I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. –Wendell Berry
I’ve been thinking a lot about the briar lately—or more specifically, the rose. I see a need for the actions of Rosa spp. over and over in my clinical practice. Perhaps this is why rose can be found so abundantly in all parts of the world. It’s an herbal ally for the people—far-reaching, gentle, and profound. Plus, you can use all parts of the plant—the petals, buds, hips, leaves, and root.
Rose is a common plant—one we often have a connection, memory, or fondness for, especially through its aromatics. Take a moment to pause and conjure the scent of rose in spring or early summer. Not only is rose far-reaching—touching many people and places—but grief is also far-reaching and a true part of our humanness. We can’t avoid loss and grief, but in this post, I’d like to focus on rose as a simple herb and how it can be used for grief support.
Rose has many uses for wellness concerns that arise during states of grief. Throughout this post, I’ll give insight into the ways that rose can soothe the human spirit during grief and include some simple recipes for use as well.
Rose for Grief Support
Permission To Create Boundaries and Let Go
During profound grief, I find it useful to repeat the mantra, “No is not a bad word.” The word no can often be just the right remedy we need to support ourselves. No is the opportunity to listen to your needs, honor how you are feeling, and feel a sense of empowerment during a time that may feel out of control.
While grief can leave us wanting to be alone, not attending social gatherings, or opening our homes to others, it’s okay to trust your no and create a boundary (Devine, 2017). When grieving, we may need to be reminded that we have permission to softly open to our grief, and the world, when we are ready. We can also give ourselves permission to create a supportive boundary as we navigate the most tender of times. Rose exemplifies thriving boundaries and can offer us the gentle support to discern what, or who, we want near us in our most vulnerable moments.
Most times, our senses delight and open when near rose; however, honoring the thorns is an important part of creating boundaries that work for you. The thorns are not to wall you off from the outside world, but instead, they express the complexity, beauty, and darkness that accompanies grief. The thorns act as a reminder of respect. Rose is not pushy, and anyone that is grieving should not be pushed or forced to feel anything other than exactly how they feel (which can shift from moment to moment). Rose can be a gentle reminder of beauty, of sensory engagement, of flow, and rhythm especially during moments that feel disjointed, unclear, hazy, and confusing. It allows you to be as you are while grieving, all the while holding your hand as you experience and release emotion. To grieve, you need to unwind, to loosen your grip, and let go. Rose gently supports this process. Rose is a true companion during times of settling into our grief. It supports us in letting grief be present, in shifting our lens, and in noticing the richness within the most human, most dark, parts of ourselves.
Rose and the Emotional Heart
As a heart exhilarant, rose is a substance that can arouse the vitality in the spiritual heart. This can then turn the spirit towards joy. This familiarity of joy can be of great comfort during moments of pain, sadness, anger, frustration, and depression. Rose has the subtle ability of nourishing connection, and when near rose, you may feel the hormone oxytocin activate as if you were receiving a warm hug from a motherly presence (Wiles, 2018).
The spiritual heart, in which rose can support during times of grief, is the root of the external and internal consciousness. The spiritual heart supports boundaries during pain and grief due to its heart-protecting actions and brings us feelings of love, kindness, compassion, and connection (to the self and to the world around us). The spiritual heart, with rose’s help, can bring wisdom from intuition and a feeling sense without forcing traditional logic or intellect. It can also influence personal integrity and help one distinguish clear yes and no answers (Bergner, 2012). Rose is not about taking away your grief but instead honoring it as a part of yourself, tending to it, and offering it some softness.
Rose is a plant that grows abundantly and often near water. Rose is flexible, moving, releasing, and a gentle (yet powerful) herb for removing stored energy we could benefit from letting go of. You may notice that rose helps clear stuck emotion. This may lead to a release that could look like tears, singing, dancing, running, or even gentle stretching. Notice what rose opens space for in your life. Again, rose is not there to force you to do anything, it is there to help you authentically move through your grief.
During moments of intense grieving, anxiety, anger, and other hot emotions can come to the surface. You may feel uncomfortable or blocked up, as if your emotion was stagnated with nowhere to flow. Rose, as a cooling nervine, can be a source of comfort as it brings in relaxing properties to the nerves, self-love, and rest promotion.
I find taking 1-3 drops of rose tincture to be a profound acute grief support. In the arrival of grief, rose can honor and support the process of releasing emotion. This will not take away your pain, but it will allow for the fluidity of water, heart-soothing, and tenderness of rose to carry your emotions outwards. Rose tincture can move the emotion through you if you are feeling a stuck sensation, anxiety, or a feeling of nervousness. Rose is an herb to keep in your pocket, bag, or by your side throughout your day. Rose is a mover. It is wonderful at moving stuck emotions—supporting the process being with them and looking at them in the moment. Rose invites you to notice how you are feeling, greet that emotion, and then release it. It doesn’t push you to work with challenging emotions but does offer that support if, and when, you might be ready.
