Fiann Ó Nualláin takes a look at how rosehips can benefit our health
ROSES and apples share the same botanical family and both their fruits have been keeping doctors away for as long as idioms existed. We still know about the apple or at least the benefits of five-a-day but in recent times the usage of rosehips and other hedgerow haws have waned across Ireland and Europe. Something we will need to bring back if we are to avoid foil packs and plastic wraps for every sniffle and minor ache.
I know I am always prattling on about natural medicine and home remedies, but only the ones that work and those that work are a way to streamline our commerce and our carbon footprint.
Over 80% of the world’s population, according to the World Health Organisation, still rely on herbal and traditional medicines as their first line of defence. In some cases, it is that people are too remote without the infrastructure for the trucks to get the flu jab in and in other cases it’s the prohibitive costs of modern medicines.
On your doorstep right now, or along your neighbours’ fence or a nearby hedgerow, there is a medicinal bounty awaiting — rosehips. Rosehips feature in the earliest of herbals and oldest medicinal texts often the wild or “dog” varieties of Rosa canina, R. laevigata, R. rugosa , R. rubiginosa, mainly as a general health tonic and as convalescence support but also to ease a variety of illness symptoms. These wonder fruits can be made into syrups and tinctures with a little knowhow but relative ease — more on that later.
We could put the health benefits of wild and cultivated rose fruits down to their exceedingly high Vitamin C content — generally at least 50% greater than that of oranges. VIT C charges up our immune system and helps our cells self-repair but it also supports many of our body’s regulatory actions. Rosehips also contain phytochemicals that promote light perspiration and urine flow and so helps eliminate toxins and cleanse the body — boosting our own inherent healing potential and recovery time. Traditionally, rosehip remedies have been employed to treat colds, flu, coughs, mucous congestion, fevers and both bacterial and viral infections.
Rosehips are also packed with bioflavonoids that promote good general health but which in particular have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory role in supporting cardiovascular and circulatory health. The hips also contain vitamin P which enhances the functioning of the capillaries and peripheral blood circulation which is of benefit to slowing the formation of varicose veins, easing the symptoms of Raynaud’s disease and even treating some mid-life male issues.
Rosehips are often considered a superior female tonic and have a traditional use in remedying menstrual complications and in easing menopausal symptoms. They have a particular reputation for cooling menopausal hot flushes and reducing profuse night sweats. It is said they do this by allowing a good portion of isoflavone phytoestrogens into the system to act as a mild HRT.
So how do we get the benefit of these rosehips from a forage this weekend? Well we make medicine. First thing to note is that the inner seeds contain bitter and irritant hairs which require removal before use. The easiest way is to slice the hips lengthways and simply scoop out with a knife. Hips can be utilised fresh or dried for later use. Here is three simple ways to get at their goodness.
Normally I would not be a fan of hot beverage sources of Vitamin C, simply because heat destroys it, but there is so much Vitamin C in the rose hips that even after a 30min decoct, a brew is often still up there with an over the counter vitamin C supplement. Fresh and dried hips need some coaxing of their flavour and phytochemicals and so are traditionally decocted — that’s boiling for a time (10-30 minutes) rather than a simple pour over and infuse as you would with a standard tea. Clean and deseed. The ratio is one-two teaspoons of chopped hip per cup required.
A tangy treat that makes a great treatment. Some people make this just to flavour deserts or as yoghurt topping. It can also be diluted down to make a pleasant healthy cordial. Ok, so clean, deseed and chop up. Add to a saucepan. Just cover with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool. Strain through a muslin cloth, discard solids and measure the liquid. The idea now is to add about 150g of sugar to every 250mls of hip liquid. The sugar sets the liquid to a syrup but also acts as preservative keeping it storable for five or so months. You can sway out some of the sugar for honey but there’s a bit of trial and error in getting the right consistency as different honeys have different viscosities. Add the fluid to a saucepan and gently bring up the heat, add the sweet portion and stir until fully dissolved. Bring to a quick boil then decant straight to your sterilised jars or containers. Lid, cool and label. Stores in dark press but refrigerate once opened.
Remove the seeds and inner hairs, rinse and pat dry, chop roughly and add to a jar or container. Don’t fill to the brim, leave about an inch depth at the top. Then cover the contents and that extra inch with alcohol, vodka is the easiest as you can notice the colour changes occurring that hints at the phytochemical leeching out into the medium and there is not so much any extra biting flavour as there might be if you use gin or brandy. Lid and a store in cool, dark cupboard for four to six weeks. You can give a gentle shake every few days to keep the leeching/infusion going.
There after strain away solids and decant the liquid to a dark bottle. The alcohol not only extracts the chemistry butit is a natural preservation and will keep the tincture viable for between six months and one year. Label with date. Several drops or a teaspoon of this tincture can be taken daily or when needed.
A Christmas Open House in aid of Marymount Hospice and the Alzheimer’s Day Care Bandon takes place at Bride View Cottage, Killumney, Co Cork, from Open evenings of Thursday to Sunday (November 21 to 24 with a repeat on and November 28 to December 1. Thursday and Friday openings 6pm to 10pm; Saturday and Sundays, from noon to 8pm. Situated near Ballincollig, the house will befully signposted from the Ballincollig by-pass on the main Cork to Macroom road.
Castlelyons Home & Garden Club presents a festive gala evening, ‘In The Name of Christmas’, In the Corrin Event (Mart) Centre on Friday, November 15, at 7.30pm, with Debbie Shaw, Ballymaloe, Petra from Square Garden Flowers, and Castlelyons Gospel Choir. Proceeds in aid of Pieta House, Arc House, and Liam’s Lifts (local charities). Tickets from all club members, Gunny 086 8670385 or Ann 086 2381611. Please note change of venue.
Macroom Flower & Garden Club hosts a gala floraldemonstration with Margaret Collins AOIFA (Carlow) on ‘The Joy of Christmas’ on Thursday, November 14, at Coolcower House at 8pm (doors 7pm). Supporting MacroomCommunity Hospital. Tickets from 087 9821708 or 026 41695.
Cork Flower Club presents a gala Christmasdemonstration ‘Inspired by Christmas’ with James Burnside, NAFAS, on Tuesday, November 19, at Canon Packham Hall, Douglas Cork, 8pm.Supporting Pieta House. €15 including supper.
GIY Cork will hold its next meeting on Tuesday , November 5, in the Hydro Farm Allotments Tower/Blarney at 7.30pm. The talk is on winterising your garden in preparation for spring and planting your garlic now for summer harvesting. Free, tea and coffee served. All welcome.
East Cork Flower Club hosts its AGM on Monday , November 4, in St John the Baptist National School, Midleton, Cork, at 7.30pm (note earlier time). This will be followed with a talk by Kara Reilly, East Cork Nutrition. Date for your Diary: Wednesday, November 20, our gala Christmas demonstration: More details to follow.
Cork Garden Club hosts a talk by Barbara Buckley, Biologist ‘Soil, Fungi, and some Mushroom Facts’ on Thursday, November 14, at Nemo Rangers, South Douglas Road, Cork, at 8pm.Ballincollig Flower & Garden Club hosts a gala Christmas demonstration by John Paul Deehan NIGFAS takes place on November 11 at Oriel House Hotel supporting Pieta House & Breakthrough Cancer Research. Tickets €15. Contact 087 2265954.
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