The skin healing properties of rosehips

The rose by any other name would smell as sweet… but what if there are some roses that are not particularly known for their fragrance, but whose USP is in its fruit? For many centuries some species of the genus Rosa are not the horticulturist’s dream but rather a part of the apothecary’s repertoire. The pseudo-seeds – called rosehips- of these apothecary’s roses are brimming with medicinal goodness. And because they have remarkable skin healing properties, the oil from rosehips has been incorporated into the griffin+row Nourish and Enrich formulations.

Introducing the genus Rosa

The genus Rosa consists of more than 150 wild species of plants. These have been broadly divided in four subgenera that are found in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and the Americas. The species ‘canina’ refers to one of the ten sections of the fourth subgenus ‘Eurosa’ 1 found growing wild in Europe. The species Rosa gallica is native to France and its hybrid with Rosa moschata has given rise to R.damascena – the Middle Eastern species famed for its fragrance.

The South American species of rose is a version of the European R. rubiginosa which grows wild around the foothills of the Andes in Chile and Argentina 2.

All these species of rose give rise to a fruit – rosehips- that contain seeds. Rosehip oil is generally extracted from R.canina, R. mosqueta and to a lesser extent from R.gallica 3


Used in: Nourish and Enrich Why? Rosehips are contained in Nourish and Enrich for their light texture, hydrating and antioxidant properties. They’re an ideal natural moisturising oil for all skin types. Being high in vitamin C, several times higher than oranges, they are a natural preservative and benefit the skin for all things anti-ageing.

Traditional uses of Rosa canina/Rosa rubiginosa

Unlike other species of roses, R.canina and R.rubiginosa are not coveted for their flowers. The flowers are left on the shrub so that the fruit can develop and the rosehips can be harvested. 

Rosehips may have been used as a medicine by the ancient Egyptians. However, the first documented use was done by Pliny the Elder (1st century BC). This was a description of a practice among French tribes to use the plant in the treatment of dog bites 4. Interestingly, this is how the name Rosa canina was given to this species of wild rose! The German nun Hildegaarde of Bingen (~ 12th century AD) recommended the infusion of rosehips in her healing remedies. For centuries European sailors also kept a stock of rosehips as a protection against scurvy. In fact, the large scale harvesting of rosehips was organised during World War II in England to provide relief from scurvy.

In South America, the seeds and seed oil from rosehip (from Rosa mosqueta) were used in skin protection and healing of burns 5. Native Americans and Mayans may also have exploited the medicinal properties of rosehips.

In Iran, rosehips (from Rosa damascena) are used as a blood purifier. It is also consumed with bread or made into herbal tea 6.

Scandinavian countries also use rosehips in jams and soups, although the health benefits of these preparations are doubtful 4.

In Tunisia, rosehips are dried and ground to flour which when cooked in milk is used as baby food or as a children’s snack. An aqueous decoction called Nesri is also a popular cardiovascular stimulant 7.

The shell and the seed cakes obtained after oil extraction from rosehips are used as cattle feed 3.

The leaves and roots of R.canina have also been used as medicine. Folk medicine recommended the roots for consumption in the treatment of piles, dysuria, cough and rheumatism. Internal use of the leaves was common to provide relief in the case of colds, cough and ‘flu-like’ symptoms. A decoction was also given to those with skin allergies and eczema 4.

The interest in the oil of rosehips is recent. In the 1980s, as the popularity of essential oils made a comeback, rosehip oil was reviewed for its properties as an enhancer of skin complexion. It is now used in various skin care formulations, lotions and oils.

Bioactivity and associated components of the plant

canina flower extract contains alkanes, alkenes, terpenes (α and β-pinenes, β- caryophyllene, α and δ-guaienes), terpenols (linolool, eugenol), furan derivatives (dimethylfuran, furanyl ethanone and 5-methyl furfural) and an isoprenoid (β – ionone) 7.

The oil extracted from rosehips contain high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), known to be essential to the skin. These include cis-linoleic acid, α- linoleic acid and oleic acid. A small amount of saturated fatty acids such as palmitic and stearic acids are also present 2. The eicosanoids produced from PUFAs help in reducing inflammation and photo-ageing 4.

A galactolipid that has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties is unique to rosehip oil. This galactolipid –called GOPO- stimulates the synthesis and restoration of collagen through its anti-metalloproteinase activity. The enzyme MMP is responsible for collagen breakdown leading to the formation of wrinkles, sagging skin and other changes that are usually associated with ageing skin 5.

The other components of rosehip oil are given below-

Flavonoids: Hyperoside, Tiliroside, Rutin, Quercetin, Catechin, Astragalin.

Carotenoids: Lutein, zeaxanthine, cryptoxanthine, lycopene.

Vitamins: Ascorbic acid (vitamin C); B vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenate and pyridoxine; Vitamin E (β- tocopherol, γ-tocopherol and δ-tocopherol); pro-vitamin A in the form of carotenoids 8.

The presence of vitamin E (tocopherols), vitamin C, polyphenols and various flavonoids confer a potent antioxidant activity on the oil. The fat soluble vitamins A and E support and maintain the skin by restoring damaged skin and preventing sunburn.

Kaemferol, a unique flavonoid found in rosehip oil, is an anti-obesity compound 4.

