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Rose Oil and Water: Production, Uses, and Interesting Facts

The Damask rose, or Rosa damascena, is frequently used for oil extraction.

The Damask rose, or Rosa damascena, is frequently used for oil extraction.

Beautiful and Important Flowers

Roses have been loved and valued flowers since ancient times. The beautiful appearance and scent of many species are widely admired. Roses are useful as well as ornamental. Their petals make fragrant and attractive decorations. They are also used to make a scented oil and water. These products are added to perfumes, cosmetics, foods, and drinks. In addition, the oil and the water play an important role in some religious ceremonies.

Gardeners and flower enthusiasts can choose from a huge variety of cultivated roses that have a wide range of colors and bloom appearances. The oil and water are traditionally made from the distillation of Damask rose petals, but they can also be made from other roses that have a strong fragrance. The oil and the water can be bought in some stores. They can also be made at home, although homemade products may not be as strongly scented as commercial ones.

Roses are a symbol of love and beauty. They are also useful.

Roses are a symbol of love and beauty. They are also useful.

The Lovely Damask Rose Group

The term "Damask rose" is often used in the singular but actually refers to a group of related plants that grow as shrubs. The flowers are red, pink, or white and have a variety of forms. Two broad types of Damask roses currently exist—the Summer Damasks and the Autumn ones. The flowering period of the Autumn Damasks extends through the summer into the fall, while the Summer Damasks bloom only in summer.

The scientific name of the Damask rose is written as Rosa damascena or as Rosa X damascena. The X between the genus (the first word of the scientific name) and the species (the second word in the name) indicates that the plant is a hybrid. It’s thought to have originated in the Middle East, although another theory suggests that it was created in Ancient Rome. It's named after the city of Damascus, the capital of Syria.

The rose is famous for its beautiful fragrance. The petals are edible (provided the plant is identified correctly and hasn't been sprayed with pesticides) and are used to decorate or flavor food. They are also used to create an infusion or tea. The petals are sometimes crystallized with sugar to preserve them and are eaten later.

More Damask roses

More Damask roses

Lawn as white as driven snow;

Cyprus black as e'er was crow;

Gloves as sweet as damask roses

— Song by Autolycus in "A Winter's Tale" by William Shakespeare, Act IV, Scene Four

Damask Rose Production

Oil is often extracted from the Damask rose, though other species are sometimes used for the process. The main producers of oil from Damask roses are Bulgaria and Turkey. The oil is also made in India and France. Bulgaria has an annual rose festival to celebrate the flower and its meaning to the country. The festival started in 1903 and still occurs. It's held in the first weekend of June.

The variety of Damask rose grown commercially in Bulgaria is called the Kazanlak rose after the town with the same name. The town is located near the Rose Valley, a prime area for growing the plants. Rose oil production plays an important role in Kazanlak's economy. The town is the location of the rose festival and contains a museum dedicated to the flower.

Oil Extraction From Petals

Rose oil is also called attar of rose, attar of roses, rose otto, or rose absolute. The first three names refer to the extract obtained by the steam distillation of the petals. Rose absolute is obtained by solvent extraction.

The various extraction methods are described below. They are used to obtain essential oils and aromatic compounds from other flowers and herbs in addition to roses. The plant kingdom has much to offer us in terms of useful chemicals.

A lovely flower in the rain

A lovely flower in the rain

Steam Distillation

In steam distillation, rose petals are added to water in a still, which is usually made of copper. The water-rose petal mixture is heated by steam flowing around the outside of the copper container. The heat causes the water and the volatile flower oil to evaporate. The vapor is then passed through a cooling apparatus. This causes it to change from a gas to a liquid.

The oil floats on top of the water in the condensed liquid, so the two materials can be separated easily. The oil has a light green color. The water component of the condensed liquid is called a rose hydrosol or rose water. It may be distilled again to extract aromatic compounds, which are added to the oil, or it may be used as a product in its own right. Sometimes the water condensed in the second distillation is sold as rose water instead of the water produced in the first one.

Solvent Extraction

Solvent extraction removes more of the aromatic compounds from rose petals than the steam distillation method. In addition, the extract contains a stronger fragrance because the chemicals that cause the aroma of the flower aren't damaged by heat. There is a drawback to the solvent extraction method, however. Hexane is often used as the solvent. A very small amount of hexane may remain in the final product. This may be a concern, since the chemical is toxic. Rose oil manufacturers claim that the amount of solvent residue is insignificant, though.

Hexane extracts waxes and pigments from the petals in addition to the aromatic oil. Once the hexane is removed, a soft, waxy solid known as rose concrete is produced. Alcohol is added to the concrete to dissolve the aromatic compounds without dissolving the waxes. Much of the alcohol is then evaporated from the liquid, producing rose absolute. This substance is red-brown in color.

