Sweetbriar by the River: A Romance in Pictures and Rose Elixir Recipe

Sweetbriar by the River: A Romance in Pictures and Rose Elixir Recipe

If I were a plant, I would be this particular plant. Not just a general Rose, but wild New Mexico Rose growing on the lush banks of the Gila’s riparian forest. Not only because the flower is exquisitely, delicately beautiful but because the Wild Rose is tough and tenacious, living through flash floods, long droughts and even cattle grazing. She smells sweet from a mile away but as soon as you get close she tries to shred your clothes and tangle in your hair. There’s something to be said for beauty with attitude.

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I’ve written an extensive monograph on the medicinal uses of Rose here, be sure to check it out if this amazingly multifaceted herb appeals to you!

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Here, the Wild Rose grows in hedges along the water, usually in the company of Alders, Wild Grapes, Evening Primrose, Blue Elder and Nettles, which is fine company indeed! The deep red of the Roses’ curving stems make it easy to pick out from other greenery even when they’re not flowering.

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Many domesticated strains of Rose are thornless or nearly so, which I think takes away from the fierce beauty and feisty personality of the original wild varieties. If you get tangled up enough in a Sweetbriar hedge, you’re likely to think the plant is a bit on the aggravated side, or even downright mean — but with fruit and flowers as sweet as they have, they certainly need to have some protective defenses.

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Most people use only the petals of Roses for medicine, but I’ve found that the leaves are also very calming and healing and use them extensively. They also have their own strong musky scent which balances out the sweeter aroma of the blooms. I find that the strongest smelling leaves are also sometimes much more calming than the flowers. Studies also show that the leaves of Roses contain the same anti-inflammatory and vasculature strengthening antioxidants as the flowers and fruit.

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Unruly, delicate, fierce, armed to the teeth, ungainly and incredibly vulnerable all describe this plant. Not so much a bundle of contradictions as a fine balance of complementary attributes. Well integrated, if you will.

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Wild Rose flowers change shape and form constantly throughout their blooming process. From the tightly furled bud to the shy unfolding to the brazen bloom to the slightly misshapen and oddly wrinkled, they are a delight to watch. And a lesson in the authenticity that real beauty is.

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The lifespan of the Wild Rose flower is a short and tumultous one – it begins a brilliant magenta and fades to nearly white when it falls from the plant. The shifting textures and colors of the petals only add to its appeal, rather than detracting from it. Every wrinkle and curl and subtle variation begets personality and character. The sweet aroma of the petal and musky scent of the leaf combined with the plants myriad, transforming shapes compound the herb’s heart opening effect.

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The medicine of the Wild Rose is in its cool touch, the way it soothes burns and infections and pain with a quick yet firm touch -  in the calm nourishment that goes right to the heart and womb, unfolding into vitality.  And in the way those thorns grab you and pull you in, bringing you face to face with magic and the present moment, even if you have to bleed a little to get the point. That’s a Rose for you – equal parts sweetness and in your face attitude.

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Wild Rose Elixir

  • 1 canning jar (or other sealable glass jar)
  • Wild Rose petals (and some leaves and buds if desired)
  • Raw honey (preferably a lighter wildflower variety since darker honeys will tend to muffle the Rose taste more. Vegetable glycerine can also be used, especially for diabetic or people who can’t have any sugar at all.)
  • Brandy (although vodka or everclear can work. If using everclear, dilute to about somewhere between 40-50% alcohol with water)

Fill jar with petals, then fill about 2/3 of the jar with alcohol, then fill the rest of the way with honey (less or more to taste). Cover and let steep in a cool, dark place for about a month.

A note on straining your elixir: You can strain the petals out and eat them separately if you like, they taste very yummy and have lots of medicine in them… you could candy them or put them on a berry flax cake or any number of other yummy things.

Use your elixir as a substitute for Rescue Remedy or whenever a calming, mood-enhancing, heart opening influence is needed. It’s also great externally for burns, bug bites, infections and wounds, along with MANY many other uses.

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All pics (c) 2009 Kiva Rose

22 Comments

  1. Sidney
    Jun 1, 2009

    Thank you Kiva! Maybe this week I will get over to the spit (in Sequim) and collect some wild roses. I must admit to being obsessively fond of my Hansa Rosa Rugosa, thorns and all; and I’m harvesting these lovely roses as they open.

  2. shamana flora
    Jun 1, 2009

    i wish i could find some round these parts, it was the best part of colorado…hillsides of wild roses! Thank you for teh pictures!

  3. Kiva Rose
    Jun 1, 2009

    Thanks for all your kind comments, Sidney…. I used to live near Sequim, I stayed on Bell Hill for a while, beautiful area.

    Darcey, it’s so weird there’s not Wild Roses there, it sure seems like they would live in the middle mountains there same as here…. Maybe you could transplant some cuttings from here to there in a nice spot?

  4. linda
    Jun 1, 2009

    Kiva,
    Would cultivated roses work instead of wild roses? I don’t have easy access to wild roses but I do have a small, pinkish-reddish rose that I planted about a year ago.

