The Rose – Love, Beauty, Life

I asked the rose, ‘From whom did you steal that beauty?’
The rose laughs softly out of shame, but how should she tell? – Rumi

Why on earth am I writing on roses? Hasn’t there been enough written about them, used in imagery a million times over and poetry galore? My reluctance to write about roses has included my avoidance to photograph them. Don’t get me wrong I adore roses and love to have them in my house and as I’m writing, there is a bunch of blush pink hybrids in a vase standing right next to me. The rose is all too perfect:  it is beautiful with a divine fragrance and is so versatile being used in cosmetics, as perfume, healing, cooking, aromatherapy and as a medicinal plant.  It is an ancient symbol of love and beauty. A sacred symbol in Islam and Christianity.

In Christianity, the five petals of the rose symbolise the five wounds of Christ.

Rosa gallicaThere are over 100 species of wild roses, most are native to Asia, with smaller numbers from Europe, North America, and northwest Africa. The vast range of today’s rose varieties evolved by cross-breeding roses of different varieties and with those traded across continents and countries. Jennifer Potter, horticultural historian, gives us an insight into the cultural history of this beautiful flower in her book ‘The Rose’  that takes us on a journey from Greek and Roman empires, through Europe, the Middle East to China.

In the West, wild and cultivated roses were mentioned to have medicinal properties by the ancient Greeks in De Materia Medica . Prepared in various ways they were used to ease sore eyes, ears and gums, aches and pains, inflammations, wounds or used in cosmetics.

In aromatherapy, rose essential oils are produced from Rosa damascena or Rosa centifolia by steam distillation (Rose otto) or through solvent extraction (Rose absolute).  The latter is the preferred choice for perfumes as this method isolates more efficiently the odorous components of the flower. Rose essential oil has a soothing effect on the emotions and can be used to ease depression or grief, it lifts the heart and addresses nervous tension and stress. Used topically, it is indicated for dermatitis, wounds and wrinkles. It has antiviral and antiseptic properties and research has shown it to be effective to treat chronic bronchitis.

The by-product of steam distillation is rosewater, a floral water which is also known as a hydrolate. Rosewater contains all water-soluble constituents of rose flowers.

A scene in the movie Farewell, My Queen, shows French queen Marie-Antoinette use rosewater on one of her servants to ease itching from insect bites. ‘Interesting’ I thought, ‘must look this up’ …  and indeed rosewater is indicated to be cooling and soothing for itchy skin infections. You can also use it externally for eye infections, burns and take internally to calm anxiety and stress.

IMG_4945One of the wild roses native to Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia is Rosa canina, commonly known as Dog Rose. For medicinal use leaves, flower petals and the rose hips are gathered seasonally to make tea, fruit puree, jelly, liqueur, wine or rosewater. High in Vitamin C, its rose hips are used to strengthen the immune system to fend against colds, flu and seasonal tiredness.

There is a difference between the fragrant floral water of roses and the flower essence of Wild Rose. The latter is a vibrational preparation of the flower in water without taste or scent. Flower essences are predominantly used to balance emotional states.

The Bach flower essence of Wild Rose Rosa canina is for those experiencing apathy, a lack of interest and ambition. There is a resignation and inner capitulation towards life. Edward Bach writes on the properties of this essence: ‘Those without apparently sufficient reason become resigned to all that happens, and just glide through life, take it as it is, without any effort to improve things and find some joy. They have surrendered to the struggle to life without complaint.’

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? -Mary Oliver 

The positive potential of Wild Rose flower essence is to regain the zest for life, to embrace it fully and feel an inner freedom and vitality.

© Annette Zerrenthin, 2013.

M. Scheffer. The Encyclopedia of Bach Flower Therapy. Healing Arts Press, 2001.
Dr. U. Kuenkele, T.R. Lohmeyer. Herbs For Healthy Living. Parragon, 2007.
J. Potter. The Rose. Atlantic Books, 2010.
W. Sellar. The Directory of Essential Oils. Vermillion, 2001.
D. Wabner. Aromatherapie. Urban & Fischer, 2012.

Sweet Violet

A violet in the youth of primy nature,
Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
The perfume and suppliance of a minute.
Shakespeare in  ‘Hamlet’

Violets are in bloom right now in the cool Melbourne mid-winter. My discovery of their return into flower the other day was not by seeing them but smelling their fragrance when walking past … then the remembering … ahh, the violets!! … and my trying to slow down my step to indulge in their sweet scent.

Violets Viola odorata are native to Europe and Asia but are now cultivated across the world.  Who wouldn’t grow a violet for  their wonderful scent,  health benefits and culinary use?

