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Poets and lovers have long extolled the virtues of the rose, but this flower is more than just a pretty array of fragrant petals.

According to research, the essential oil derived from the rose plant has a wide range of potential benefits. Although a lot of the research to date has been based on small trials, some clear physiological and psychological benefits have emerged.

In this article we’ll take a closer look at what we’ve learned so far about what rose oil may have the ability to do, and how to use it.

In a 2015 study, postoperative children inhaled either almond oil or rose oil. The patients in the group that inhaled rose oil reported a significant decrease in their pain levels. Researchers think the rose oil may have stimulated the brain to release endorphins, often called the “feel-good” hormone.

Based on the outcome of this study, the researchers suggested that aromatherapy using rose oil could be an effective way to ease pain in patients who’ve had surgery.

In a study conducted in 2013, patients with menstrual pain received abdominal massages to relieve their discomfort.

One group was massaged with a carrier oil (almond oil) only, while the other group was massaged with almond oil plus rose oil. The rose oil group reported having less cramping pain following the massage than the almond oil group did.

Rose oil has a relaxing effect on many people.

In one study, researchers applied rose oil to the skin of each participant, and then measured its effects on the most common symptoms of anxiety. Blood pressure, heart rates, breathing rates, cortisol levels, and blood oxygen levels all decreased. The subjects also reported feeling much more relaxed after the oil treatment.

Another study involving over 100 women who were giving birth found that rose oil lowered their anxiety levels during delivery.

Researchers have found that essential oil distilled from roses can be effective against a wide range of microbes that cause infections. This includes E. coli, as well as some strains of the bacteria that can cause staph infections (Staphylococcus) and strep throat (Streptococcus).

Additionally, the study found that rose oil was effective against Candida albicans, which can cause fungal infections in the mouth, gut, and vagina.

Two studies have found that inhaling rose oil increased sexual desire and sexual satisfaction among men and, to a lesser extent, women. One study involved male participants with a major depressive disorder who were taking antidepressants, and the other study involved female participants with the same disorder and also on antidepressants.

Researchers believe that the release of dopamine in the brain, a known motivator, may be what spurs the increase in sexual desire, while simultaneously alleviating symptoms of depression.

A number of clinical studies have found that rose oil helps to improve the symptoms of depression. In a 2012 study, a small group of postpartum women underwent treatment for depression.

One group received aromatherapy in addition to conventional medical treatments. The women who used aromatherapy improved significantly more than women who used conventional medicine alone.

Studies have also found that rose oil stimulates the release of the chemical dopamine. Researchers believe this chemical plays a pivotal role in helping to relieve the symptoms of depression.

Research experts advise that you opt for aromatherapy massage to treat depression rather than inhalation. It may take as many as eight weekly sessions before you notice a change in the depressive symptoms, so you may need to exercise a little patience.

Rose oil is usually quite expensive and is highly potent. It should be diluted whether you plan to inhale it or use it on your skin.

  • To make a rose oil bath, add 10 drops of rose essential oil to a carrier oil, then add to a warm tub. Essential oils should always be diluted in a carrier oil before adding to water.
  • To make a foot bath, add a few drops of diluted rose oil into the foot bath and soak your feet for 10 minutes.
  • To treat anxiety, stress, or depression, you can either inhale rose oil using a diffuser or dab it lightly on your chest, neck, and wrists. Be sure to blend it with a carrier oil first like coconut, almond, or jojoba oil before it touches the skin. You may also benefit from a rose oil massage, in which the rose essential oil is added to a carrier massage oil.

Before using any alternative or complementary treatment, talk to your doctor about any current medical conditions, possible drug interactions, or side effects.

Essential oils are powerful and highly concentrated. If you’re going to inhale an essential oil of any kind, place a few drops into a diffuser or sniff the lid of the container instead of putting your nose close to the bottle itself. Inhaling too much may give you a headache.

If you’re dabbing it directly onto your skin, mix a few drops of rose oil into a carrier oil first to avoid skin irritation.

Rose oil, like many other essential oils, should not be ingested.

Some essential oils can be harmful to pregnant and breastfeeding women (and their babies). Consider who may be entering an environment where you are diffusing essential oils.

If there are young children or pets in your home, it’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian or pediatrician before introducing an essential oil because some oils are toxic to children and pets.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends that you keep these tips in mind when using essential oils around pets:

  • Don’t apply essential oil directly on your pet. Putting essential oil directly on your pet’s coat or skin can be toxic. Symptoms of overexposure include an unsteady or wobbly walk, lethargy or depression, and a drop in body temperature. If your pet ingests essential oils, you may also see vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Keep pets out of rooms where you’re using a diffuser. This is especially important if your pet has a history of respiratory issues. Birds are particularly sensitive to respiratory issues, so avoid diffusers around them.
  • Keep your diffuser in an a place where pets can’t get to it. If a diffuser is knocked over, the spilled liquid could be lapped up or absorbed through tender paw pads.

When inhaled or used topically on a person with no allergies, there are currently no known side effects of rose essential oil.

However, it’s always a good idea to perform a skin patch test to check for allergies before using the oil for the first time.

To test the oil, simply apply a small amount of diluted rose oil (mixed with a carrier oil) to the skin on the inside of your elbow. If there isn’t any itching, swelling, or redness within a few hours, then it’s probably safe to use the oil on your skin.

Rosehip seed oil is distilled from the seeds and fruits just beneath the bloom on the rose — the part you would see if the petals wilted and dropped off the plant. It is not as concentrated as an essential oil.

Rosehip oil is considered a carrier oil rather than an essential oil, and it is widely used for cosmetic purposes.

You can find rose essential oil in natural food stores or shop for rose oil online.

The two most common rose oils are distilled from the R. damascena, which has a higher oil content, and R. centifolia varieties. Experts at the University of Minnesota recommend that you check the label for the Latin name of the plant and the country of origin so you can get a good idea of the source.

Look for dark amber or dark blue bottles, since light damages essential oils.

If you’re buying rose oil in a brick-and-mortar store and a tester is available, check to see if the essential oil has been combined with a vegetable oil. Place a small droplet on a piece of paper and look for an oily ring, which could mean that the oil has been diluted.

Although more research is needed to confirm some of its benefits, rose oil may be used effectively to:

  • reduce anxiety, stress, depression, and pain
  • increase libido
  • protect against harmful bacteria and fungi

Look for brands that specify the Latin name and country of origin when you purchase rose oil. You can inhale it using a diffuser, place some in your bath, or dab it on your skin with a carrier oil.

Always talk to your physician before using essential oils to treat a medical condition.