a bit and make an elixir version of one of my favorite love teas. ‘Love tea’ features a favorite combination of mine, rose petals and damiana, and just about any other herbs that strike my fancy. Hawthorn berries, milky oats, ashwaganda, shatavari, eleuthero are some of my regular additions.
To a non-herb person, it may seem unlikely that botanicals could ever have anything to do with love. I would beg to differ. First of all, there is no doubt that plants can effect our emotions, and I would bet that most of us have had experiences with food that has altered our emotions. Chocolate and champagne are almost cliche ‘romance’ foods. I don’t want to go so far as to say that rose and damiana are cliche romance herbs, but they do play a little on the heart-stings.
Although it contains herbs with well-known actions, I see it as being broad in usage. For example, it can be calming to the emotions and nervous system, relaxing yet stimulating in times of stress (it has adaptogenic qualities), as well as potentially being an aphrodisiac. Damiana is warm and spicy and tones Yang (Lesley Tierra, 75). Rose petals are both cooling and relaxing, and have a special affinity for the heart and heart chakra. Ashwaganda also tonifies Yang, as Tierra describes:
“[It] is one of the best rejuvenation herbs because it tonifies without being overly stimulating and, in fact, calms and strenghtens the nervous system. Thus, it can be widely used in all conditions of weakness, chronic debilitation due to over work, stress, insomnia, or nervous exhaustion, in other words for all of you burned-out Type A folks.” (60).
- Rose petals – pick highly fragrant ones, chop a few times, add to fill jar more then half full.
- Damiana – 3 tablespoons
- Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) – tablespoon
- Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) – tablespoon
- Clove – teaspoon
- Allspice – teaspoon
- Star anise – 2 pieces
- Cinnamon – 2 sticks
Elixirs are so easy to make, and easy to use. Please check out Kiva Rose’s blog for lots of info about the medicinal uses of roses and elixirs. Elixirs are part alcohol and part honey (or glycerine), I like equal parts of each, or more alcohol to honey. As far as alcohol goes, my normal preference is grain alcohol (especially with resinous herbs that need a high percentage of alcohol to fully extract) or brandy.
Back to the directions: fill a jar with herbs, pour over the alcohol of choice to fill the jar halfway, then top off with local, unheated honey. Let sit for 4-6 weeks, give it an occasional shake to add the maceration process, strain to a new bottle, label and enjoy 1-2 tablespoons as needed.
Reference: Tierra, Lesley. Healing with the Herbs of Life.