GOPO and linoleic acid– a spotlight on the main active bioactive components

  • GOPO

GOPO is a galactolipid where the chemical formula is (2S)-1,2-di-O-[(9Z,12Z,15Z)-octadeca-9-12-15trienoyl]-3-O-β d-galactopyranosyl glycerol. GOPO has potent anti-inflammatory activity which has been proven in disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. Of late, the skin restructuring ability of GOPO due to its ability to inhibit the metalloprotease which degrades collagen has garnered importance 5.

  • Linoleic acid  

Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid found in many plant oils. It is known to improve skin barrier properties, keeping the skin hydrated and supple. It prevents trans-epidermal water loss and reduces infections that are caused at the sites of damaged skin 9.

General health benefits and uses of Rosehip oil:

Rosehip oil is generally extracted using steam distillation, organic solvents such as ether/ethanol or under supercritical carbon dioxide. It has been proven to be safe and hypoallergenic8. It is also a dry oil in that it is non-greasy.

Rosehip oil is used both internally and in topical applications. With regard to internal consumption, the use of rosehip oil in alleviating inflammation in certain painful afflictions such as rheumatoid arthritis is well documented. Systematic studies using encapsulated rosehip powder has shown improved skin elasticity and a decrease in wrinkles 5. However, the major use of the oil is in skincare formulations for the following properties-

  • Wound healing and skin repair: Studies on the effect of rosehip oil on varicose ulcers and post-surgery scars showed enhanced epithelization, less visible scarring, decreased skin thickening, improved skin elasticity and a more even skin tone 2.
  • Anti-inflammatory effect: While GOPO has been recently proven as an anti-inflammatory molecule 5, trans-retinoic acid (as vitamin A) has also added to the soothing properties of rosehip oil 2.
  • Antioxidant effect: The presence of tocopherols, flavonoids and vitamin C in rosehip oil form a potent cocktail of antioxidants. Besides preventing the formation of free radicals, these compounds are thought to help in collagen restructuring that prevents the formation of wrinkles and has an anti-aging effect 4.
  • Improved skin health: Rosehip oil has excellent moisturising and emollient properties that keeps the skin hydrated and healthy 2.
  • Botany and grow it yourself

    The species Rosa canina grows wild in Europe. It is a deciduous shrub and can reach to more than six feet in height. The stems are flexible and the plant is commonly used as hedgerows. Like all members of the family Rosaceae, R.canina has maroon to purple coloured thorns. The leaves are pinnate with the typical serrated margins. Flowers are simple with five petals arranged around bright yellow coloured stamens. Flowers cluster at the ends of stems, appearing once in the season. The oval shaped red or orange coloured fruit develops after the petals fall off 2.

    Rosa canina is a fast-growing wild shrub. In Europe it flowers in the months of June and July. The fruit and seeds ripen from October to December. The plant is not dioecious with both male and female organs present on the flowers. Pollination is dependent on insects such as bees, butterflies, flies and beetles. Self-pollination is also possible.

    The dog rose grows wild on the sides of roads and fields. It can thrive in light sandy, loamy or heavy clayey soils. Moist or wet soils are best for the plant and water-logged areas should be avoided. It is also not fussy in that it tolerates acidic, alkaline as well as neutral soil and grows well both in sunlight and in the shaded areas of woodlands. The plant is found inland and while it can withstand strong wind, appears to be affected by seaside breezes 10.

    The plant can be grown from the seed or from cuttings. Both take at least a year to yield flowers. Rosehips are still harvested by hand and processed mechanically 8.

    Read about the five simple steps of the griffin+row skincare system: 1 Cleanse     2 Exfoliate     3 Hydrate     4 Nourish     5 Enrich

    griffin+row starter kit

    Each griffin+row product has a particular role and prepares the skin for the next skincare step. Products work best when used together. The griffin+row starter kit includes the complete system, with everything you need packed in a convenient bonus bag.


    References and sources

    1. Nowak R. (2005). Chemical Composition of Hips Essential Oils of Some Rosa L. Species. Verlag der Zeitschrift für Naturforschung, 60 c: 369-378.
    2. Rosehip seed oil. (Undated). Retrieved from (19th September 2017).
    3. Miller RA. (2017) Retrieved from (19th September 2017).
    4. Winther K, Vinther Hansen AS and Campbell-Tofte J. (2016). Bioactive ingredients of rosehips (Rosa canina L) with special reference to antioxidative and antiinflammatory properties: in vitro studies. Botanics: Targets and Therapy 6:11–23.
    5. Phetcharat L, Wongsuphasawat K and Winther K. (2015). The effectiveness of a standardized rosehip powder, containing seeds and shells of Rosa canina, on cell longevity, skin wrinkles, moisture, and elasticity. Clinical Interventions in Aging 10: 1849–1856.
    6. Mahboubi, M. (2016). Rosa damascenaas holy ancient herb with novel applications. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine6(1):10–16.
    7. Hosni K, Kerkenni A, Medfei W, Brahim NB and Sebei H. (2010). Volatile oil constituents of Rosa canina: Quality as affected by the distillation method. Organic Chemistry International 2010, Article ID 621967, 7 pages.
    8. Johnson W. (2016). Safety Assessment of Rosa canina-derived Ingredients as Used in Cosmetics. Retrieved from (20th September 2017).
    9. Vaughn AR, Clark AK, Sivamani RK and Shi VY. (2017). Natural Oils for Skin-Barrier Repair: Ancient Compounds Now Backed by Modern Science. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology .

    10. Rosa canina (2012). Retrieved from (22nd September 2017).

    Click on the images to find out about the unique skincare benefits of each ingredient or visit our ingredients for a brief overview.
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