Roses are beautiful, but rose hips are bursting with phytonutrients and health benefits. Indeed, they have a long history of being used to treat disease in traditional medicines around the world. We can now validate this with scientific research.

Roses are beautiful, but rose hips are bursting with phytonutrients and health benefits. Indeed, they have a long history of being used to treat disease in traditional medicines around the world. We can now validate this with scientific research.

In this article, you’ll find the latest discoveries about the amazing health benefits of rose hips, their ability to treat a number of diseases, and information on how to harvest and prepare them.

Okay, but just what are rose hips?

If you have roses growing in your yard, you should also have a plentiful supply of rose hips. Rose hips are the fruit bulbs that appear below the rose flower. If you pick off the petals of the flower, you will find the hip bulb below.

This rose hip bulb will typically look smooth on the outside, or may be a bit hairy, depending upon the species. Inside of this rose hip bulb, you’ll find a mash of seeds and some stringy pulp. The taste of a good fresh rose hip can be like a tart apple. Rosa rugosa probably has the tastiest rose hips.

Health Benefits of Rose Hips

Let’s get right to it. Recent research has established that rose hips can be used to treat the following health conditions:

1. High blood pressure (anti-hypertensive)

A 2011 study from Sweden’s Lund University tested 31 people who were obese and diabetic. About half were given a daily dose of 40 grams of rose hip powder in a drink and the other half were given a placebo drink for six weeks. After the six weeks, those who got the rose hips had an average of 3.4 percent reduction in systolic blood pressure.

2. High cholesterol (lipid-normalising)

In the same study above, those who consumed the rose hips drink for six weeks showed a 6 percent reduction of LDL-cholesterol and a LDL/HDL ratio reduction of 6.5 percent. The researchers concluded:

“Daily consumption of 40 grams of rose hip powder for 6 weeks can significantly reduce cardiovascular risk in obese people through the lowering of systolic blood pressure and plasma cholesterol levels.”

3. Rheumatoid arthritis (anti-rheumatic)

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen tested 89 rheumatoid arthritis patients in two outpatient clinics for six months. They gave about half the patients five grams of rose hip powder in a capsule each day. The other half were given a placebo. The researchers found the rose hip group had significantly better arthritis physical scores and function scores compared to the placebo group. This is pretty good considering the average arthritis duration before the study was nearly 13 years.

4. Osteoarthritis (anti-arthritic)

In 2008, researchers from Denmark’s Frederiksberg Hospital analysed the data from three clinical studies of 287 osteoarthritis patients. The studies lasted an average of 3 months. The research found rose hip powder helped reduce osteoarthritis pain and doubled the patient’s ability to respond to other therapy. One of the studies found the rose hip group had improved hip flexion (ability to rotate the joint).

In another study of 47 osteoarthritis patients, three weeks of treatment with 5 grams of rose hip powder resulted in a significant reduction of pain (using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) pain questionnaire) compared to the placebo group.

5. Bacterial infections (antibiotic)

A 2015 study from the Institute of Medicinal Plant Research in Belgrade tested rose hips against several bacteria, and found they inhibit the growth of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, Leishmania monocytogenes and Escherichia coli. Up to 90% inhibition was accomplished which is a significant antibiotic result.

Another study tested rose hips against Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Micrococcus luteus, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Proteus mirabilis. Again, the rose hip compounds were found to inhibit bacteria growth.

6. Candida infections (antifungal)

A 2015 study from the Medical University in Lublin, Poland tested rose hips against Candida albicans and Candida parapsilosis, and found they inhibit the growth of these fungi.

7. Cancer (anti-carcinogenic)

The same researchers tested R. rugosa rose hip extracts against cancer cells derived from human cancer patients. These included cervical cancer cells and breast cancer cells. The researchers found the rose hip extracts inhibited the growth of these cancer cells. Another study found that rose hips inhibit the growth of human cervical cancer cells, breast cancer cells, adenocarcinoma cells and lung cancer cells.

8. Pain (analgesic)

Researchers from Serbia’s University of Novi Sad tested rose hip puree and jam from the Rosa canina and R. arvensis species. They found that rose hips inhibit cyclooxygenase-1 and 12-lipooxygense.

Another study, from the University of Copenhagen, found that rose hips inhibit both the COX-1 and the COX-2 enzymes. These COX and LOX enzymes are what NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and COX-2 inhibitor drugs target for pain relief. This analgesic ability is likely linked to (but not limited to) the salicylic acid content in rose hips as listed below. Aspirin is a synthesised version of salicylic acid – acetylsalicylic acid.