  5. WhiteWitch
    Jun 2, 2009

    Thank you so much for this post. I finally found some wild roses closish to a friend’s house, and close to the train station. They are so fragrant and so beautiful. I’ve been wanting to make some rose elixir with them. I can’t wait to return to them. Of course it takes about an hour to get there, (I don’t drive). But ahh, I don’t mind traveling a bit for the roses :D

  6. Kiva Rose
    Jun 2, 2009

    Linda – Yes, you can use domestic Roses. Depending on the spp. they can more astringents and little nervine in nature but basically, they work the same. And, the more aromatic the flower, the more effective as a nervine.

  7. Polly
    Jun 2, 2009

    Wonderful! Thank you for the whole thing! Maybe if this plant were a human, she would be this particular Kiva… : )

  8. venezia
    Jun 3, 2009

    Thank you for these wonderful pictures and text. When I make rose tincture, I cut the alcool with rose hydrolat which makes the mix stronger … and the smell is amazing. I use cultivated roses because it is only what I have. Your mexican wild roses are so beautiful…

  9. Tree
    Jun 3, 2009

    Gasp! That is me, falling in love with Wild Rose as you have described it. She sounds an awful lot like…me – unruly, delicate and fierce.

    And also, Gasp! at the lovely and brilliant photos, especially the one of you, K.

    Thank you so much.

  10. Mark
    Jun 6, 2009

    Great post! A quick question: what would happen if the alcohol percentage was a bit higher? Like in the range of 70%-80%? Would that effect the medicine quality of the tincture? Also how come you’re using honey in this one? Is it just the taste or for the medicinal purposes as well? Thanks! :)

  11. Kiva Rose
    Jun 6, 2009

    If the alcohol percentage is higher, then the tincture will taste more like alcohol ;) Usually I’m a fan of 95% alcohol for all fresh plants but with some rose family plant flowers it tends to overwhelm the delicate taste without really adding much to the medicine (unlike many other plants). But it doesn’t hurt the medicine to do a high percentage, just not my preference.

    Do you mean why did I post an elixir recipe rather than a simple tincture recipe? One, because people are more likely to pay attention to the effect and feel of the medicine if they are tasting it. Two, because honey and roses really complement each others’ medicines and seem to bring out the best in each other (and honey preserves things very well).

  12. :: wife mom maniac ::
    Jun 6, 2009

    Beautiful post, thank you

  13. Mark
    Jun 7, 2009

    Thanks Kiva! That cleared it :)

  14. Helena
    Jun 8, 2009

    Thank you for the pictures. While driving along Lake Ontario Friday night with my husband, in a small town called Putneyville, which is about 10 minutes from our house, I spotted what I thought looked like wild roses. The next morning I took a drive out and sure enough they were wild rose. The fragrance is like heaven, and the hips hung low like grape clusters. After being pricked many times over (a small price to pay but well worth it) I was able to bring some home and tincture.

    Also, was able to find earlier this year, an unsprayed peach tree, that I was able to get some leaves, bark and blossoms and tinctured.

    Thanks again for the pictures, They help tremendously!. Helena

  15. Mariahadessa
    Jun 18, 2009

    Greetings. Beautiful post. I am doing an apprenticeship with Robin Rose Bennett and rose is my ally for the year! Lucky me!!! This recipe sounds fabulous. How long can one keep this elixir?

    one love,
    Mariahadessa

  16. Kiva Rose
    Jun 19, 2009

    Made with honey, it should last for at least several years if kept in a dark bottle in a cool place :)

  17. Lisa (Calantirniel)
    Jun 22, 2009

    Wow, Kiva – YUM!! Can’t wait to try this even with the pink roses that grow in my yard here in Montana, wehew! I make rosewater often with just enough brandy to preserve, but hadn’t thought about raw honey – SWEET!!! :-) And, if I didn’t mention it, I just adore your blog! :-)

  18. Momma Jen
    Jun 23, 2009

    Love your site. Wanted to share bit of Sweet Briar medicine for the little ones: “Sweet Briar Goes to School” written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Le Uyen Pham. It is the story of a baby skunk, who’s parents think she smells so good they name her Sweet Briar, after the most fragrant of all roses. Such a sweet life she lives until it is time for going off to school. There she encounters a world where others are afraid of her, even mean to her. In time she learns to use her skunk power and her sweet nature for the good of her community.

  19. nesrine
    Feb 17, 2011

    thank you Kiva!
    i was told that my persian name
    corresponds to the name of this flower, sweetbrier.
    perhaps that explains my affinity to the magical realm of herbalism.

  20. Culebra Yoga
    Jun 18, 2011

    Hola Kiva,
    Would Agave honey work instead of bee honey?
    Gracias!

    • Kiva Rose
      Jun 18, 2011

      No, I’m afraid not, it doesn’t work as a solvent in the same way and I would never use Agave internally anyhow, due to the high fructose content.

  21. Judith Ann
    Nov 5, 2012

    Thanks for the wonderful recipe as I have these roses in my yard here in Vicuna Chile. My home is over 100 years old and I take very good care of those roses as I have been drying them for tea each year. We also don’t spray for bugs, but as I cut the flowers I was the bush with the water from the laundry that evening. I end up with thousands of these flowers and the recipe is great as I needed something to mix with the propoleo I make to taste beter, and as my daughter has bees I have wonderful honey to put on top so I did have to change the reciepe to agua diente which is the alcohol of grapes, which is from here in chile also I am sure it’s fine.
    Thank you again !
    Judith Ann

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