Food as Medicine: Dog Rose Hip (Rosa canina, Rosaceae)
The rose (Rosa spp.) hip (also sometimes written as “rosehip”) is a pseudofruit in the economically important Rosaceae family, which includes apple (Malus spp.), strawberry (Fragaria spp.), plum (Prunusspp.), and almond (Prunus spp.). The genus Rosa includes more than 100 species that have been cultivated since ancient times in a vast array of climates.1 Both rose petals and rose hips can be used in culinary and herbal preparations. Rose plants grow as shrubs and are characterized by thorny stems, compound, serrated leaves, and attractive, colorful flowers.2 Different species of roses are native to areas around the world from Europe to Japan, where they have a long history of culinary and medicinal use.3 Today, roses are cultivated commercially for ornamental and medicinal purposes in Europe and Asia, but wild varieties are also found in North and South America.
The rose hip is an aggregate fruit that consists of several dry fruits that are enclosed by a hypanthium: an enlarged, red, and fleshy floral cup.4In particular, the hip of R. canina, or dog rose, has been used as a medicinal ingredient for about 2,000 years and is the subject of ongoing clinical trials that focus on its anti-inflammatory and health-promoting properties.
Phytochemicals and Constituents
Rosehip is well-known for its high vitamin C content. Rosehip is also a source of many other nutrients and bioactive compounds. Noteworthy compounds found in rosehip include carotenoids, tocopherols, tannins, pectin, amino acids, fatty acids, essential oils, and an anti-inflammatory galactolipid known as GOPO: (2S)-1,2-di-O[(9Z,12Z,15Z)-octadeca-9-12-15-trienoyl]-3-O-β-D-galactopyranosyl glycerol.5
Vitamin C is necessary for the biosynthesis of collagen, a primary protein in connective tissue in the human body. L-carnitine is an amino acid that helps convert fat tissue into energy, and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) is a hormone and neurotransmitter.5 These biological functions and vitamin C’s antioxidant capabilities have led to its use as an adjunct therapy for cancer, cardiovascular ailments, cataracts, cognitive decline, and the common cold,6 but therapeutic dosages for optimal benefits have yet to be determined. It also has been reported that other organic acids and flavanols present in rose hip aid in inhibiting oxidation of vitamin C, increasing its stability and bioavailability in humans.7 Rosehip seed contains a high amount of dietary fiber, which supports the gut microbiota by increasing the absorption of nutrients.4
Carotenoids in rose hip include beta-carotene, lycopene, rubixanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin.5 Dietary carotenoids have been associated with an array of antioxidant activities: induction of apoptosis (normal, pre-programmed cell death), inhibition of mammary cell proliferation, inhibition of angina pectoris, and radical stabilization and protection from prostate cancer and macular degeneration.4 Lycopene, in particular, has been found in very high concentrations in rose hip fruit.6 This antioxidant phytonutrient can support cardiovascular health, protect against degenerative eye conditions such as cataracts, treat asthma and numerous different types of cancer, and support treatment of the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.5
One of the most diverse groups of phytonutrients are triterpenes (including plant sterols), some of which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties.4 Plant sterols (phytosterols) are essential in forming and maintaining cell membranes. β-Sitosterol is usually the most abundant phytosterol found in R. canina and has been found to inhibit the absorption of dietary cholesterol.4,8
Rosehip seed contains polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), linoleic acid (LA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).4 These compounds can support cardiovascular health by decreasing triglycerides and cholesterol levels in the blood, inhibiting thrombosis, dilating blood vessels, and inhibiting inflammation. Several studies on the LA and ALA contents in rosehip seed extract have shown inhibition of the enzymes cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and COX-2, which are involved in the production of pro-inflammatory compounds called prostaglandins.4,5 The galactolipid GOPO has been shown to attenuate inflammatory responses in different cellular systems such as macrophages, peripheral blood leukocytes, and chondrocytes.5
Historical and Commercial Uses
The rose flower has had a significant cultural impact throughout human history. Rose has been mentioned in the clay tablets of Mesopotamia, the writings of Confucius, and Greek mythology, and it is especially prominent in Turkish folk literature.9 The Ottomans made heavy use of rose in medicinal preparations, in particular, rose water. They believed that smelling rose water could strengthen the spirit and emotions, empower the brain and mind, regulate rapid heartbeat, alleviate nausea, strengthen the stomach, and heal disorders of the eyes if applied topically. The Greek physician Dioscorides authored the first known record of rose as a medicinal plant in the first century CE and mentioned both internal and external applications. For other recorded historical uses of the rose plant, see Table 1.