The analgesic ability of rose hips was demonstrated in a 2011 study of 92 women receiving caesarean sections. The patients were given either rose hips capsules or a placebo prior to receiving analgaesic drugs. The researchers found those given the rose hips had lower pain scores (using the visual analogue scale – VAS) and required less analgesia compared to the placebo group.

Rose aromatherapy is also analgesic. A 2013 study tested 64 children who entered the hospital and found that aromatherapy with Rosa damascena significantly reduced post-operative pain after multiple infusions.

9. Inflammation (anti-inflammatory)

The studies above also illustrated that rose hips reduce inflammation. By halting the COX and LOX enzymes, rose hips inhibit the pro-inflammatory process.

10. Macular degeneration (ocular)

Eye problems such as macular degeneration and other damage to the macula and retina of the eye can be aided with the consumption of the carotenoids lutein, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin and lycopene. All of these carotenoids are found in rose hips.

11. Heart disease (cardiovascular) The research above on LDL-cholesterol and blood pressure means there will be less artery damage as a result of intervention using rose hips. This is due to reduced lipid-peroxidation, which damages blood vessels – including those that supply the heart and brain. Other research has found that carotenoids in rose hips such as beta-carotene, zeaxanthin and lycopene help prevent the oxidation of lipoproteins. This means they reduce damage to the arteries, which results in atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and would naturally result in a reduced risk of heart disease and strokes.

12. Oxidative radicals (antioxidant)

This last benefit regarding rose hips preventing oxidation is significant in helping to prevent many degenerative diseases, including those related to the brain, the liver, the kidneys and other organs. These can each be damaged by an overload of oxidative free radicals.

Rose hips’ extreme antioxidant abilities also make it an excellent remedy for colds and influenza – as well as reduced immunity in general. Many of the studies mentioned above also examined and confirmed rose hips’ superior antioxidant abilities.

The carotenoid compounds in rose hips are not the only antioxidant elements that neutralise free radicals. The gallic acid, isoquercitrin, kaempferol, quercetin, ascorbic acid and rutin in rose hips also neutralise free radicals throughout the body.

Rose hips’ vitamin C content is not only significant, but it is extremely bioavailable due to the amount of rutin that complexes the ascorbic acid.

Rose hips also contain both alpha- and gamma-tocopherols. These are some of the most bioavailable natural forms of antioxidant vitamin E.

What makes Rose hips so special?

As hinted above, rose hips contain an astounding list of polyphenols, flavonoids and other medicinal plant compounds. Here is a short list of the incredible array of compounds that give rose hips their benefits.

• Apha-tocopherol

• Apigenin

• Ascorbic acid

• Astragalin

• Avicularin

• Beta-Carotene

• Caffeic acid

• Coumaric acid

• Gallic acid

• Gamma-tocopherol

• Gentisic acid

• Hydroxybenzoic acid

• Hyperoside

• Isoquercitrin

• Isorhamnetin

• Kaempferol

• Linoleic acids

• Linolenic acids

• Lutein

• Lycopene

• Protocatechuic acids

• Quercetin

• Quercitrin

• Rutin

• Rutinoside

• Salicylic acid

• Spireoside

• Synapic acid

• Tiliroside

• Zeaxanthin

Yes, that’s a lot of biochemicals – but there’s more. Rose hips contains hundreds of biocompounds. The point is that this is a very medicinal herb.

When are rose hips ripe?

Once the petals drop off, rose hips will typically change from a green colour to a red or orange colour as they ripen. At their deepest red or orange colour, the rose hip will have the highest antioxidant and vitamin C levels.

Once the flower has lost its petals, you can watch the hip for its colour development. When the colour is greatest, prune the hips a quarter to a half-inch below the bulb. Then you can set the hips in a cool, dark place until you are ready to eat or prepare them. Or you can just wash them and chomp them raw (get ready to pucker up).

Preparing rose hips

Depending upon the preparation and timing of the harvest, two or three rose hips will equal the amount of vitamin C in an orange. But be careful, because if the rose hips are harvested too late or they are dried for too long, they will lose a lot of potency.

Most people will dry the rose hips in order to make them easier to prepare. Because the fresh rose hips can be a little gooey and hairy, many figure the dried version is better (think dried fruit).

The problem here is that if rose hips are dried in the sun or near heat, they will lose potency. Drying in the dark at room temperature will be better.

But consuming or preparing with fresh rose hips will result in the best potency. The whole bulb can be scrubbed and eaten raw. Or it can be crushed into a pulp and made into jam. One of the studies above used the jam to test patients.

A number of suppliers provide rose hips in powders which is convenient and means they can easily be added to food or smoothies. However these products will not have the vitamin C content of the raw rose hips due to the drying process. Still, the use of rose hips powder is also supported by some of the studies listed above.

So don’t just smell the roses: Eat them.