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What is Rosa Rugosa?

By Angela Williams Duea
Updated Feb 26, 2024
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The rosa rugosa shrub, also known as rugosa rose, salt spray rose, or beach tornado, is called Mei Gui Hua in China, hamanasu in Japan, and haedanghwa in Korea. A native of Asia, this species of rose is often found growing wild in sandy soil. Rosa rugosa has become a popular flowering landscaping plant in Europe and North America, due to its cold-hardiness and disease resistance. Early varieties of the highly scented flowers were single-petaled and ranged from light pink to deep rose. However, the plant easily produces single and double ruffled flowers in colors ranging from deep plum to pure white.

This shrub grows to approximately four to six feet (1.5-1.8 meters) wide and tall. The branches are thickly covered with thorns, and the leaves are thick, leathery, and wrinkled. New shoots rise as suckers, and rather than growing in an orderly shape, the long branches tend to arch and droop in many directions. Rosa rugosa will grow and flower in poor soils and even in salty, foggy conditions, but grows best in richer soil with regular rain. The bush is so cold-hardy that it can be grown in the harsh Siberian and Canadian climates.

Rosa rugosa flowers and fruit are often used in cooking, especially in Middle Eastern foods. Rose hip jelly, jams, rose water, and rose candies are especially popular. Rose hips are a good source of vitamin C, and are also a good source of food for wild animals and birds in the winter.

The petals of the rosa rugosa flowers are used to extract essential oils. By steam-distilling flowers picked early in the day, before the sun evaporates the oil, attar of roses is derived. This oil is important for healing in aromatherapy, as it is considered an aphrodisiac as well as a scent that helps produce a feeling of well-being, reduces anxiety, and eases tension. Rose oil is also an excellent antiseptic.

In traditional Chinese herbal medicine, practitioners believe that health is determined by the balance and harmony of energy within the body, called meridians. When the energy related to the liver becomes unbalanced, it is said to cause nausea, fatigue, and poor concentration. The essential oil of rosa rugosa, taken internally, can help restore balance and heal the patient. While Western medicine has not studied these claims, there are no known dangers to taking a few drops of oil internally. A doctor should be consulted before adding any supplements to the diet.

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