Within our society, there is often the taboo that anger is bad and that we should stuff it deep inside of ourselves. An emotion that has not had an opportunity to release can become stagnant and can often surface as anger. I find it hard to prescribe to any binary that holds our emotions at odds. Just look at the word emotion—such fluidity is embedded within. We also live within a structure that does not fully understand or have the language for those who are grieving. Rose allows grief to enrich our experience in the world where we can honor and feel the beauty in dark places and experiences (Altman, 2018).
Other Grief Supporting Properties of Rose
Rose is also anti-inflammatory, vulnerary, aromatic, and sweet. Rose is versatile, safe, and can be applied topically as well as used internally. The wound-rejuvenating qualities of rose can be felt physically and emotionally. Applying a fomentation to an achy part of your body (grief often pangs us physically as well) can offer you relief, support, and a moment of true self-love. Infusing rose into a footbath is also a lovely way to pull down heat and racing thoughts from your head. Drinking rose tea awakens your senses and its nervine properties can aid in bringing you a moment of comfort and relaxation.
Often, when in a state of grief, our body can be surprisingly sore. We may experience aches as if we have the flu, or we may even take on some pain from the person we lost. Bringing attention and warmth to your body, or a particular area of your body can feel nourishing. A rose infusion is a great way to help support aches and pains. Infusions can take the form of fomentations, baths, footbaths, face washes, and teas. During grief, often our eyes become red, inflamed, and irritated. Rose can be used as a simple eyewash to combat inflammation and redness.
Grief can also leave us feeling outside of our body. Touch the rose petals, smell them, taste them—allow your senses to support bringing you back into your body. The actions of rose are cooling, drying, slightly constricting, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, astringent, and antidepressant (Easley & Horne, 2016). This feels like a great combination of actions to support grief as it arises, as grief truly is a moment to moment sensation and can leave us exhausted and foggy during the day. Grief can leave us feeling restless, irritated, sleepless, and generally agitated. As a gentle nervine, rose can support our overly taxed nervous system and allow for the cooling, calming actions to soothe the roughness we may feel while grieving.
Our gastrointestinal tract is connected to our emotions and stress picture. During grief, you may experience stress or anxiety-related diarrhea and fatigue from not digesting your food optimally. As an astringent, rose can support the way your emotions present digestively. It can bring cooling, anti-inflammatory, and astringing actions to your overheated, irritated, and finicky system. Along with rose, if you are presenting in this way, do all you can to try and stay hydrated.
Rose is nutrient dense with antioxidants, flavonoids, and vitamin C. It’s important to take in as much nutrition as you can during a time of grief to help you feel as strong and healthy as possible. Grief is often associated with the lungs. Rose can direct its cooling and anti-inflammatory actions to our respiratory system, irritated mucosa, and free constriction in our throats and upper respiratory tract. In this way, rose can support opening communication around your grief, softening your emotional heart, and honoring the authentic process of loss.
Below are some rose herbal preparations that can be used for grief support. Unfortunately, roses are a heavily sprayed plant; to get the most support from your herbal ally, we recommend that you seek out organically grown roses.
Simple Multi-Purpose Rose Infusion
Simple Rose Infusion
- Add two heaping tablespoons of rose petals to a quart jar, pour hot water over the petals, cover, and let sit for 20 minutes to an hour.
- Drink warm tea while soaking in a warm bath.
- Add one tablespoon of rose petals to a pint jar, pour hot water over the petals, and let sit until the water is near body temperature.
- Strain well using an unbleached coffee filter and rinse red, inflamed eyes.
Enjoy this rose honey in your morning coffee, tea, or as a tasty spoonful of heart support/attention throughout your day. See a video on how to make this recipe in our post, How To Make And Use Rose Infused Honey.
- Fill a pint-sized jar with rose petals. Pour local, raw honey over the petals, covering petals entirely.
- Let sit for six weeks. You can leave the rose petals in the honey or strain them if you wish.
Where can you find rose during times of the year when it is not in bloom? Rose typically blooms in spring and early summer, however, we can use their support year round. Mountain Rose Herbs, Pacific Botanicals, and your local apothecary are all great places to put in an order and stock up your herbal cabinet during the winter months.
For those of you facing deep grief, I’m with you. I honor your process, and I want to say that I’m sorry for your loss. My heart, and I hope, rose, are with you. I cannot take away your grief with an article on the supportive qualities of rose. What I do hope is that during your grief, you feel support from the subtle actions of this plant. I hope rose can activate your senses in moments when you feel numb. I hope rose can reawaken you in moments of fight or flight. I hope that rose can allow you to take deep belly breaths, activating your parasympathetic nervous system, and soothe the frayed edges—even if just for a moment.
Altman, R. (2018). Rose medicine. Retrieved from https://mailchi.mp/kingsroadapothecary/rose-medicine?e=48ae1122d8
Bergner, P. (2012). Herbs for the spiritual heart. Medical herbalism: A journal for the clinical practitioner, 16(4) 2-6.
Devine, M. (2017). It’s OK that you’re not OK. Boulder, CO: Sounds True Publishing.
Easley, T. & Horne, S. (2016). The modern herbal dispensatory: A medicine-making guide. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Wiles, B. (2018). Mountain states medicinal plants. Portland, OR: Timber Press.