With its elegant appearance and rich fragrance, rose has definitely achieved prime status when it comes to romance — a symbol of love and devotion. Aside from its delicate appearance, this bloom is valued for making a highly useful essential oil: rose absolute oil.1 Read on to learn more about rose absolute oil’s properties and uses, and why it is an essential oil that deserves a place in your cabinet.
Rose absolute oil is derived from rose blooms. Rose plants, which are deciduous or semi-evergreen, make up the plant family Rosaceae,2 is native primarily to the Northern Hemisphere, in areas with temperate climate.3 There are over 100 species of roses,4 which are native to Asia, North America, Europe and northern parts of Africa.5
The rose plant can be an erect, climbing or trailing shrub with stems covered in thorns of various shapes and sizes. The leaves are alternate and pinnately compound, somewhat oval and sharply toothed. The fleshy, berry-like fruit is called a “hip.” While wild rose varieties usually only have five petals, cultivated varieties can have double that amount or have multiple sets of petals. Flowers come in different colors, such as white, red, yellow, pink and even orange.6
There are two types of oil produced from roses: rose absolute oil and rose otto oil. They are actually used for the same purposes, but are different in terms of how they are produced.7 Rose otto, also called attar of roses,8 is extracted via gentle steam distillation. It usually comes from the Damask rose (Rosa damascena), and produces a pale yellow oil with an exquisite, deeply floral scent.9 In cold temperatures, this oil solidifies, but will return to liquid form when held between your hands.10
Meanwhile, rose absolute oil can be made from either Rosa damascena or Rosa centifolia, and is obtained via solvent extraction. it’s the less expensive of the two varieties.11 Rose absolute oil is reddish, with a deep, rich, rosy-spicy, honey-like scent.12
Some aromatherapists prefer to use rose otto oil, as they feel that trace amounts of chemical solvents used for extraction may be found in rose absolute oil.13 However, due to its aromatic strength and low cost, many fragrance manufacturers prefer using rose absolute oil.14
Rose absolute oil is used in manufacturing to add a pleasing scent to pharmaceutical preparations like lotions and ointments. It’s added to soaps, creams and perfumes as well. Edible processed products that call for fruit-like flavors, such as beverages, gelatins, baked goods, puddings and other sweets, also make use of rose absolute oil as a flavor component.15
Rose absolute oil can be used in aromatherapy, but I advise you to dilute it properly in a safe carrier oil like jojoba or coconut oil prior to use. It’s said to have anti-inflammatory, antidepressant and mild sedative properties.16
The typical chemical composition of rose absolute essential oil includes citronellol, B-phenylethyl alcohol, nerol, geraniol, eugenol, methyl eugenol, benzyl alcohol, farnesol, nonadecane and nonadecene.17
Rose absolute oil is traditionally calming and uplifting. Studies have also shown rose oil to have antimicrobial properties, particularly against Candida albicans, Staphylococcus aureus and E.coli.18 Here are the other potential health benefits of both rose otto and rose absolute oils:
- Stress and anxiety relief — A 2009 study of 40 healthy volunteers found that applying rose oil to the skin led to a greater relaxation response than a placebo oil. Those who received rose oil also decreased their breathing rate and blood pressure more than those who received a placebo.19
- Menstrual cramps — A 2006 study involving 67 female college students found that applying rose oil mixed with other oils (lavender, clary sage and almond oil) topically effectively reduced menstrual cramps.20
- Menopausal symptoms — In a 2008 study, 52 menopausal women were given weekly massages using essential oils like rose, lavender, jasmine and rose geranium. The researchers found that the women who received massages had a significantly greater improvement in menopausal symptoms than those who weren’t massaged.21
Rose oil is very difficult to extract, which makes it a very expensive substance. There is roughly 0.02 percent essential oil in every rose blossom, meaning you need at least 60,000 roses to produce just an ounce of oil, or 10,000 pounds of blossoms to make a pound of oil.22
The solvent extraction used to make rose absolute oil is now more commonly used than steam distillation. It produces a light brown, semisolid, waxy material called “concrete,” from which rose absolute oil is obtained through a polar solvent such as alcohol. This method produces 10 times more output than steam distillation.23
Rose absolute oil works best when diffused, inhaled, or applied topically. I advise diluting this oil prior to use, as it can be very strong. It blends well with bergamot, chamomile, neroli, patchouli, sandalwood, ginger, ylang ylang and patchouli.24
Rose absolute oil is safe, as long as it is used in its diluted form. I advise you to do a skin patch test to make sure that you do not have any allergies or sensitivities to this oil. Pregnant women, nursing mothers and children should also refrain from using this oil.
As with most essential oils, I recommend consulting a qualified healthcare practitioner before using rose absolute oil.
If used topically at full strength, rose otto oil or rose absolute oil may lead to skin irritation, as noted by some animal studies. There was also an incident wherein a 48-year-old woman developed contact dermatitis after using rose oil topically.25 Make sure you do not apply it to your eyes, mucous membranes and other sensitive areas.