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Rose hips are the edible and nutritious fruit of the beautiful deciduous rose, a perennial member of the most extensive genus of classified plants.
Among the species of rose particularly valued for the hips are Rosa rugosa, known as Japanese rose; R. canina, known variously as wild briar, witches briar, dog rose, hip fruit, or hip tree; R. acicularis; and R. cinnamomea. Dog rose hips are said to contain the highest amounts of vitamin C of all the varieties, with 10 to 50 times that of an orange.
Rose petals and hips, and the seeds contained within the achenes, are medicinally valuable. The leaves are also sometimes used. Rose hips and seeds contain vitamins C, E, B and K, tannin, pectin, carotene, malic and citric acids, flavonoids, fatty and volatile oils and proteins. The vitamin content of the hips varies depending on the species, the growing conditions, the time and manner of harvest and the care taken in drying and storage. The hips of roses grown in cooler climates have been found to have a higher content of vitamin C.
Rose hips are an abundant natural source of vitamin C, which is regarded as an important antioxidant. Used regularly as a tonic or food supplement these compact, nutritious hips will help build the body's defence against colds and flu, catarrh, sore throats and chest infections. Six to eight fresh raw rose hips, taken daily, will help prevent illness. Rose hip tea taken after a course of antibiotic therapy will help re-establish the beneficial bacteria in the digestive system. The natural balance of intestinal flora may have been disrupted or destroyed by the action of antibiotic drugs. Rose hip tea can also soothe the nervous system and relieve exhaustion. An infusion of the leaves and petals is said to help bring down fevers. A decoction of the seed is diuretic and is used for kidney ailments and problems with the lower urinary tract. The pectin and fruit acid content of the seeds have a laxative and mildly diuretic effect. Rose hip preparations can also ease the pelvic congestion and pain of menstruation.
The essential oil of rose, used in aromatherapy, has an uplifting effect and is helpful in dispelling depression, stress and nervous tension. The species generally used for oil distillation is a hybrid of R .centifolia and R. gallica. The oil is extracted from the fresh petals by water or steam distillation. Rose hip seed oil is vitamin rich and contains as much as 35% linoleic acid and 44% gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA. There are as many as 300 chemical constituents in rose oil, though only about one-third of these have been identified. This essential oil promotes tissue regeneration and is helpful in the treatment of eczema, psoriasis, and dry, sun-damaged and aging skin. Newer methods of extracting the medicinal oil from rose hip seeds have yielded a purer product without the need to evaporate the solvents used in older methods.
Pregnant women should not use essential oil of rose during the first four weeks of pregnancy.
Some people may experience diarrhoea or such allergic reactions as hives or throat-swelling from large doses of rose hips. Patients who experience an allergic reaction should stop taking rose hips and contact their doctor at once.
No interactions with conventional prescription medications have been reported as of 2002.