The Medicinal and Therapeutic Benefits of Rosa damascena


Introduction to Rosa damascena

Rosa damascena Mill is the hybrid between R. gallica and R. Phoenicia and is the member of Rosaceae family with more than 200 species and 18,000 cultivars around the world.

Rosa damascena is known by many different names around the world:  1

  • Damask rose
  • Rose of Castile
  • Gole Mohammadi
    • In Iran, people call this plant the Flower of Prophet Mohammed because they believe its nice aroma reminds them of prophet Mohammad

Throughout history and since ancient times, Rosa damascena has been known as the king of flowers and  has been the symbol of love, purity, faith and beauty.

Botanically, Rosa damascena is a deciduous shrub growing to 2.2 metres (7 ft 3 in) tall, the stems densely armed with stout, curved prickles and stiff bristles.

Figure 1:  The plant of R. damascena  (Source)

Chemical Components of Rosa damascena

Numerous important chemical components have been isolated and identified from the flowers, petals and hips (seed-pot) of Rosa damascena.  The following chemical components of Rosa damascena are as follows:  2

  • anthocyanins 
  • carboxylic acid
  • citrenellol
  • disiloxane
  • flavonoids
  • gallic acid
  • geranial
  • glycosides
  • heneicosane
  • kaempferol
  • myrcene
  • myricetin
  • nerol
  • phenyl ethylalcohol
  • quercetin
  • terpenes
  • vitamin C

Researchers have found up to 95 macro- and micro-components in the essential oil of Rosa damascena.  The major components of the oil are as follows:  3

  • β-citronellol (14.5-47.5%)
  • nonadecane (10.5-40.5%)
  • geraniol (5.5-18%)
  • nerol
  • kaempferol

Informational Reference:  Chemical composition of rose essential oil from different part of the world  (Source)

Cultural and Culinary Use of Rosa damascena

Rosa damascena is used throughout the world as an ornamental plant and can be found in parks, gardens and houses.  The other use of the plant is to produce perfume and medicine and is often used in the food industry.

Rosa damascena has been used in Persian, Indian and Middle Eastern cooking for centuries.  It is used as a flavouring ingredient or spice in meat dishes and sauces.  A popular use is in the preparation of desserts where it is used as a flavouring in ice cream, jam and yogurt.

Products Derived from Rosa damascena

The food industry has developed a number of products from Rosa damascena.  These various products include:  4

  • Rose oil  (volatile oil obtained by distillation of the fresh flowers of R. damascena)
  • Rose water  (contains 10-50% rose oil)
  • Dried flowers  (dried buds and petals)
  • Rose Hips  (dried or fresh rose hips)

Medicinal and Therapeutic Benefits of Rosa damascena

Rosa damascena has been a very popular substance (in its various forms) in Iranian medicine.  Various products and isolated constituents from flowers, petals and hips (seed-pot) of this plant have been studied in a variety of in vivo and in vitro studies.   5

The Table below lists the studies that have identified the various medicinal benefits from the use of the products from Rosa damascena:

