Words on Wellness: 5 Pink Petals
As we enjoy the many beautiful garden roses of the summer season, it’s easy to overlook our native Rosa californica. The fragrant flowers of this rose are pale lavender or bright pink, open-faced with only five petals, unlike the multi-petaled multi-colored cultivars. The shrub can form four-foot thickets near streams and moist soils below 6000ft from Oregon to Northern Baja. Flowers appear from May to November and attract many different kinds of pollinator insects. Settlers used them in folk recipes for butter, perfume, candy, jelly, and tea. Its soft sweet petals were mashed in cool water by indigenous peoples to make a drink for colic, teething and constipation in babies. The petals were also dried and crushed to make baby powder and the rosehips formed after bloom, were dried and stored as food.
Rose hips are packed with vitamin C and still used to treat colds, sore throats, fevers and kidney problems. All rosehips contain beta carotene, lycopene and other flavonoids that protect blood vessels and skin from oxidation. Since rose is anti-inflammatory, the oil extracted from the hips use helpful in treating sunburns, rosacea and other red-hot skin conditions. Indigenous peoples also used rose root and petal powder as a laxative. The leaves can be steeped for tea that is sweetened by the petals. Both rose leaves and hips contain tocopherols related to vitamin E.
While rose water can soothe some rashes, the favorite remedy for poison oak rash is manzanita leaf, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. Native Pomo cooked manzanita leaves to make a soothing tea, which was applied to dry oozing, blistered skin. The leaves can be tinctured for 2-4 weeks in witch hazel or apple cider vinegar to relieve itching and cool the inflammation. Manzanita leaves are also antimicrobial, diuretic, antiseptic and effective in treating ordinary urinary tract infections. This plant makes maroon-colored berries that are rich in antioxidants, containing three times more than blueberries do! Manzanita berries were considered an important food additive and used as an aspic, a thickener, or a sweetener to other foods. When the berries are hard and dry, they can be crushed to collect a sweet powder used in baking. They can also be soaked and simmered briefly in plenty of water to make a refreshing tea that can be sweetened with rose petals and honey.