In the beautifully illustrated book ‘wild kochen’ Anette Eckmann uses her violets in recipes for making  tea, a vinaigrette, candied violet flowers or liqueur. The web shares many recipes for candied violets and violet syrup to flavour ice creams, cakes or sparkling wine.


Violets were mentioned  as an important medicinal plant as far back in history as the first century AD. The whole plant – leaves, flowers and roots are used in herbal healing for their constituents of saponins, salicylic acid glycosides, essential oils, mucilage and alkaloids (odoratin, violin).

Treatments include bronchitis, lung diseases, coughs, influenza, skin diseases (ulcers, rashes, pimples) wounds, rheumatic complaints. The soothing mucilage of violet leaves, flowers and roots acts as a decongestant in the lungs and throat and opens blocked sinuses. It is helpful for hay fever, sneezing and itchy eyes.

In homeopathy viola odorata is used as a remedy for earache, eye diseases and whooping cough.


The expensive essential oil made either from the flowers or leaves of violets is cleansing to the kidneys and decongestive to the lower body, speak it has laxative properties. It is beneficial for the respiratory tract, soothes inflammation of the throat and has been found to have painkilling properties. It balances the emotions, helps with anxiety and nervous exhaustion.


So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them. ~ Sylvia Plath


This quote by Sylvia Plath describes so well the person who could benefit from the harmonising qualities of Violet flower essence (Flower Essence Society). Violet is for the person with profound shyness, being aloof, reserved and with a fear of being submerged in groups. It brings about harmonising qualities of having a highly perceptive sensibility, an elevated spiritual perspective and the ability to share with others while remaining true to self.

Just as the hidden violets come out to shine with their powerful fragrance when warmed by sunshine, so may the flower essence help a reserved person to feel comfortable to open up in the presence of others and shine.

 P. Kaminski, R. Katz. Flower Essence Repertory. Flower Essence Society, Nevada City, 1992.
 S. Chiazzari. Colour Scents. Saffron Walden, Essex, 1998.
 W. Sellar. The Directory of Essential Oils. Vermillion, London, 2001.
 M. Roberts. Tea - Recipes for Health, Wellbeing and Taste. New Holland, Chatswood, 2011.
 A. Eckmann. wild kochen - Aus der gruenen Speisekammer der Natur. Christian, Muenchen, 2011.
 Dr. U. Kuenkele, T.R. Lohmeyer. Herbs For Healthy Living. Parragon, Bath, 2007.

Linden blossom – Be the Most Honoured Guest in your Heart

Growing up in Germany I have memories of the scent of the flowering linden trees in early Summer. The sweet heavy scent is intoxicating and is heightened on  warm days and evenings enveloping your mind with an elated feeling of calm and joy. The streets in the old town centre of my childhood are lined with linden trees as are the streets, parks and city squares of Berlin where I lived in my early 20’s. The trees are so much part of the cultural landscape and have found places, streets, parks, squares named after it and well-known is the linden tree-lined avenue ‘Unter den Linden’  in the centre of Berlin leading to the Brandenburg Gate.

Native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere the linden (Tilia) is a genus of about 30 species of trees known also in Britain as lime and in North America as basswood. I liked reading about the origin of  the names lime and linden in  Wikipedia:

“Lime” is an altered form of Middle English lind, in the 16th century also line, from Old English feminine lind or linde, Proto-Germanic *lendā, cognate to Latin lentus “flexible” and Sanskrit latā “liana”.

“Linden” was originally the adjective, “made from lime-wood” (equivalent to “wooden”); from the late 16th century, “linden” was also used as a noun, probably influenced by translations of German romance, as an adoption of Linden, the plural of German Linde.

Latin tilia is cognate to Greek πτελέᾱ, ptelea, “elm tree”, τιλίαι, tiliai, “black poplar” (Hes.), ultimately from a Proto-Indo-European word *ptel-ei̯ā with a meaning of “broad” (feminine); perhaps “broad-leaved” or similar.”

Linden trees grow to a hight of 20 to 40 metres and can reach an age of 1000+ years. Throughout time the linden has played its part in human lives and consciousness and some of the Germanic mythology and folklore is highlighted in this article ‘Trees in Life and Myth’:

In mythology, the linden tree is a symbol of peace, truth and justice. This connection is from Germanic mythology where the linden tree is associated with Freyja, the motherly goddess of truth and love.

According to German folklore, it was not possible to lie while standing under a linden tree. Consequently, Germans often met under linden trees not only to dance and celebrate, but also to hold their judicial proceedings. Christianity later replaced Freyja with the Madonna and rededicated the trees to Mary, the mother of God.


In the past, herbalists and doctors used bark, leaves and flowers of the linden tree for their healing properties while today mainly the blossoms are used to make tea, tinctures and essential oils.

