The Remarkable History of Roses

Feb 9, 2015 4:26:00 PM | Rose The Remarkable History of Roses

Have you ever wondered why rose is associated with love and passion? You might think it’s because the essential oil of rose Rosa damascena (Mill.) is a known mood booster and is also rumored to support a healthy libido… but rose has a fascinating and rich history of love.

The Remarkable History of RosesLiving in the City of Roses, all of us here at ACHS get to experience firsthand the flower of love. In late May and early June, it’s a pleasure watching the rosebuds blossom into beautiful, fragrant flowers all over our city. And when Valentine’s Day rolls around, even though we are in the throes of winter, we welcome the chance to enjoy some luxurious rose essential oil and delight in diffusing the aroma of love and passion.

But have you ever wondered why rose is associated with love and passion? You might think it’s because the essential oil of rose Rosa damascena (Mill.) is a known mood booster and is also rumored to support a healthy libido… but rose has a fascinating and rich history of love.

So this Valentine's Day, take some time to smell the roses! Curl up with your sweetheart, diffuse some rose R. damascena, and get ready for tales of romance at the Taj Mahal, Roman chariot races, and more stories from the remarkable history of rose essential oil.

What’s In a Name? The Meaning of “Rose”

The word rosa is derived from the Greek word rodon, meaning “red.” The rose used by the Greeks was a deep, crimson color—the color of blood, passion, and love. The Greek poet Sappho referred to rose as the “Queen of Flowers.”

So when Juliet asks, What's in a name? we know that this flower of love is named for the deep, red passion of Grecian roses.

Rose and the Romantic Roman Chariots

The Greeks cultivated and adored their red roses, but the ancient Romans also made extensive use of this flower.

They would often use fragrant rose petals to cover floors, enhance their luxurious and infamous baths, decorate their feasts… they would even scatter rose petals beneath their chariot wheels! Perhaps they thought this passionate flower could bring them luck in battle? Either way, the Roman usage of roses is truly fascinating.

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The Romantic Discovery of Rose Essential Oil

"Maud," Tennyson Rose QuoteOne of my favorite stories (about any herb or flower) is about the discovery of rose oil. You may know of the inspiring love story of Shah Jahan who is credited with building the Taj Mahal and Shalimar Gardens for his wife (now that’s love!).

A canal was dug to surround the Gardens, and the groundskeepers filled the water with rose petals. In the heat of the sun, the essential oil of rose separated from the water. Shah and his bride noticed the incredible aroma while rowing along the canal, and the oil was skimmed from the water’s surface and of course, made into an enchanting perfume. And this is the beautiful legend of how the distillation of rose began in India

The Rose will Keep Your Secrets

The last legend I’d like to share is the old Roman custom of suspending a rose over the dinner table as a symbol that the conversation will be kept within the confines of the room. 

This is said to come from the myth that Cupid gifted a rose to the God of Silence as a bribe so that he would not reveal the “amorous” habits of Cupid’s mother, Venus. So if you’re looking to share some secrets this Valentine’s, be sure to hang a few long-stemmed roses from your rafters or chandelier at dinner!

I am fascinated with the history of flowers, essential oils, and herbs. I believe the symbolism and mythology behind botanicals lends even more evidence that they are meant to be utilized in our everyday lives—whether as “medicine” or as delightful embellishments.

Do you have any stories or legends to share about roses (or any flower)? I’d love hear from you in the comments.

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This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine. 

Dorene Petersen, ACHS Founding President

Written By: Dorene Petersen, ACHS Founding President

Dorene is the Founding President of the American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS). She has over 45 years of clinical teaching and lecturing experience in aromatherapy and other holistic health subjects. She has presented papers on essential oils and clinical aromatherapy at the International Federation of Essential Oils and Aroma Trades Annual Conference (IFEAT) in California, USA; the Aroma Environment Association of Japan (AEAJ) in Tokyo, Japan; the Asian Aroma Ingredients Congress (AAIC) and Expo in Bali, Indonesia; the International Center of Advanced Aromatherapy (ICAA) at the WonGwang Digital University in Seoul, Korea; as well as the AAIC Expo in Kunming, Yunnan, China. Dorene is a founding member of the Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC) and served as its chair until 2023. Dorene is also involved in the distance education community and has served as a volunteer, committee member, and standards evaluator for the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). Dorene is a travel junkie, and has led ACHS Study Abroad programs to India, Indonesia, Greece, and Hawaii!