Chill Your Mood:
Rose Water in Summer.
The Reason for Rose: Pitta Fire in Ayurveda and Liver and Heart Fire in Chinese Medicine
Rose water and rose essence has been used for millennia to take the edge off of heat in Summer. Heat in both Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine is associated with hot temper, irritation, and irritability. Indeed, in the already hot pressure cooker that are large urban areas, tempers flare in summer months. The riots that took place in the inner cities of the USA in the sixties were all in summer, not winter, not spring, not autumn. While we are warm blooded creatures who depend upon physiological heat to digest our food and circulate our blood, these are examples of pathological heat; heat gone awry.
Pathological heat in Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda are at the root of skin disorders involving rubor, or redness, from simple sunburn to hives, eczema, acne, even poison oak and poison ivy. And heat creates sensitivity, whether physical or emotional. We get burned by the sun and our skin becomes sensitive to touch. Cystic acne is painful, and whose acne involves a lot of redness tend to have hot, sensitive skin.
On the emotional or nervous system level, just as heat rises in nature, we are angry, defensive, or stressed we tend to raise our voice, to stand up, even pace. Of course in order to defend yourself physically you have to stand up. Macho men puff up their chests. We wave our hands. Your eyes burn with fire and your face turns red. You even feel physically hot when filled with rage.
All of these are examples of elevated Pitta dosha (Pitta derangement), the body-mind type associated with fire in Ayurveda. Thing is, Summer is the season when everyone’s Pitta flares, simply because it is the time of maximum sun and heat.
Rose to the Rescue-Petals and Water
An elegantly simple herbal remedy for Pitta excess is Rose. We say to stop and smell the roses for a reason. The fragrance of roses is magical and transporting. Rose in Ayurveda, whether as rose petal, essential oil, or water, is a Pitta pacifying medicine. It clear Chinese Medicine is thought of as cooling and relaxing to the “Liver Qi” (the Qi that stagnates with stress and anger). Rose flowers are used in formulas that treat the emotional component of Pre-menstrual syndrome.
Just think of how you feel when smelling a deep red rose on a late June night under the full moon. If you have never had that experience, its not too late to start.
Rose Water and Roses in Ayurveda and Indian Culture and Cuisine
In Ayurveda rose petal, especially the Hundred Leaf Rose (Shatapatri in Sanskrit, Gulab in Hindi) is added to foods, herbal jams, and massage oils (see: Ayurvedic Oil Self Massage) that pacify Pitta year round, but especially in Summer. Rose essential oil is often used in Ayurvedic body care products, like powders used in bathing, again, to cool Pitta from the skin. It is used in masks for sensitive skin, along with Indian River clay, Multani Mati, and Neem.
Rose is especially used in Ayurveda in medicines for the eyes as an eye wash. The petals are made into a syrup used as a gentle laxative. Rose essential oil and rose water is also used in all kinds of Indian deserts taken especially in Summer, made from milk, like Rose Milk and Sherbet, and is added to many deserts like Gulab Jamun and Jilebi. In deserts Rose pairs especially well with Saffron and Cardamon.
Rose water, on the other hand, is added to the Sandalwood paste that Hindus use ritually on their scalp and foreheads, again, to cool Pitta, and cultivate a devotional attitude. Rose garlands are even offered to the Hindu dieties, and placed around the necks of husbands and wives during the sacred marriage ceremony.
Rose Water and Roses Essential Oil in Arab and Muslim Culture
Christians and Muslims in the Near East love Rose in food and perfume. There is the line in the famous movie Lawrence of Arabia when Sheikh Hussein, played by Omar Shariff, tells T.E. Lawrence, an Englishman who having fallen in love with the desert, is extolling its virtues to his friend the Sheikh, who responds, “Lawrence, we Arabs, no, we don’t love the desert, we love water–gardens and fountains.” Bedoui do in fact love both the desert and water, but its true, wherever Arabs and Muslims built cities and palaces, such as in Spain and Baghadad, they built gardens with fountains and roses in the center.
Persian, Afghanis, and Arabs all add rose petals to beverages like Sage tea, and rose water to deserts like baklava, firni, rice pudding, and Turkish delight (which is actually originally from Iran or India). Muslims from Afghanistan to Morrocco are very fond of scenting their bodies with rose essential oil (nowadays, sadly, with cheap synthetic perfume versions of Rose and Musk).
How to Use Rose Water to Cool Pitta in Summer
Rose Water On the Face, Eyes, and Neck
In the summer when its hot and my Pitta naturally elevates, particularly during San Diego’s dry heat Santa Ana conditions, when the air is in from the desert, full of positive ions, pollen, and dust, at time when people really become irritable, I like to splash rosewater about my face and neck. Sometimes I even soak a cotton ball with it and cleanse my eyes. Agni rises to the surface in the eyes, so cooling your eyes with water or rose water helps to take the edge off of Pitta immediately. Rose water is especially useful for people whose eyes become irritated and red from respiratory allergies.
Another nice way to use Rose water to cool Pitta in Summer is fill a 1-4 oz spray bottle with Rose water and spray it on your face, on the back of the neck, and on the chest over your heart at midday and in the afternoon when working in hot weather.
Rose Water As a Beverage and in Pitta Pacifying Herbal Tea
In summer I like to make sugar free cooling beverages that I drink at room temperature.
The simplest one with rose is to pour a couple of tablespoons of rosewater into 32oz of H20. Add a dash of lemon if you like. Sweeten if you must.
Another way to drink Rose water is to scent your lemonade with it, as as in this recipe, Indian style.
You can also use rose water in herb tea by adding a tablespoon of Rose water to a quart of Ayush brand ProPita tea. Drink at room temp in Summer.
Cardamon and Cinnamon Beverage with Rose
Cardamon and cinnamon, being sweet, also pacify Pitta.
- Boil a Ceylon or Mexican cinnamon stick and 4 cardamon pods in 2 quarts of water for 20 minutes.
- Turn off the flame
- Allow to cool
- Add 2 tsp rose water
Where To Buy Inexpensive Rose Water
Walk into any Near Eastern market, whether Arab, Afghani, or Iranian, and you will find bottles of various waters, always Rose and Orange Blossom, and in the Iranian case others like Fenugreek, Cumin, Peppermint, and Dill that are often used for digestion and menstrual issues.
These waters are the distilled by-product of the essential oil extraction process, in which, by a process of steam distillery, the essential oil is separated from the flowers, leaving as its by-product, scented water.
Why pay the body care department of your health food store exorbitant sums, when you can have a bottle of this stuff for 2-3 dollars?
My favorite brand for Rose and Orange Blossom water is Cortas, a venerable old company based in Lebanon, a land famous, like Iran and India, for Roses. I have even seen Cortas brand at Whole Foods Market. If you lack the time or access to an Arabian or Indian goods market, you can buy Cortas Rose Water on AmazonDOTcom.
Try a bottle! Let me know what you think!
copyright eyton j. shalom, august 2010, all rights reserved, use with permission
Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diegohttp://www.bodymindwellnesscenter.com