The Medicinal and Therapeutic Benefits of Rosa damascena

Blood Sugar Metabolism
DiabetesOral administration of the methanol extract of this plant significantly decreased blood glucose after maltose loading in normal and diabetic rats in a dose- dependent manner. In addition, its methanol extract inhibited postprandial hyperglycemia similar to of acarbose. It was found that R. damascena is a potent inhibitor of α-glucosidase enzyme. Therefore, anti-diabetic effect of this plant maybe mediated by inhibition of α-glucosidase that suppressed carbohydrate absorption from the small intestine and can reduce the postprandial glucose level.1
ACE InhibitorA new compound named cyanidin-3-O-β-glucoside was isolated from the buds of R. damascenea. This compound can significantly suppressed angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE) activity. Because ACE is a key enzyme in production of angiotensin II, R. damascena may be effective to improve the cardiovascular function 2
Immune System
Anti-HIV In this study, anti-HIV activities of the nine compounds including a new compound 2-phenylethanol-O-(6-O-galloyl)-β-D-glucopyranoside which were purified from the methanol extract were evaluated on C8166 human T lymphoblastoid cells infected with HIV-1MN and H9 human T-cell lymphoma cells chronically infected with HIV-1IIIB. Kaempferol 1 and its 3-O-β-D-glucopyranosides 3 and 6 exhibited the greatest activity against HIV infection of C8166 cells, whereas kaempferol-7-O-β-D-glucopyranoside showed no effect. 3
AntimicrobialEssential oil and absolute have strong antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, B. subtilis, Staph. aureus, Chromobacterium violaceum and Erwinia carotovora strains.4
The essential oil of Rosa damascena petals was evaluated for its antibacterial effects against three strains of Xanthomonas axonopodis spp. vesicatoria. The essential oil may be a potential control agent in the management of the disease caused by X.a. vesicatoria in tomato and pepper plants.5
The in vitro antibacterial activities of essential oil from R. damasce were also shown by disk diffusion testing against E. coli, Staph. aureus and Ps. aeruginosa. R. damascena showed antimicrobial activity against Staph. aureus in this study 6
Anti-InflammatoryThe effect of essential oil and hydroalcoholic extract of R. damascena on rat paw edema induced by carrageenan was demonstrated. Essential oil had no anti-inflammatory effect while the extract could significantly reduce edema which maybe acted by inhibiting the mediators of acuteinflammation 7
The cytotoxicity of 10 essential oils on human prostate carcinoma cell (PC-3) was significantly stronger than on human lung carcinoma (A549) and human breast cancer (MCF-7) cell lines8
Lung cancerThe results of the present study suggest that G-SNPs can be synthesized rapidly within first minute of the reaction; they are biocompatible and possess anticancer activity against human lung adenocarcinoma.9
Pancreatic cancerThus, farnesol, geraniol, and perillyl alcohol suppress pancreatic tumor growth without significantly affecting blood cholesterol levels. These dietary isoprenoids warrant further investigation for pancreatic cancer prevention and treatment.10
Given similar findings in this cell line and in BxPC-3 human pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells, we conclude that the chemotherapeutic isoprenoid compounds perillyl alcohol, farnesol, and geraniol invoke a p21(Cip1)- and p27(Kip1)-dependent antiproliferative mechanism in human pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells.11
Colon cancerGeraniol caused a 50% decrease of ornithine decarboxylase activity, a key enzyme of polyamine biosynthesis, which is enhanced in cancer growth. This led to a 40% reduction of the intracellular pool of putrescine. Geraniol also activated the intracellular catabolism of polyamines, indicated by enhanced polyamine acetylation. These observations indicate that polyamine metabolism is presumably a target in the antiproliferative properties of geraniol12
Rheumatoid arthritisTo investigate if standardised powder made from rose-hip (Rosa canina) can reduce the symptom score in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The results indicate that patients with RA may benefit from additional treatment with rose hip powder.13
AntioxidantThe antioxidant activity of methanolic extracts from fresh flowers of three rose species (Rosa damascena, Rosa bourboniana and Rosa brunonii) was evaluated by 1,1-diphenyl-2-picryl hydrazyl (DPPH) free-radical method.14
The total phenolic contents were 276.02±2.93mg gallic acid equivalent (GAE)/g in FF (fresh flower) extract and 248.97±2.96mg GAE/g in SF (spent flower) extract. FF and SF extracts showed 74.51±1.65 and 75.94±1.72% antiradical activities at 100ppm. The antioxidant activity of FF extract (372.26±0.96mg/g) was higher than that of SF extract (351.36± 0.84mg/g).15
The objective of the present study was to evaluate antioxidant and free radical scavenging activity of various extracts of Rose flower petals.The ethanol extract of fresh and dried petals showed lowest IC50 values than the acetone extract when evaluated by DPPH, ABTS, peroxynitrite inhibition, xanthine oxidase inhibition, superoxide scavenging and lipid peroxidation inhibition methods indicating good free radical scavenging activity. The present study has demonstrated that ethanol extract of fresh Rose flower petals exhibit potent antioxidant and free radical scavenging activities. 16
Anti-aging effectsThe effects of a rose-flower extract, Rosa damascena, on the mortality rate of Drosophila melanogaster was evaluated in this study. R. damascena is a potent antioxidant that has many therapeutic uses in addition to its perfuming effects. Supplementing Drosophila with this rose extract resulted in a statistically significant decrease in mortality rate in male and female flies. Moreover, the observed anti-aging effects were not associated with common confounds of anti-aging properties, such as a decrease in fecundity or metabolic rate.17
AMPK ActivatorIncreased AMPK activity is seen with trans- tiliroside, extracted from plants such as rose hips. Trans- tiliroside also boosts AMPK signaling18
Hypnotic effectRosa damascena has been found to act on central nervous system including brain. It inhibits the reactivity of the hypothalamous and pituitary systems in rat. In traditional medicine hypnotic effect of Rose is also suggested.19
Analgesic effectThe analgesic activity of hydroalcoholic extract and essential oil of R. damascene in acetic acid formalin and tail flick tests in mice demonstrated that essential oil of the plant failed to show any analgesic effect. However, hydroalcoholic extract has a potent analgesic effect in acetic acid and formalin tests and no effect on tail flick test 20
Amyloid beta inhibitionWe recently observed that the chloroform extract of the Rosa damascena significantly induced the neurite outgrowth activity and inhibited the Aβ(25-35)-induced atrophy and cell death.21
AnticonvulsantThe flavonoids of Rosa damascena may act via GABAA receptors as previous studies have proposed for flavonoids of other medicinal plants. More detailed studies are recommended to define the effective component(s) of Rosa on different types of epilepsy.22
MemoryThe results of this study showed that the hydroalcoholic extract of R. damascena prevents scopolamine-induced memory deficits. This finding suggests that memory improvement may be in part due to the antioxidant effects.23
Acetylcholinesterase inhibitorAccording to the obtained results, the order of inhibitory activity (IC50 values, μg /ml) of extracts from highest to the lowest was: C. sinensis (5.96), C. aurantifolia (19.57), Z. vulgaris (24.37), B. nigra (84.30) and R. damascena (93.1). The results indicated and confirmed the traditional use of these herbs for management of central nervous system disorders. C. sinensis showed the highest activity in inhibition of acetylcholinesterase. However, further investigations on identification of active components in the extracts are needed.24
Memory and neurogenesisThis study investigated the effect of Rosa damascena extract on neurogenesis and synaptogenesis in an animal model of AD. Molecular, cellular, and behavioral experiments revealed that this treatment could induce neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity and improve memory in AD. Our study suggests that R. damascena is a promising treatment for mild memory impairments and AD.25
Respiratory System
the effect of ethanolic extract and essential oil on tracheal smooth muscle of guinea pigs contracted by KCl and methacholine were studied. The results showed a potent relaxant effect of extract and essential oil that was comparable to that of theophylline 26


Rose oil

Rose water

Dried Rose flowers (buds)

Rose hips (seedless)

Rose hips (powder)

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