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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All pics (c) 2009 Kiva Rose