Damask rose: Preparations And Thei Application

Parkinson, copied by Culpeper, then details the various preparations and their uses, and this list is very impressive. He begins with red roses which, as we now know, ‘strengthen the heart, stomach, liver and retentive faculty’, so they ‘mitigate pains from heat, assuage inflammations, procure rest and sleep, stay whites and reds, gonorrhoea, running of the reins (incontinence or frequency?) and flux of the belly’.

The electuary: purges choler, is good in hot fevers and pains in the head and joint ache from hot choleric humours, and for heat in the eyes and jaundice. It is a ‘competent’ purger for weak constitutions. Up to 6 drachms (24 g) can be taken according to the quality and strength of the patient.

The moist conserve is very useful for both binding and as cordial; when it is young it is more binding, when over 2 years old it is more cordial. So the young conserve, with Mithridatum, is good for distillations of rheum from the brain to the nose and defluxions of rheum into the eyes, fluxes and lasks of the belly. It can be taken with mastich for gonorrhoea (this is Culpeper’s word, Parkinson has ‘running of the reins’) and looseness of humours. The old conserve is taken with Diarrhodon Abbatis or Aromaticum Rosarum (see Pharmacopoeia Londinensis for recipes) as a cordial for faintings, swoonings, weakness and tremblings of the heart. It strengthens the heart and a weak stomach, helps digestion, stays castings (vomiting) and is a good preservative in time of infection.

The dry conserve or Sugar of Roses is very good as a cordial to strengthen the heart and spirits and stay defluxions.

The syrup of dried red roses strengthens a stomach given to casting, cools an overheated liver and the blood in agues, comforts the heart, resists putrefaction and helps stay lasks and fluxes.

Honey of roses is much used in gargles and lotions to wash sores of the mouth, throat and other parts, to cleanse and heal, and to stay fluxes of humours in these parts. It is used in clysters (enemas) to cool and cleanse.

The cordial powders Diarrhodon Abbatis and Aromaticum Rosarum comfort and strengthen the heart and stomach, prepare appetite, help digestion, stay vomiting, are very good to strengthen and dry up slippery bowels.

Red rose water, well known and of familiar use, is better than Damask rose water. It is cooling, cordial, refreshing, quickening weak and faint spirits, used in meat and broths, to wash the temples and to smell at the nose from perfuming or a hot fire shovel. Also for red and inflamed eyes and pain in the temples.

Vinegar of roses is used as rose water for pain and ache in the head, and to procure rest and sleep, often applied overnight with rose cake, heated in a cloth together with nutmeg and poppy seed.

Ointment of roses counters heat and inflammation in the head and is applied to the forehead and temples and for rest. Mixed with some populeon it is also used for heat of the liver, back and reins, to cool and heal pushes, wheals and pimples.

Oil of roses is used by itself to cool hot swellings and inflammations and to dry sores, and is added to other ointments and plasters to cool, bind and restrain flux.

Rose leaves (petals?) and mints are heated and applied externally to help a weak stomach, cool the liver and heart and, applied to the head, ease overhot spirits which allow no rest.

And this is just the red rose!

Not so many preparations, however, are made of the damask rose, says Parkinson, but more are used than the red roses ‘so much hath pleasure outstripped necessary use’. He lists the preparations, usually termed ‘solutive’, of damask rose and their uses. The simple solutive syrup is a safe, gentle and easy medicine which purges choler. He remarks how strange it is then that the distilled water of this syrup rather binds the belly. The syrup is stronger if used with Agoricke’ and works as much on phlegm as on choler. The compound syrup is stronger for melancholy humours and can be used against leprosy (the word lepra means a scaly condition of the skin in Greek), itch, tetters (any number of skin conditions characterized by eruptions and itching) and the French disease (venereal disease).

Honey of roses solutive works as the sugar syrup in purging, but is given more often to phlegmatics than cholerics, and more often used as enemas than potions.

The simple water is used rather in cooking and perfuming and little used in physic but has some purging quality.