Updated: Nov 23
by Frances Watkins, Medical herbalist This year there is definitely an abundance of rose hips (Rosa canina L.) in the hedgerows around Hertfordshire which are now ready for picking. This bounty of hips brought back memories as a child of being given a daily spoonful of Delrosa rose hip syrup in winter and was a pleasurable experience whilst the same cannot be said for the regular weekly dose of cod liver oil...
The dog rose has a long folk tradition of being used for coughs, colds and sore throats; the high vitamin content is easily absorbed by the body and as a syrup, is a pleasant tasting medicine, is anti-inflammatory and supports the immune system. In a randomised control trial Winther et al (2018) found a daily intake of liquid rose hips (2 g) reduced the frequency of colds by 18%.
A number of randomized placebo controlled double-blind studies have also shown rose hips to be effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis exhibiting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects as well as high levels of Vitamin C (Grundwald et al, 2019).
Rose leaves and petals are used in medicinal teas (R. damascena and R. gallica) helping to stimulate the digestive system, calm the nerves, shift mucus from the lungs, and have antibacterial and antiviral activity with an enchanting perfume in both the petals and essential oil. The petals have also been used as a skin toner and gargle (Chevallier, 1996).
Rose hip syrup During World War II there was a shortage of oranges and the government encouraged the general public to make/buy rosehip syrup as a valuable source of vitamins. Many of the recipes say that you can use any hips including the large fat ones (Rosa rugosa Thunb.) although I used dog rose hips and adapted a recipe from Riverford Cottage as it uses less sugar and will last a number of months.
Recipe 500 g wild rose hips (flask shaped) 750 mL boiling water (x2) 325 g white caster sugar Blender/food mill Sterilised bottles
Gather your rose hips on a dry day and if like me, you follow the Biodynamic calendar, pick them on a fruit day and preferably late morning when the morning dew has lifted. On returning home, destalk your hips and place on a tray in the freezer for 24-48 hours. If you choose to not wash your hips, harvest from places you know have not been sprayed with chemicals.
Remove the hips from the freezer and leave to defrost at room temperature, which will take a couple of hours. Pick over the hips again removing any that are soft and pass their best along with any stalks missed earlier. Using a slicing blade in the blender gradually add the hips - short pulse blends and after 3-4 min will have a moist pulp (seeds are visible).
Bring pan of water to the boil with 750 mL of water, add the hips and return to the boil and turn off heat. Cover saucepan and leave to steep for 20 min. Pour the liquid through a jelly bag or double thickness muslin to remove the hip hairs and leave pulp to drip for at least 30 min - do not squeeze the pulp. Boil a 2nd pan of water (750 mL) and return the pulp to the water, bring to the boil and simmer for 3-5 min, switch off heat and steep 20 min and then strain as before.
Add the liquid from the 1st boil to the 2nd and strain again to make sure that there are no hairs in the liquid as these can be irritating to the throat.
Measure the liquid and for every 500 mL of juice add 325 g of sugar. Stir and bring to the boil and simmer for 5 min removing any scum that may rise to the surface. Pour into warm sterilised bottles and screw on lids. Leave to cool, label with details of contents and date bottled. Store in a cool dry place and unopened, will last 3-4 months. Once opened, the bottle should be stored in the fridge and the syrup used within 4 weeks.
Dose: 5-10 mL daily for adults, 5 mL daily for children. When you sense a cold is coming then for a short period (1-2 days), you can double the dose and drink plenty of fluids. Also a delicious topping for ice-cream and gives an added dimension to a gin and tonic!
Chevallier, A. (1996). The encylopedia of medicinal plants. London: Dorling Kindersley. Gruenwald, J., Uebelhack, R. and Irmgard More, M. (2019). Rosa canina - Rose hip pharmacological ingredients and molecular mechanic counteracting osteoarthritis - A systematic review, Phytomedicine, 60 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2019.152958
Winther, K., Warholm, L. Campbell-Tofte, J. and Marstrand, K. (2018). Effect of Rosa canina L. (Rose-hip) on cold during winter season in a middle-class population: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial, Journal of Herbal Medicine, 13, pp. 34-41https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hermed.2018.04.003