Used in a tea infusion, linden blossoms are beneficial for colds, coughs, restlessness and insomnia. Other treatments include rheumatic complaints, cramps, headaches and migraines.


Linden blossom essential oil supports the digestive system when experiencing cramps, indigestion or liver pain and the nervous system for headaches, insomnia, migraine, nervous tension and stress. With its calming effect on the nervous system it promotes sleep. The skin benefits from its soothing, softening and toning action and helps to deal with blemishes, freckles and burns.


Loving yourself…does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion.
~ Margo Anand


The heart-shaped leaves of the tree link the energetic-emotional effects of the essential oil with the heart chakra, allowing a person to open their heart when feeling devoid of love. This relaxing oil balances emotions, calms anger, releases emotional blocks and is a good oil to be used for people who are grieving, suffering loss or rejection as it promotes self-love and self-esteem.

© 2013. Annette Zerrenthin

Lee Baxter. The Healing Botanicals.  Creek Publications, 2005.
Suzi Chiazzari. Colour Scents. Saffron Walden, 1998.
Dr. Ute Kuenkele, Till R. Lohmeyer. Herbs for Healthy Living. Parragon, 2007
Julia Lawless. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils. Thorsons, 1992.
Wanda Sellar. The Directory of Essential Oils. Vermilion, 2001.

Much Ado About Geranium … or was it Pelargonium?


I found a treasure at the St Kilda Night Market on Valentine’s Day, a lovely Peppermint Geranium (Pelargonium tomentosum) from the HERBS2HEALME stall.


The scent when touching the leaves is just like fresh peppermint. What got me hooked into buying was the tip from the grower to use it in baking to infuse chocolate cake with a peppermint flavour.  Both, leaves and flowers are edible and add flavour to sugars, jellies, lemonade and teas. Medicinally it can be used for its astringent properties as a poultice for bruises and sprains.

Having known of rose geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) a world opened for me to explore the many scented varieties that mimic the scent and flavour of the botanical world, e.g., cedar wood, cinnamon, nutmeg, apricots, orange or ginger. Scented geraniums were introduced to England from South Africa in 1632 and it took until the 1840’s to be discovered by French perfume makers.

The Geraniaceae family is a family of perennial herbs and shrubs of 7 genera and about 750 species globally distributed in mostly temperate zones. The genera of Geraniums and Pelargoniums are the Rosencrantz & Guildenstern of the plant world and commonly used interchangeably however they are different genera. To ease confusion GardenWeb has a good description of the differences for you:

“True geraniums, also known as cranesbills, referring to the shape of the fruit, for the most part have symmetrical flowers with ten fertile stamens. Most Pelargonium have bilaterally symmetrical flowers with up to seven of the ten stamens fertile. True Geraniums have a different seed dispersal technique than Pelargoniums. Geraniums fling their seeds away while Pelargonium seeds float away on the breeze and usually have a ‘feathered ‘ end that Geraniums don’t have. Of course, you can only see this when they are producing seeds.

Pelargoniums are tender perennials and occur naturally almost entirely within South Africa. Leaves of true geraniums are usually deeply divided and cut while those of most groups of pelargoniums are not. Pelargoniums also have rather thick, succulent stems, originating as they do from areas where they have to withstand summer drought, whereas geraniums have the appearance of ‘normal’ herbaceous perennial plants, a mounding form of many many slender stems arising from a central core, and fibrous roots.”

Native to Australia are three genera and about 36 species and this native pelargonium was photographed in Porongurup National Park in Western Australia.


Geranium essential oil is distilled from the flowers and leaves of pelargonium odorantissimum (apple-like fragrance) or graveolens (rose aroma), see below.

Rose Geranium

The oil is widely used by the perfume industry as it can be made to imitate most fragrances. As with all essential oils the list of properties is long and includes for example analgesic, antidepressant, antiseptic, diuretic, insecticide, tonic, vasoconstrictor which support our mind and body in the following ways:

Mind: Tonifies the nervous system and reduces stress through its action on the adrenal cortex.

Body: Regulates the endocrine system and is effective for premenstrual tension and menopausal problems. A tonic for the liver and kidneys to clear the body of toxins. It’s diuretic properties help to guard against fluid retention and swollen ankles. Indicated for throat and mouth infections.

Skin: Balances and tones the skin. Used for acne, bruises, broken capillaries, burns congested skin, oily complexion, mature skin, insect repellent, wounds.

In her book ‘Bach-Blueten und 52 neue Bluetenessenzen’ Dr. Cornelia Alber-Klein indicates Geranium flower essence (geranium perforatum) to be used when wanting to break through confined social or moral life circumstances. It frees a person from the burden of external pressure  having to conform to social and moral constrains to nurture oneself and satisfy one’s own needs.  It allows for space and playfulness in relationships that have grown stale.

