A Bit of a Bramble
There’s more to this cliched adage than you know. Today’s post was going to be a brief ramble, or bramble (pun intended) if you will, about finding joy in the in-between spaces. I think the rose encompasses this sentiment perfectly. For years, I’ve loved the feel and smell of roses. They’re not my favorite flower, but they certainly come in a close second. Peonies are preferable due to their fullness and naturally beautiful contrast for blooming in winter. I’m sure there are certain types of roses bred to bloom in winter. I’ve merely yet to encounter them.
My love of roses probably began with my favorite Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast. I loved, again, the contrast between the hulking monstrosity of the Beast’s rage and his delicate but equally deadly curse. It makes sense he’d be so prickly about protecting a such a fragile, powerful symbol of his fate. These buds are a worldwide symbol of several things, aside from a fairy tale curse. Each of their colors represents something unique.
As I stated previously, roses aren’t my number one flower, but there is a particular color which ranks higher than peonies in my book. I’m a sucker for symbolism, and I love what this color means. I’m not revealing it here, as somethings need to stay personal. Anyway, today’s post is about stopping to smell the roses. It’s not just about slowing down and living in the moment. It’s also about how roses can actually make your life a little easier.
Unearthing the Science
I pondered to my mother the other day about why I like these flowers so much. She’d remarked on my actually smelling nice. (I don’t typically wear perfume.) I explained to her about the new spray I’d purchased which included rose essential oil. Then I went on to tell her that I’d realized why enjoyed rose so much. In the last several months, I’ve purchased facial mist, lotion, and body spray all including rose essential oils. I found some homeopathic article explaining how rose is a natural mood enhancer (i.e. mild anti-depressant, anxiety reliever). As quick as I was to believe this, I also needed some science to make sure I wasn’t self-inducing a placebo effect.
So, I did my research. One particular meta-study by Mohebitabar et al. (2017) compiled and surveyed a variety of similar studies on the physiological and psychological effects of Rosa damascena, a more commonly used rose essential oil. Rose oil reduced depressive symptoms in male and female participants suffering major depressive disorders and taking SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) (Mohebitabar et al., 2017). Patients also saw an uptick in sexual arousal, reduction of pain when the rose oil was in analgesic form, and reduction of norepinephrin (Mohebitabar et al., 2017).
As useful as meta-studies are, they’re usually introductory pieces when you have a more targeted goal. So I sought another source which examined alternatives to commonly prescribed treatments for major depressive disorder. According to Sánchez-Vidaña et al.(2017), up to 30% of first-line antidepressants are ineffective leading to more people exploring complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), neurolinguistic reprogramming, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, and so on. Aromatherapy, which uses essential oils, is a form of CAM. This systematic review (Sánchez-Vidaña et al., 2017) targeted those CAM treatment specifically used for depressive disorder relief, unlike Mohebitabar et al. (2017) which compiled all data on rose oil aromatherapy. Sánchez-Vidaña et al. (2017) found participants ranged age 21-73 and included cancer patients, pregnant women, menopausal women, patients diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety, children with ADD/ADHD, women volunteers, and others. Sánchez-Vidaña et al. (2017) studied a variety of aromatherapy, not just R. damascena. Inhalation aromatherapy was variably effective where massage aromatherapy proved to be overall more effective (Sánchez-Vidaña et al., 2017; Nazıroğlu et al., 2013).
I hope you appreciate the pun I just made. There’s two more in the first section of this post if you missed them. Anyway, science basically proves it’s good for you to stop and smell the roses. If you’re suffering from major depression, inhalation probably won’t cut if for you. That doesn’t mean you can’t check out other CAM options to supplement your current treatment. Please, make sure you consult whatever physician(s) you see. Don’t take the internet’s advice over that of a trained professional.
Now that I’ve gone on and on about the science and symbolism of roses, what about their other parts. Everyone fixates on the prettiest and most delicate parts, forgetting the other aspects which protect these buds from disease and predators. I’m talking about the ugly parts people snip off to avoid pain…I hope you see where I’m going with this.
Don’t forget to water your thorns.
If you’re stopping to smell the roses, you might as well take in the whole picture. Assuming you understood the essence of smelling roses, there’s another part about flaws I think we can all relate to. This isn’t the first time I’ve addressed imperfection and it certainly won’t be the last. Looking at just the beauty or utility or roses alone insults modern and past cultivars alike. The effort it takes to breed roses thorn-free is no small task. Personally, I’m okay with a pricked finger. If a rose has thorns, it typically yields a sweeter scent or bigger blossom. Removing thorns isn’t necessary in my book.
Thorns aside, consider the leaves of any rosebush. They sustain the entire plant by absorbing sunlight and converting it into nutrients. They’re not the prettiest part of the plant but are quite literally vital. The real catch are the prickles. Most cultivars, gardeners, florists, and consumers remove these for fear of pricking a finger. They don’t consider the necessity of these least desirable parts. Those roses which bloom biggest often have prickles. The sweeter the rose, the more it attracts.
The lovely bumble bee floats along , intoxicated by floral aroma. It remains unharmed by the large thorns. Its welcome presence results in harmonious mutualism. More than friends are summoned by an open bud. Predators come, lurking along the ground. They try to gnaw at pretty petals. Instead of a feast, they taste prickly, viny flesh. Injured by the mouthful of prickle or merely dissatisfied, they scurry into the shadows from whence they came.
Not all roses are equipped with self-protection. Some aren’t prickly at all. They’re feasted upon, their blooms consumed before they fully blossom. The same goes for pruned roses. Stripped of their armor, they now lie open to predators and disease. The same is true for me and you. Pull of your thorns and you leave yourself open to the world, and not in the healthy vulnerability sense.
What are your thorns, exactly? They are your flaws and imperfections. These work-in-progress parts of you are vital. They mark a space where were soft and tender, but now ready to fend off untoward influence. Like your soft-petaled hopes and dreams, your prickles are vital. Think of them like your boundaries. Where your leafy, sustaining goals are concerned, prickles have their rightful place on you. The next time a thorn grows, don’t remove it. Let it remind you of divine growth. Forgive whatever past weakness or transgression marked its formation. Allow it to be part of the whole you, not a scar of a shameful reminder. We all have thorns. Welcome to the garden of life.
Nazıroğlu M, Kozlu S, Yorgancıgil E, Uğuz AC, Karakuş K. Rose oil (from Rosa×damascena mill.) vapor attenuates depression‑induced oxidative toxicity in rat brain. J Nat Med.
Mohebitabar, S., Shirazi, M., Bioos, S., Rahimi, R., Malekshahi, F., & Nejatbakhsh, F. (2017). Therapeutic efficacy of rose oil: A comprehensive review of clinical evidence. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, 7(3), 206-213.
Sánchez-Vidaña, D. I., Ngai, S. P., He, W., Chow, J. K., Lau, B. W., & Tsang, H. W. (2017). The effectiveness of aromatherapy for depressive symptoms: A systematic review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2017, 5869315.