Rosehip continues to be used as both medicine and food in Turkey, where it is valued for its medicinal and aromatic properties and as an ingredient in snacks, marmalades, and juices.6 In Romania, Turkey, and Iran rose hip is used in a variety of forms as a source of vitamins A and C to supplement intake and as a folk medicine to treat the common cold, gallstones, constipation, and gastric disorders. Currently, Turkey supplies about 70% of the world’s rose products, such as rose water and essential oil.9
Rosehip is a common food product in European countries, as well, where it appears in desserts, bread, jellies, marmalades, ice cream, puddings, soups, syrups, and beverages.6 In the United States, indigenous peoples such as the Chumash and Samish tribes have used native wild rose hip (R. californica) raw, cooked, or brewed into wine. Medicinally, native tribes have used rose hip topically to relieve colds, infections, pain, inflammation, and influenza. In China, rose hip is used to flavor wine and is popular for its vitamin-rich extract that can help treat a variety of illnesses associated with the common cold and inflammation.3,6 Rose hip seed-derived oils are very popular in China in skincare and cosmetics.
Table 1: Recorded Therapeutic Uses for Dog Rose (Rosa canina)4
|Plant Part||Therapy Type||Condition|
|Roots||Internal use||Anal hemorrhoids, dysuria, cough, rheumatism|
|Leaves||Internal use||Colds, flu, cough, itching, eczema|
|Fruits (shells)||Internal use||Cold, flu, cough, bronchitis, asthma, nephritis, gallbladder disease, burns, vitamin C deficiency, colic, lower urinary tract disorders, arthritis, rheumatic disorder, eyewash, diarrhea, intestinal catarrhs|
|Fruits (seeds)||Internal use||Kidney and lower urinary tract health, osteoarthritis, rheumatism, gout, sciatica, cold, fever, blood purification, vitamin C deficiency|
|Fruits (seeds and shells)||External Use||Rheumatism, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, cardiac disorders, hypoglycemia, and infection|
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the rose hip have been studied in clinical trials that predominantly used powdered rose hips as the active ingredient. The majority of trials have focused on these properties when assessing obesity and obesity-related metabolic disorders (comorbidities) as well as arthritis and pain-related conditions. In vitro studies have also been conducted to assess rose hip’s effects on cell health and protection.
Obesity and Metabolic Disorders
In clinical trials, those taking dried and powdered rose hip fruit experienced significant reductions in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and systolic blood pressure compared to those taking a placebo, as well as reduced cardiovascular risk markers in obese subjects.10 Rose hip powder also was associated with significantly decreased fasting blood glucose levels and the total cholesterol/high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ratio in patients with type 2 diabetes.11
In vitro, the rose hip extract has been found to significantly increase proliferation of BTC-6 cells (murine pancreatic β-cells) with no reported cytotoxicity of healthy cells compared to the control.12 The regeneration of pancreatic β-cells has been shown to play an essential role in managing diabetes mellitus. This increase in β-cell proliferation may be one of the mechanisms in which rose hip extract helps manage diabetes mellitus. This proliferative effect could counteract the deficiency of pancreatic β-cells found in this condition and increase their viability and performance.
Arthritis and Pain-Related Conditions
Arthritis is an inflammatory condition characterized by the destruction of cartilage and joints and can eventually lead to negative effects on the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood, and nerves. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a form of arthritis that is triggered by articular cartilage destruction. Most often, OA treatment aims to subdue symptoms related to pain or stiffness and reduce inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune inflammatory condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints, causing pain similar to OA.
A particular variety of rose hip powder from Langeland Island, Denmark, with a relatively high level of GOPO, has shown anti-inflammatory activity in patients with OA compared to placebo, with participants reporting significant reductions in stiffness, pain during manual activities, and general feelings of discomfort.13 Daily supplementation with rose hip powder also correlated with a significant reduction in the use of conventional medications such as acetaminophen, opioids, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and reduction in pain according to the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) compared to placebo in patients with OA.14 In patients with RA, rose hip powder was associated with significant improvement according to the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) disability index after six months of daily supplementation.15 Patients with self-reported knee-related walking limitations experienced significant increases in knee joint movement and improvements in knee flexing ability compared to the control group after supplementation with rose hip powder.16
Age-Related Skin Conditions
Rose hip’s vitamin C, carotenoid, polyphenol, polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), and GOPO contents have been investigated for anti-aging activities. Oral rose hip supplementation correlated with significant differences over baseline in the depth of crow’s feet wrinkles, skin moisture content, and elasticity.17 The results were similar to those of a comparison group that used astaxanthin, a carotenoid that has gained popular use as an anti-aging agent.
The nutrient and bioactive compound contents of rose hip depend on the subspecies, processing techniques, growing region, and environmental conditions.6 Assays show that ripe rose hips have the highest tocopherol and β-carotene levels, while unripe hips contain higher levels of ascorbic acid.18
When choosing or harvesting roses for consumption, either for petals or hips, consumers should note that the ornamental roses available in flower shops, nurseries, and grocery stores often are grown with the use of pesticides. In order to avoid chemical exposure, consumers should try to ensure that the roses are organically grown specifically for culinary and/or medicinal purposes. Wild-harvested roses should come from a habitat with no history of pesticide use or run-off (i.e., the side of a road or an unknown garden should be avoided).