Pink roses near my home

Pink roses near my home

Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Use

A third method of rose oil extraction is sometimes used. It combines the benefits of both the steam distillation method and the solvent extraction one while removing some of their disadvantages. The extraction method removes many of the chemicals that contribute to the rose fragrance and also uses a safe substance, though the conditions under which the chemical is used need to be safe as well.

The chemical that’s required is carbon dioxide. It’s applied to the petals at a pressure and temperature that enable it to reach a supercritical state. In this state, carbon dioxide is a fluid (a substance that is able to flow) but is neither a gas nor a liquid. It has some properties of each state, however. Supercritical carbon dioxide removes aromatic compounds from the petals without damaging the compounds.

Safety Procedures for Home Recipes

A rose oil with a much milder fragrance than that produced by commercial methods can be made at home by the oil infusion method. Dried and crushed petals can be added to a carrier oil and left to soak in the oil for four weeks. It's important to watch out for mold and other contamination in the infused oil.

Safety when collecting plants and making products from them at home is a major concern. It's important to identify the plants correctly and to investigate their potential effects on humans. The plants should be free from pesticides and pollutants. Equipment, surfaces, and hands used to make products must be clean. In addition, the products should be preserved and stored safely.

Many roses have thorns. Though these structures are widely referred to as thorns, they are technically prickles. A thorn is a modified stem, while a prickle is simply an extension of the plant’s surface tissues. Care is needed when inspecting rose prickles, whatever they are called.

Uses of Rose Oil

Rose oil is a complex substance and contains many different chemicals. It's in high demand in the perfume industry and is used to flavor chocolate, jam, and liqueurs. It's also used in cosmetics, in massage oils, and in aromatherapy.

The oil is popular in alternative medicine and is said to have many health benefits. Most of these claims haven't been tested scientifically. There is evidence that rose oil may have anti-inflammatory properties, however. There is also evidence that it may be antibacterial and antifungal, though these abilities seem to depend to at least some extent on the type of rose and the type of bacterium or fungus. Further research is needed to prove that the abilities are applicable in the human body.

The oil is said to relieve stress and anxiety when it's added to a hot bath or massaged on the skin. The beautiful scent would certainly add to the enjoyment of these activities, even if the oil itself isn't responsible for the stress relief. The container of rose oil should be designed for cosmetic purposes. In addition, the product shouldn't be used on young children. The reason why is described below.

Rose Oil Safety

The Government of Canada is investigating the safety of rose oil. Their investigation is not finished, but when this article was last updated they said that they are proposing that rose oil is not harmful to the environment and exposure to rose oil in food does not pose a health risk.

The Canadian government also said that the use of body lotions containing rose oil on infants and toddlers may affect their red blood cells and their spleen. It's advisable to avoid using the oil on the skin of these age groups until the investigation is finished. The government has said that the label on containers of rose products should be read carefully. This sounds like an excellent idea for everyone.

Rose Water Production and Uses

Commercial rose water is a by-product of the steam distillation of the petals. It consists of water and water-soluble chemicals that contribute to the fragrance of the flowers. It's easy to make rose water at home by boiling the petals in water.

The product is a popular additive to foods, especially in some countries and cultures. It's often used to flavor sweets and candies, such as marshmallows and Turkish delight. The latter treat is a gelatinous candy covered with powdered sugar. I think it's delicious and have enjoyed it since childhood. Rose water may also be added to baked goods, such as cookies and scones, desserts such as rice pudding, yogurt, and ice cream, and beverages such as milk and tea.

The product is used as a perfume in some religious ceremonies and is sometimes added to cosmetics. Glycerin and rose water is a popular moisturizer, for example. Glycerin is sometimes made from plant oil but may come from animal fat. Some people might want to discover the source of the glycerin in a product before they purchase it.

Attractive Flowers and Useful Products

I think it's wonderful that roses can be not only beautiful but also useful. Nature and plant breeding techniques have created lovely single-petaled and double-petaled roses with a wide variety of colors. Some of these flowers have a delightful scent and are interesting to explore. Producing rose oil and water allows us to capture the fragrance of the flowers for use in many different products and enables us to enjoy the scent all year.

Although the oil and water can be helpful substances, they should be used in recommended amounts. Excessive quantities should be avoided. Many substances are safe in certain amounts but not in others. If this precaution is followed, roses can be useful as well as attractive flowers, and the products made from them can be enjoyed for multiple reasons.


