(NaturalNews) A rose is a rose is a rose. Valued through the ages for its beauty and fragrance, subject of poets, symbol of femininity, gift of love... and so much more. Rose hips are a highly concentrated source of natural vitamin C and antioxidants. They are also known for their antimicrobial properties. The tangy, fruity flavor of rose hips makes them an excellent snack choice and culinary ingredient. And now scientists are finding that the hips from roses produce nature's most effective anti-inflammatory medicine, one that may surpass those toxic NSAID's in the ability to control pain.
Studies of rose hips and their results
A number of exploratory studies have been performed with patients suffering from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and lower back pain. The April, 2008 Journal of Ethnopharmachology reports a 7-day study in which rose hips was administered to assess its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in two animal models. A single dose of hips produced significant anti-inflammatory effects on the induced animal injuries and swelling. Researchers also administered a dose as high as 87.6 grams of dried hips after which no acute toxicity was observed within seven days.
Osteoarthritis and Cartilage Society Research Journal, April 11, 2008 reports a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of a rose hip powder to estimate its effectiveness as a pain reliever on those suffering from osteoarthritis. Three separate studies were performed in all, involving 287 patients with a median trial duration of 3 months. 145 patients showed a reduction in pain scores from rose hip powder of .37 compared to the 142 control patients who received a placebo. The efficacy was consistent across trials.
In a study reported in the Phytotherapy Research journal, researcher's objective was to investigate whether the clinically observed effects of rose hips in the treatment of osteoarthritis was due to inhibition of the cylooxyenase (COX) -1 and 2. Extracts of rose hips were tested for in vitro COX-1 and 2 activity, which was revealed at a significantly high level.
And a study from Inflammopharmachology reports that rose hip extract reduced chemotaxis of peripheral blood neutrophils and monocytes of healthy subjects in vitro. Daily intake of rose-hip powder for four weeks by healthy volunteers and patients suffering from osteoarthritis resulted in reduced serum C-reactive protein levels and reduced chemotaxis of peripheral blood neutrophils. The results showed that rose hips possess anti-inflammatory properties that allow them to replace or supplement conventional drug therapies in patients with osteoarthritis.
What exactly are rose hips?
The wonderful little pod left behind after the flower has faded is the hip, the fruit of the bush. After the first hard frost kills the leaves and flowers on rose bushes, the hips remain and turn from green to bright red. At this point they are chock-full of Vitamin C and sought after to eat by humans and birds. Rose hips contain the seed pods of the rose bush and have anywhere from one to twenty seeds per pod.
After picking the hips when they are ripe, trim off the blossom and stem ends with scissors, and cut them lengthwise to remove the seeds and small hairs. Rinse them and dry by spreading them in a single layer on a tray, putting them in a dehydrator, or drying in your oven if you can get the temperature down to where it is just slightly warm. After they are well dried, they can be stored in a glass jar or plastic bag in a cool dry place. They will keep through the winter.
Rose hips have been popular for their use in teas, jellies, marmalades, syrups, or just as a delicious snack straight out of the jar. But remember that you want to gather only hips from plants you are sure have not been sprayed with pesticides. If you are interested in gathering hips from wild rose bushes, go well off the road to do it so the bushes are not contaminated by pollution.
Or you might want to start a rose garden of your own to benefit from the beauty of the roses all summer long. This way you will know the history of what you want to harvest. Although it is the Rosa Rugosa that was traditionally grown for its hips, there are several modern varieties of shrub roses that can be grown easily and that will produce an abundance of hips. All of the bushes from the Meidliland series are an excellent choice. These include Bonica, Royal Bonica, Carefree and the recently introduced and highly popular Knock Out.
These bushes bloom profusely throughout the season which can run from May until the first hard frost. Gardeners generally 'dead head' them throughout the summer. This is the process of cutting off the faded flowers before much in the way of hips are produced, to encourage the bushes to flower again. Then when the threat of frost is about six weeks away, the faded blooms are left on the plant to grow, mature and ripen the hips.
More gifts from the rose
Roses were valued for their medicinal properties throughout recorded history until relatively recently, when nature went out of style for a time. In A.D. 77, the Roman writer Pliny recorded 32 disorders that responded to treatment with rose preparations. Books written by medieval herbalists contain entries about the restorative properties of rose preparations.
Rose hips contain antioxidant flavonoids. In a study from the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, May, 2007, researchers reported investigating the antioxidant and antimicrobial activity of rose hip extracts from wild British Columbia bushes. All extracts studied exhibited strong antioxidant activity and high phenolic concentration. This antioxidant activity was correlated with antimicrobial activity against yeast and Gram-positive bacteria.
Carotenoid pigments, plant sterols, tocotrienols and a high level of anthocyanins, catechins and other polyphenolics are phytochemicals known to protect us against cancer, and cardiovascular disease. They are all contained in significant amounts in rose hips. Hips contain up to 5% by weight of pectin, a highly protective soluble fiber. Rose hips also have a gentle diuretic and laxative effect.
The high levels of Vitamin C (more per weight than citrus) make hips ideal for preventing and treating common colds. Steeping dried hips for 10-15 minutes in boiling water will yield a slightly astringent tea. Native Americans used the leftover hips after the tea was brewed to add to soups and stews since the steeping process does not extract the full amount of Vitamin C. Remember that the Vitamin C from rose hips is completely natural and therefore much friendlier to your body than the synthetic forms of Vitamin C generally sold commercially.
Rose hips are an excellent source of bioflavonoids, a component of the fruit pigment. Bioflavonoids are showing properties that make them effective against cancer and heart disease. Rose hips are believed to be as effective as cranberry juice against recurrences of urinary tract infection.
Supplementing with rose hips
If you don't want to grow roses, you can get all the benefits of rose hips by buying commercially prepared teas or even supplements in capsule form. Be sure that what you are buying is organic, so you will know that you are not consuming rose hips that have been sprayed with pesticides.
University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science, Rose Hips
Wise Geek, What are Rose Hips?
About the author
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.