Macronutrient Profile: (Per 100 grams rose hips)
1.6 g protein
38.22 g carbohydrate
0.3 g fat
Secondary Metabolites: (Per 100 grams rose hips)
Excellent source of:
Vitamin C: 426 mg (473.3% DV)
Vitamin A: 4345 IU (86.9% DV)
Dietary Fiber: 24.1 g (80.3% DV)
Manganese: 1 mg (43.5% DV)
Vitamin E: 5.84 mg (38.9% DV)
Vitamin K: 25.9 mcg (21.6% DV)
Very good source of:
Magnesium: 69.3 mg (16.5% DV)
Calcium: 169 mg (13% DV)
Good source of:
Riboflavin: 0.12 mg (9.2% DV)
Potassium: 429 mg (9.1% DV)
Niacin: 1.3 mg (8.1% DV)
Iron: 1.1 mg (6.1% DV)
Phosphorus: 60.6 mg (4.8% DV)
Vitamin B6: 0.08 mg (4.7% DV)
Thiamin: 0.02 mg (1.7% DV)
Folate: 3.2 mcg (0.8% DV)
DV = Daily Value as established by the US Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Recipe: Immune-Boosting Rose Hip Jam
|Courtesy of Katja Heino20
- Tucker AO, DeBaggio T. The Encyclopedia of Herbs: A Comprehensive Reference to Herbs of Flavor and Fragrance. Portland, OR: Timber Press; 2000.
- Van Wyk, BE. Food Plants of the World: Identification, Culinary Uses, and Nutritional Value. Portland, OR: Timber Press; 2006.
- Maree J, Van Wyk, BE. Cut Flowers of the World: A Complete Reference for Growers and Florists. Portland, OR: Timber Press; 2010.
- Winther K, Hansen ASV, Campbell-Tofte J. Bioactive ingredients of rose hips (Rosa canina L) with special reference to antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties: in vitro studies. Botanics: Targets and Therapy. 2016;6:11-23.
- Fan C, Pacier C, Martirosyan DM. Rosehip (Rosa canina L): A functional food perspective. Functional Foods in Health and Disease. 2014;4(100):493-509.
- Patel S. Rose hip as an underutilized functional food: an Evidence-based review. Trends in Food Science and Technology. 2017;63:29-38.
- Demir N, Yildiz O, Alpaslan M, Hayaloglu AA. Evaluation of volatiles, phenolic compounds and antioxidant activities of rose hip (Rosa L.) fruits in Turkey. LWT – Food Science and Technology. 2014;57:126-133.
- Cheng BCY, Fu XQ, Guo H, et al. The genus Rosa and arthritis: Overview on pharmacological perspectives. Pharm Res. 2016;114:219-234.
- Başer KHC, Altintaș A, Kürkçüoglu M. Turkish rose: A review of the history, ethnobotany, and modern uses of rose petals, rose oil, rose water, and other rose products. HerbalGram. 2012;96:40-53. Available at: http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbalgram/issue96/hg96-feat-rose.html. Accessed February 1, 2018.
- Andersson U, Berger K, Högberg A, Landin-Olsson M, Holm C. Effects of rose hip intake on risk markers of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease: a randomized, double-blind, cross-over investigation in obese persons. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012;66:585-590.
- Dabaghian FH, Abdollahifard M, Sigarudi FK, et al. Anti-hyperglycemic effect of aqueous extract of Rosa canina L. fruit in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized double-blind placebo controlled clinical trial. Int J Biosci. 2015;7(2):216-224.
- Fattahi A, Niyazi F, Shahbazi B, Farzaei MH, Bahrami G. Antidiabetic mechanisms of Rosa caninafruits: An in vitro evaluation. J Evid Based Complement Altern Med. 2017;22(1):127-133.
- Winther K, Campbell-Tofte J. Rose hip powder made from a subspecies of Rosa canina (containing seeds and shells) reduces symptoms of osteoarthritis and the need for pain killers. Eur J Int Med. 2015;7:28.
- Winther K, Apel K, Thamsborg G. A powder made from seeds and shells of a rose-hip subspecies (Rosa canina) reduces symptoms of knee and hip osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Scand J Rheumatol. 2005;34:302-308.
- Willich SN, Rossnagel K, Roll S, et al. Rose hip herbal remedy in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a randomized controlled trial. Phytomed. 2010;17:87-93.
- Ginnerup-Nielsen E, Christensen R, Bliddal H, Zangger G, Hansen L, Henriksen M. Improved gait in persons with knee related mobility limitations by a rosehip food supplement: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Gait & Posture. 2015;42:340-347.
- Phetcharat L, Wongsuphasawat K, Winther K. The effectiveness of a standardized rose hip powder, containing seeds and shells of Rosa canina, on cell longevity, skin wrinkles, moisture, and elasticity. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2015;10:1849-1856.
- Andersson SC, Rumpunun K, Johansson E, Olsson ME. Carotenoid content and composition in rose hips (Rosa spp.) during ripening, determination of suitable maturity marker and implications for health promoting food products. Food Chem. 2011;128(3):689-696.
- Basic Report: 35203, Rose Hips, wild (Northern Plains Indians). United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service website. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. Available at: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/8430. Accessed January 30, 2018.
- Heino K. Immune Boosting Rose Hip Jam. Savory Lotus website. Available at: www.savorylotus.com/immune-boosting-rosehip-jam/. Accessed February 1, 2018.