The Rose is regarded as the king of flowers and is prized for its amazing sweet aroma, cosmetic and therapeutic applications. Rose water is also used in cuisine as a flavouring agent in Middle Eastern cuisine. Turkish delight has been a universal favourite.

One of the most famous varieties of rose is Rosa damascena. It was first brought to Europe from Damascus and therefore referred to as the Damask Rose. It is now cultivated in various parts of the world, however it is said that the best quality comes from Isparta province in Turkey and parts of Bulgaria. All varieties vary in quality and may be affected by environment, production and distillation methods. [1]

The volatile oil is sometimes called Attar, Otto or Essence of Roses. Attar is made from a traditional steam distillation process using the whole flower, and a particular species of rose. [1] Rosehip oil is not a volatile oil and is commercially pressed from the fruit of another species of rose and has different therapeutic properties than rose oil or rose water.

Although there are hundreds of varieties of roses, most of the rose oil production comes from four rose species and they are: Rosa damascena, Rosa gallic, Rosa centifolia and Rosa alba. These species are used to make rose oil (otto), rose water (hydrosol), rose absolute and rose concrete. [1]

  • Rose concrete, a waxy semi solid mass, is obtained by extraction through the use of solvents. [2] A vacuum process removes the solvents used in processing. Rose absolute is extracted from rose concrete with alcohol as the solvent. Rose absolute is less expensive than rose otto however has very good strong aroma and is preferred by the perfumeries.[1]
  • Rose otto or essential oil of rose is traditionally hydro-distilled. Leading aromatherapist Daniel Ryman believes that only pure rose oil or rose otto should be used in aromatherapy and that rose absolute may contain traces of solvent. [2]
  • Rose water or rose hydrosol is a by-product (condensate) obtained during distillation of rose flowers for rose oil. [1] However home made rosewater can be made by simmering petals in water for culinary use.
  • Super critical carbon Dioxide extraction or CO2 also offers superior oil but is rarely used for rose oil.

Make Your Own Rose Water & Perfume

Rose water can also be made at home using basic distilling principles and aromatic rose petals. Unless preservatives are added it should only be stored in the refrigerator for a few days only and preferably in a dark glass bottle. Rose water mists/hydrosols or floral waters (a mix of aromatic flowers) can be sprayed on the face and hair and is cooling, calming and has a delightful light aroma. It is also used as a makeup fixative.

Aromatherapist Daniel Ryman says a simple perfume can be made by adding a few drops of rose otto (2-3 drops) to 5 ml carrier oil of choice such as sweet almond oil. [2] You can funnel the perfume into a glass roll-on bottle and carry it in your purse. Roll the perfume onto the pulse points of your wrist. Always perform a patch test first and discontinue use if irritation occurs.

Therapeutic Qualities

 In recent years there has been a revival in the use of traditional herbal plants and more funds have been directed into research funded by cosmetic, medical and manufacturing entities.

Rose oil has been used in traditional medicine for its antimicrobial, antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory properties and anti-depressant properties. [3,4,5] Ailments included headaches, abdominal pain, dysmenorrhoea, grief and various skin conditions.[4] Some of the therapeutic claims have been backed up by recent research. Citronellol, geraniol and nerol are the main phytochemicals responsible for the therapeutic actions of rose oil. [4]

Rose Essential oil has a calming effect on the emotions and brings on a feeling of well being and is particularly useful during times of grief and general malaise. It was shown in a study that volunteers who massaged themselves with almond oil and rose oil for 5 minutes each day felt more calm and less alert. It is believed that the phytochemicals citronellol, geraniol and nerol may act on the sympathetic nervous system.[5]

Rose oil and absolute forms have also shown a significant anti-bacterial effect against major gram positive and gram negative bacterial strains. [6,7] However rose hydrosol did not show any anti-bacterial effect in a study. [7] These studies may highlight the effective use of rose otto and absolute in skincare treatments that inhibit bacterial growth such as skin infections, acne and certain types of rosacea.

The rose plant (petals, hips) like many other plants contain many phenolic compounds, which have an antioxidant and ant-inflammatory properties.[3] Teas or floral water can make good tonics for general health especially when combined with other therapeutic herbs.

Buyer Be Aware

Due to the rose’s low oil content and lack of synthetic alternative Rose oil is very expensive and is often adulterated with other essential oils, which contain the same constituents such as geranoil. [2] Only buy essential oils that have been evaluated by a reputable company.




  1. Pal PK. Evaluation, Genetic Diversity, Recent development of Distillation Method, Challenges and Opportunities of Rosa damascena: A review. J Essent Oil-Bearing Plants [internet]. 2013 [cited 2018 Feb]16(1):1-10. Available from: 2060X. 2013.764176
  2. Daniel Ryman. Rose [internet] 2016 [cited Feb 18]. Available from:
  3. Boskabady MH, Shafei MN, Saberi Z, Amini S. Pharmacological Effects of Rosa Damascena. Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences [internet]. 2011 [cited 2018 Feb].14(4):295-307. Available from:
  4. Mahboubi M. Rosa damascene as holy ancient herb with novel applications. Journal of traditional and complimentary Medicine [internet]. 2016 [cited 2018 Feb].6(1):10-16. Available from:
  5. Hongratanaworakit T. Relaxing Effect of Rose Oil on Humans. Natural Product Communications [internet] 2009 [cited 2018 Feb] 4(2):291-296. Available from:
  6. Antibacterial & Antifungal activity of Rosa damascena MILL. Essential oil, Different Extracts of Rose Petals. Global Journal of pharmacology [internet] 2014 [cited 2018 Feb]. 8(1):1-7. Available from:
  7. Ulusoy S, Boşgelmez-TInaz G, Seçilmiş-Canbay H. Tocopherol, carotene, phenolic contents and antibacterial properties of rose essential oil, hydrosol and absolute. Curr Microbiol[internet]. 2009 [cited 2018 Feb]. Available from: