Dog Rose (Rosa canina) is an indigenous herb to Europe, found in hedgerows, scrub, woods and wasteland. In autumn the arching stems with downy hooked thorns bear clusters of ‘flask-shaped’ scarlet fruit known as rose hips. These floral superfoods make eye-catching bait for birds, bursting with autumn and winter medicine for our homes. Be sure to share in this harvest with the local wildlife as they are rich in therapeutic uses!
High in vitamin C, the therapeutic uses for rose hips are many, with a plethora of tonic and antioxidant properties that work in synergy with a variety of vitamins and minerals.
They are anti-inflammatory, astringent (drying), stomachic (strengthening digestion), nervine (strengthening and nourishing the nervous system) and nutritive, with sour and cooling qualities. These actions make it a useful food and medicine for colder times of the year, used internally for natural relief of colds, sore throat, influenza, blocked chest and minor infectious diseases. Their long list of benefits includes easing chronic inflammation, offering pain relief, and helping cool the body to lower a fever. They can also help control diarrhoea and gastritis, and they act as a dietary supplement. They may help to eliminate waste, support the immune system, soothe nerves, relieve insomnia and lift depression, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Culinary use of rose hips include wine making, vinegar, jam, jelly, syrup, soup and tea. They’re also used in a nutritional syrup supplement (especially for babies) which is sometimes added to cough mixtures, and used to flavour medicines. Extracts are added to vitamin C tablets, food supplements, herbal remedies and herb teas. As you can see, rose hips have a great deal to offer in our autumn and winter medicine cabinet.
Here is a simple recipe you can safely carry out at home. It’s a fun project to do with children to help raise awareness of using nature to improve health, and it’s seasonally relevant between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice.
- Bag or basket
- Sharp knife
- Metric measuring cup
- 1L Pyrex jug
- Muslin cloth
- Conical measure
- 100 ml or bigger amber bottles with plastic caps (vinegar tends to rust lids otherwise)
to yield approximately 600 ml:
• Identify and pick the rose hips in late autumn when the hips are bright red, soft and fleshy.
• Wash the rose hips, discard anything damaged and let an adult slit the skins using a sharp knife.
• Measure 1 cup of slit rose hips to 2 cups of room temperature ACV.
• Place the rose hips into a 1L sterilised pyrex jug and cover with ACV, leaving head room for the rose hips to swell.
• Cover and label the project with: name of plant, plant part, menstruum (the liquid ingredient) e.g ACV and date.
• Macerate (soak in a liquid) for two weeks to one month (you may like to follow the path and cycle of the new or full moon); locate in a dark place at room temperature and stir daily with a wooden spoon.
• Strain the acetum (a preparation having vinegar as the solvent) through a muslin cloth to remove seeds and irritant hairs. Discard the marc (left over herbal material).
• Return the crude acetum into a pyrex jug, cover and allow to settle overnight.
• The next day, filter and decant ready for use into sterilised amber bottles, cap and label as previously done and store in a cool dark place (shelf life six months).
The recommended dosage is 5 ml three times daily before a main meal (neat or in 30ml of filtered water) to benefit from the ACV digestive tract tonic qualities. This recipe can be added to cooking e.g marinades and salad dressings, and is non-toxic and tolerated by most people including those who are alcohol sensitive. If you experience any adverse side effects such as loose stools which can be associated with excess vitamin C, stop taking the remedy for a day and reintroduce it at half the recommended amount.
It is always good to consult a qualified herbalist before self-administering herbal medicine, especially if you are pregnant, breast feeding, have a diagnosis and/or taking prescription pharmaceutical drugs. For example, research indicates that rose hips have the potential to reduce blood glucose levels, which can be suitable for treating diabetes. However, large doses administered to those with hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) may cause side effects. The seeds also consist of short hairs which may irritate one
internally. If you are susceptible to irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel disease please take care to strain the liquid sufficiently. Rose hips are generally considered safe for use with children, convalescents, and the elderly. If you miss harvest time, you can of course buy rose hip syrups, powders and tonics throughout the autumn and winter from your herbal supplier!
When foraging for wild food or medicine, please be sure to identify plant species correctly, harvest away from polluted areas such as busy roads and industry, or
where they might have been sprayed. Remember to leave some autumn and winter food for wildlife!
One of my favourite hedgerow medicine guides for wild food and herbal medicine identification is Hedgerow Medicine: Harvest and Make your own Herbal Remedies by Julie Bruton-Seal
Also read Herbal Healers by Glennie Kindred
And Natural Home Remedies by Melissa Corkhill
Emma Schade-Stylli has always felt a deep connection to nature and the cycle of the seasons, with a passionate interest in exploring the science and healing art of plant based medicine. Having graduated in Naturopathy and Herbal Medicine from CNM, Emma practices as a naturopath, herbalist and holistic lifestyle coach. CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine) offers Diploma Courses, Short Courses and Postgraduate Courses in a range of natural therapies, all based on a naturopathic approach to health. For the full range of courses, visit www.naturopathy-uk.com