Rose water is a fragrant, slightly sweet liquid made from rose petals and added to an array of dishes. It’s common in Arabic and Mediterranean cuisine, where it is often added to sweet dishes to give them an aromatic punch. It has a unique and very subtle taste that has to be tried to be understood, but what about health benefits? Can consuming rose water be beneficial to your health? And if not, is it in any way harmful?
In this guide, we’ll answer those questions and more before showing you how to make and use this ingredient yourself.
The Health Benefits of Rose Water
We’ve talked about rose hips at length on this site and discussed how they can provide a number of health benefits. Rose hips contain many concentrated nutrients and antioxidants and can benefit you in many ways. The same can’t be said for rose water, though—at least not to the same degree.
Rose water is basically just water with an essence of rose petal, and it’s something that you typically consume in small amounts. As a result, the benefits should be minimal. However, there have been some interesting studies on this ingredient, suggesting rose water can help to:
Improve Skin Health
When added to a spray bottle, rose water makes for a great natural moisturiser—one that can protect, hydrate, and cleanse your skin. You can spray it on your face to revitalise your skin after a long day, or you can use it in place of a cleanser or toner. If you make it yourself (more on that below), it can be both a cheap and effective alternative to expensive toners and cleanses, but the stuff you find in stores (especially here in the United Kingdom) tends to be a little more expensive.
Some studies have suggested that rose water has anti-ageing properties, which is why rose petals, or extracts made from them, are often added to anti-ageing formulas. However, this research is far from concrete, and it’s best to think of it as just a refreshing and affordable cleanser.
A handful of studies have shown rose water and other rose petal extracts to be effective in treating minor digestive issues and speeding up digestion when consumed with or shortly after a meal. The effects are slight, at best, but still notable when you consider how safe and easy to acquire rose water is.
This is a very interesting and surprising health benefit, but according to a 2011 study, rose water may reduce headaches when used as a spray or compress. It’s likely that the scent of the rose water, much like the scent of lavender, has a relaxing and soothing effect on the mind and that this is what’s helping reduce the pain of headaches. (1)
Fight Bacterial Infections and Hasten Healing
The study cited above also notes that rose water possesses antibacterial effects and may help hasten the healing process when applied to minor wounds. It may also help with acne scars, burn scars, and even stretch marks, although in such cases the improvements are likely to be minor.
Increase Antioxidant Levels
Rose water, like most natural, plant-based ingredients, contains a number of antioxidants, which can protect cells from damage and reduce the risk of a number of chronic diseases. A small amount of this fragrant extract added to the occasional meal could boost your antioxidant consumption and improve your overall health as a result.
Is It Good For You?
Rose water contains only a few trace nutrients, but it possesses some healthy compounds that are responsible for its antioxidant and soothing effects. It’s also widely tolerated, with few to no side effects when consumed in moderation.
It’s not going to drastically improve your health, and we wouldn’t recommend forcing it down your throat if you don’t like the taste, or spraying it on your face if you can’t abide the smell, but if you enjoy the taste and smell, then these benefits are a welcome bonus.
How to Make Your Own Rose Water
You can make your own rose water without any distillation. Just grab a bunch of fresh or dried rose petals (make sure they’re organic and untreated, as you don’t want to transfer any pesticides or perversities to your water) and add to a pan of water. Bring to a boil, simmer, and then leave to cool.
You can add drops of essential oils if you’re not going to eat it. Lavender works well if you’re using it as a relaxing spray, while thyme or rosemary oils work well for skin cleansers. Just don’t add too much—a couple drops should be enough.
Once the liquid has cooled and the essence of the petals has leeched into the water, just drain and prepare. You can add the resulting liquid to a spray bottle or jar and then store in the fridge for later use. As it’s a simple water infusion and doesn’t contain any preservatives, make sure you keep it cold and use within a couple weeks.
You can make the rose water as weak or as strong as you want, but generally 1 part dried petals to 6 parts water, or 1 part fresh petals to 3 parts water, is a good guide.
How to Use It
Rose water works really well in desserts and with fruit. One of the best and simplest ways to enjoy this ingredient is to chop up some strawberries, add a tiny sprinkling of sugar, and then drizzle rose water. Leave the strawberries in the fridge to macerate and then enjoy a few hours later. It’s a sweet, fragrant, and rich dish that only takes a few moments to prepare and is good for you.
You can also add rose water to herbal tea to bring out more flavour. It’s a common ingredient used in hibiscus tea concoctions, and it should also work well in stronger herbal teas, such as those made from potent herbs like oregano.
Of course, you don’t need to eat it or drink it to experience its benefits. As mentioned already, you can make a cleansing spray from rose water, as well.