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Feature Article

Written by Hayley Agnew

December 2023


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Rose Medicine:
Queen of the

As I write this, spring is on its way here (in Millicent, South Australia).  It feels early; though after a very wet winter (the wettest my Dad can remember in over 50 years farming the same land) the warmth is welcome, and is building in the air, the soil and the sky. It’s a wonderful time to appreciate beauty and the cycle of renewal. By the time you’re reading this, we will be in full bloom – summer beckoning us to dance.

These following notes on rose are intended as an invitation to consider more deeply what our plant allies have to share in general. We have a tendency these days to focus so much on just the physical – even modern herbal medicine has (sadly) moved in that direction - it’s all active constituents, concrete evidence and physiology. I don’t know about you, but this way of looking at our beloved plants feels so bland - like the essence of what’s important is lost.

I yearn to look and feel a little deeper,  to sink into the remembering of what our ancestors knew - that the plants have much to share.  Can we slow down enough to listen beyond our thinking mind? 

This piece is mostly about the feeling of rose - the resonance of my experience working with this plant. It is strongly influenced by my personal journey. It’s not referenced - how could I possibly? The layers of nuance to my understanding is rich – a tapestry of so many perspectives, conversations, readings etc. (I certainly don’t consider myself an expert).

I am, however, a human being that feels. If this calls to you, read on. If you need a Harvard referenced bibliography - well, I’m just not your woman. I’m so fatigued of the ‘evidence-based’, quality-controlled, sanitised, watered-down model that we are all demanded to participate in - so here is a piece that cannot be labelled purely as ‘mine’, and is certainly not ‘scientific’; but it is influenced by plants, by many people, and by the countless ways we receive, perceive and process information into our body/mind/being.

My intention here is that it simply offers you a piece of insight - something to add to your own unique understanding of what is an infinite, innately intelligent, natural world; a little flavour of mine to drop into the collective consciousness of how we know rose and her medicine…

So, let us sit with the queen of the flowers - Rose. We all know her.

I’ve journeyed more deliberately and tenderly with this plant over the last few years. I make a rose elixir each season from the glorious petals of my front garden, and have been allowing her medicine to help unwind long held tension and the armouring around my body and my heart.

I have found her to be be slow.
Her medicine was perfect for the heart weary woman I was when I moved into my new ‘old’ home as a single mother with a baby boy - a woman who at the time, was not sure how she was going to do it.

But each year, I’ve watched the roses effortlessly bloom, and this medicine has held my tender heart as it has healed, been broken again, and then expanded (again). The cycle of life and love continues as it does - held so beautifully and tenderly by this plant.

The seasonal journey of rose gives us clues to her deep medicine - the roses in my garden amaze me - every, single, year. They journey from a stark, thorny skeleton (my mum taught me to prune a rose back HARD ‘they are like weeds!” she would say) - and then within just a couple of months, they are sprouting rich purple and green leaves, ripening buds, and blooming into the most gorgeous flowers - and that’s not to forget their exquisite perfume.

Rose reminds us of our own regenerative power - that from starkness we too can bloom.

As humans, our obsession with rose is LONG. No flower in history has been linked with us in such a way as ‘Queen Rose’. Whatever you look to - be it religion, art, music, philosophy - rose has a mythic presence across cultures and civilisations.

We now have a multitude of roses we’ve developed and cultivated due to this fascination. In fact, true wild rose is now much rarer and much smaller than the roses we have become accustomed to. That said, each rose offers us unique gifts and medicine.

Rose has long been the universal floral symbol of LOVE. Given to each other by couples the world over, the intelligence of this is so often missed, but intensely appropriate. Rose cleverly reminds us that love is oftentimes wrought with thorns. If you love (and we all do), pain will also be present.

Alongside her velvety leaves and delicate petals, the thorns of rose also remind us to keep our boundaries - she shows us how to balance our softness with strength and to be discerning about who and what we allow into our space.

Rose carries the medicine of strength and softness together.

Rose shows us the duality of love and joy with grief and sadness. These things are inseparable - we cannot experience deep love without also, at some point, experiencing deep grief. This is true for all of us.

Not always known about rose, is that her medicine has the ability to unwind the stuck-ness that can happen as a result of old grief and trauma. Our bodies indeed keep score - locking in what, at the time, was too painful for us to manage. Rose slowly and gently starts to ease the tension that holds these patterns in place. I myself have felt the gentleness of rose unwinding long held pain in my body/mind. This plant has a particular affinity for the womb space - an area where many of us hold shame and trauma. Rose allows this to move, breaking up the stagnation slowly and gently.

Historically, rose has been used for anything from treating wounds, inflammation, dizziness, stomach issues, to grief and heartache. Rose is known for being an aphrodisiac, astringent, nervine, analgesic and antimicrobial; the list of attributes is extensive (and varied - depending on the source!). 

This quote sums up the energy of rose so succinctly to me:

‘Rose allows us to trust ourselves and our bodies, resulting in us being able to reach out and touch the world, but most importantly, letting the world in to touch us back’ 

~ Rebecca Altman 


Most of all, rose invites wholehearted healing.

Enjoy her - queen of the flowers.

Note: Just basking in the presence of Rose offers us messages and healing. Know though, that your own garden will bring you your own messages – listen and practice trusting what is offered.

Rose can also be used topically as an oil, consumed as rose tea or used as an essence. Rose hips are a potent source of nutrition and have their own beneficial properties.

If you are using your own, or collecting rose petals/hips, be sure they have not been sprayed with pesticides or roundup.

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