Literatus: Damascene Rose: Our first medicinal flower for May


FLORES de Mayo (Flowers of May) is a Christian festival in the Philippines in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the beloved Mother of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. Consequently, our articles for May will follow the spirit of this religious festivity. It is so because religion and health are two dimensions of the human well-being addressing a person’s spiritual and physical dimensions.

Thus, we will be focusing on the latest research involving medicinal flowers.

Let us look into the beautiful experimental farm of the Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology in Palampur, India. This farm cultivates the damask rose (Rosa damascena) to study cultivation technology to raise the quality of the flower’s essential oil.

In certain Asian culture (I am not sure with our culture because I have not seen it used), the damask rose water, which contains 10 to 50 percent essential oil, is scattered at weddings to ensure a happy marriage. It is also considered a symbol of love and purity, according to Iranian researchers Mohammad Bolkabady, Mohammad Shafei, Zahra Saberi, and Somayeh Amini of the Mashhad University of Medical Sciences’ School of Medicine and Pharmaceutical Research Centre.

Besides its use as an ornamental plant and a perfume, the essential oil of the damask rose has been found with medicinal properties with research spanning as early as the late 20th century.

A study in 2007 found 18 compounds comprising 95 percent of the flower oil. The three compounds with the largest volume are beta-citronellol (up to 47.5 percent), nonadecane (up to 40.5 percent), and geraniol (up to 18 percent). However, geraniol is best-extracted using water (steam) distillation, producing up to 30.74 percent.

Its best-known effect is in regulating blood sugar among diabetics. After ingestion of its essential oil significantly decreased blood glucose after hyper-ingestion of maltose, a disaccharide carbohydrate composed of two units of glucose for every molecule of maltose. Bolkady and colleagues reported this finding in 2011 in the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Science.

Bacteriological studies found it strongly antibacterial against Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Bacillus subtilis, Staphyloccus aureus, Chromobacterium violaceum and Erwinia carotovora. It has also confirmed high antioxidant (comparable to ascorbic acid) and anti-inflammatory (significant reduction of tissue edema) activities.

Damascene roses for our Blessed Mother!


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