  • Rose types explained by BBC Gardener's World magazine (The article includes facts about Damask roses.)
  • "Turkish rose farmers struggle to keep tradition alive" from Reuters
  • Rose facts and oil production in Bulgaria from the Rose Festival Kazanlak website
  • "Thyme oil can inhibit COX2 and suppress inflammation" from the news service (This article refers to rose oil as well as thyme oil.)
  • "Anti-inflammatory properties of rose oxide" from the National Institutes of Health or NIH (Abstract)
  • Antibacterial and antifungal activity of damask rose oil from ResearchGate
  • "Tocopherol, carotene, phenolic contents and antibacterial properties of rose essential oil, hydrosol and absolute" from the National Institutes of Health (Abstract)
  • Safety of rose oil for a specific age group from the Government of Canada

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2013 Linda Crampton


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 31, 2013:

Thank you very much for the vote. the shares and the angels, pstraubie! I appreciate them all. It is surprising how useful roses can be!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 31, 2013:

Wow, I had no idea. I learned so much from this. And I guess I have had my head buried in the sand but did not know that it was used in foods!!! Pinned, voted up, and shared.

Well done...Angels are on the way to you this afternoon. ps

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 11, 2013:

Thanks, RTalloni. I agree with you - roses are wonderful!

RTalloni on July 11, 2013:

Thanks for this interesting look at rose petal oil and water. I enjoyed learning more about the making and use of these wonderful blooms.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 30, 2013:

Thanks, DDE. I appreciate your comment. Roses are certainly beautiful!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 30, 2013:

Extraordinary and so well researched on roses, I prefer roses to most other plants and flowers.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 21, 2013:

Thank you very much for the comment, Naomi's Banner. I love the fragrant roses best of all, too. Fragrance and beauty are wonderful in a flower!

Naomi's Banner from United States on June 21, 2013:

Great Hub! I love roses. I have many and I too love the fragrant ones. Roses bring back lots of wonderful memories of my grandfather and grandmother who raised prize roses. They taught me a lot about roses and getting the most out of your rosé plants. This is very awesome as I now know how to use the pedals to make very useful products. I thank you for your time in creating this very informative Hub! Great job!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 21, 2013:

Hi, Deb. Thanks for the comment. That's an interesting thought - rose water might attract some birds!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 21, 2013:

Thank you very much, Nell. I appreciate your vote and the share. The rose and the oil do have lovely names. I haven't thought of the idea before, but you're right - the names do remind me of a historical novel!

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on June 21, 2013:

This was really interesting. I think I might try making a rose water. After all, it is very pure, and it might even bring some birds to me.

Nell Rose from England on June 21, 2013:

Fascinating hub Alicia, I love roses, and the Damask rose is such an ancient name, it conjures up old historical novels as does attar of rose. I never realised how the extraction process worked, so this was really interesting, wonderful hub, voted and shared! nell

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 20, 2013:

Thank you very much for the comment and the share, Sue! Putting fragrant rose petals in a bath sounds like a lovely idea. I hope you have a great visit with your daughter.

Susan Bailey from South Yorkshire, UK on June 20, 2013:

What a marvellous hub Alicia! I'm staying at my daughters at the moment and she has some wonderfully fragrant roses in her garden. I was smelling them today. I might put some of the petals in my bath tomorrow. Voted up and shared

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 19, 2013:

Thank you so much for the kind comment, the vote and the share, Faith Reaper!

Faith Reaper from southern USA on June 19, 2013:

Beautiful and useful hub here! I have heard of rose water, but that is about it. Excellent write.

Voted up ++++ and sharing

Blessings, Faith Reaper

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 19, 2013:

Thank you very much, Tom. I appreciate your comment and votes!

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on June 19, 2013:

Hi my friend great informative article on a very beautiful flower, some of it i did not know before so thanks for sharing this information within this well written article.

Vote up and more !!!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 18, 2013:

Thank you very much for the comment, drbj. Roses are beautiful flowers, and I love all the differently types that have been created. Rose oil and rose water are lovely products, too!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on June 18, 2013:

Roses are among my favorite flowers, Alicia, so I thank you doubly for this lovely essay about their beauty and various uses.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 18, 2013:

Thank you very much, Bill. As always, I appreciate your visit, as well as the vote, the share and the pin!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on June 18, 2013:

Great hub Alicia. Who doesn't love the rose. I had no idea that you could extract oil from the rose and all of the uses for it. And I thought it was just for looking at? Thank you once again for the education. Voted up, shared and pinned.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 18, 2013:

Thank you very much, Joanne! I appreciate your visit.

Joanne M Olivieri on June 18, 2013:

All of this information is wonderful. The videos are extremely helpful as well. Great hub.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 18, 2013:

Thanks for the comment and for passing on the information to Bev, Bill! I hope you have an excellent day in Washington.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 18, 2013:

Great information about one of my favorite flowers. I can't grow them well but I love their fragrance. I'll pass this on to Bev, who loves this type of information.

Have a great day in BC my friend.