Dr. C. Alber-Klein, R. Hornberger. Bach-Blueten und 52 neue Bluetenessenzen. Edition Tirta, 2005.
J. Lawless. The Encyclopedia of Essentail Oils. Thorsons, 2002.
W. Sellar. The Directory of Essential Oils. Vermilion, 2oo1. 
D. Greig. Field Guide to Australian Wildflowers. New Holland, 2012.

© 2013. Annette Zerrenthin


Lifting the veil on Wild Carrot

Wild carrot Daucus carota is a flowering plant in the Apiaceae  (or Umbelliferae) family of mostly aromatic plants that include angelica, anise, caraway and parsley. These plants are known for their umbrella shaped flower head . Light and feathery, Wild carrot also named Queen Anne’s lace, bishops lace or bird’s nest graces meadows and gardens all over the world. Native to temperate climate zones of Europe and south-west Asia the plant has migrated across the oceans to North America and Australia.

The domesticated carrot is a subspecies known as Daucus carota subsp. sativus.

 Early Geek texts from the 1st century AD describe the use of the plant as a vegetable as well as a medicinal plant thought to contain contraceptive properties.

Carrot seed essential oil is used in aromatherapy as a tonic for the digestive system, especially the liver and gallbladder, and to relieve stress and mental exhaustion. With its carotol properties the oil is a premier skin healing oil, and is used externally mixed in a carrier oil for dryness, dermatitis, ageing skin and eczema. Personally, I love use essential oils in my daily skincare by blending a few drops of  helicrysum, frankincense and carrot seed oils in sweet almond oil and  I am yet to try this face mask of honey, olive oil and carrot seed oil. When using essential oils it is common sense to test if it causes irritation to your skin.


The healing properties of Wild carrot flower essence centre around vision and seeing in all forms from eyesight, insight to clairvoyance. The doctrine of signature of the plant with its lace like, umbrella shaped flower head suggests a veil that may conceal repressed emotions or hurt, a not wanting to see what is, an obstruction of sight.


“But when the self speaks to the self, who is speaking? The entombed soul, the spirit driven in, in, in to the central catacomb; the self that took the veil and left the world — a coward perhaps, yet somehow beautiful, as it flits with its lantern restlessly up and down the dark corridors.” ~ Virginia Woolf


The harmonising qualities of the Flower Essence Society’s Queen Anne’s Lace essence are indicated as follows: “This essence is helpful for many who are seeking balanced psychic opening, or who may experience vision problems connected with emergent clairvoyance. The Queen Anne’s Lace flower helps to ground and stabilize, as well as to refine and sensitize the soul’s “clear-seeing.”  

Wild carrot flower essence by the German brand Rosengarten-Essenzen supports us in seeing and recognising what is. It can be used to accompany therapy supporting clear reflection on experiences that had been repressed. The essence relieves eye strain caused by bright sunlight or computer monitors.

© 2013. Annette Zerrenthin

Bodyworks. Murdorch Books, 2007
Davies, P. Aromatherapie von A-Z. Knaur, 1990.
Chiazzari, S. Colour Scents. Saffron Walden, 1998.
Alber-Klein, C. & Hornberger, R. Bach-Blueten und 52 neue Bluetenessenzen. Edition Tirta, 2005.
Kaminski, P. & Katz, R. Flower Essence Repertory. Earth-Spirit Inc., 1992.

What’s the difference between flower essences and essential oils?

When first coming across flower essences many people expect them to be scented in contrast to essential oils that are heavily imbued with the aroma of the plant they are extracted from.

Flower essences are vibrational imprints of flowers or parts of plants in water with a small amount of brandy added for stabilisation. They help us with emotional, mental and spiritual imbalances in a subtle, yet powerful way that address the disharmony on an energetic level. In Australia we have a number of flower essence ranges but you may have come across the Australian Bush Flower Essences or Living Essences of Australia ranges. The first range of essences was produced by Edward Bach in the 1930’s in the UK.

Essential oils are most commonly made by steam distilling parts of the plant (flowers, berries, bark, leaves etc.) to extract the aromatic components. The chemical composition and aroma of essential oils can provide psychological and physical therapeutic benefits.

Rose essential oil for example has been found to balance blood pressure and help dry skin on a physical level. It promotes a feeling of wellbeing and happiness on an emotional level and helps mental fatigue, exhaustion and stress.

The Bach flower essence Wild Rose encourages the potential in a person to embrace life, develop initiative, have a feeling of inner freedom and vitality. It has been called the ‘Zest for Life Flower’ by Mechthild Scheffer in the Encyclopedia of Bach Flower Therapy.

Read more on Rose essential oil and flower essences.

© 2013. Annette Zerrenthin