A Deeper Look Series: Rose Otto Essential Oil

Called the queen of flowers by the Greek poet Sappho, rose is the raw material of an aphrodisiac essential oil that promises great results against sexual dysfunctions. It may help a woman to conceive or stop her from miscarrying. For the man, its fertile power may show as an increase of sperm in his semen. Is it any wonder, then, that the symbolism and tradition of this most famous flower goes back thousands of years?

#9 of 10: Rose Otto Essential Oil


Rose Otto Essential Oil is a pale yellow or olive-coloured liquid with a sweet, floral aroma. It is steam-distilled from the flowers of Rosa damascena, or the damask rose.

The rose plant grows to a height of 1-2 metres (40-80 inches), and has greyish-green, hairy leaves and a prickly stem. The flowers are pink or red and have 36 petals in two rows.

The damask rose is native to Europe and Western Asia. Rose Otto Essential Oil is produced in various countries around the world with Bulgaria, France and Turkey being the principal producers.

Similar types of roses, and related essential oils, are also grown in China, India and Russia. India specialises in producing rose water and aytar, a mixture of rose otto and sandalwood oils.

The Name of the Rose

The Rosa damascena rose variety—used in the production of Rose Otto Essential Oil—stems from Northern Persia, in an area called Faristan.

As with many other plants and flowers, the etymology of the name “Rosa” goes back to the Greek language. The name is derived from the Greek word “rodon”, meaning red. The rose was believed to have sprung from the blood of Adonis, the god of vegetation.

The word “otto” in the description is a variant of “attar”, a Persian or Arabic word for “apothecary” or “perfumer”.

Attar, in this instance, stands for the “distilled essence” of the rose flower.

Rosa damascena is a member of the Rosaceae family and goes by the English names of summer damask rose, Bulgarian rose and Turkish, or the damascus, rose—in addition to the damask rose.

The Rosaceae plant family has about 250 sub-species. They include the white or the musk rose (Rosa muscatta), used to grow around damask rose plantations to shield the more valuable plant from winds.

Cabbage rose, or may rose (Rosa centifolia) and the gallic rose (Rosa gallica) are the main commercial varieties—along with the damask rose—used for essential oil production.

The Queen of Flowers


The rose was called the queen of flowers by the Greek poet Sappho. Rose Otto Essential Oil, in turn, was recommended by Culpepper for its “cathartic quality” to “cool inflammation or swellings”.

Rose otto has been used historically to cure headaches, fever, eye infection, liver congestion and poor circulation, among other things. Its main function, however, has always been understood to lie in the area of sexuality and gynecology.

Rose otto is the most famous aphrodisiac within essential oils and can also be used to treat irregular or excessive menstruation. It may help a woman to conceive or to stop her from miscarrying. Rose otto has a regulating and purifying effect on the uterus and can help in cases of uterine prolapse.

Rose otto is the preferred oil in aromatherapy for sexual dysfunctions and genito-urinary problems, especially for women. It uplifts a sad, depressed mood, and is recommended for women who are insecure in their sexuality, due to negative self-image or a relationship issue.

Rose Otto Essential Oil is used to treat women with post-natal depression, and it is a marvellous aid for passing through grief caused by a broken relationship. It heals emotional wounds left from loss or rejection and restores a person’ capacity to love.

Rose Otto for Men

Rose otto is of assistance to men, as well. It increases the amount of semen in the sperm, and helps men struggling with impotence.

So close is the association of rose and sexuality (and reproduction) that the ancient Romans used to sprinkle rose petals on the beds of newlyweds.

Echoes of this tradition are still heard at weddings where rose petals are used as a decorative element.

Discovery of Rose Oil


The rose oil itself was, according to the story, first discovered at the wedding of Persian Princess Nour Djihan to Grand Mogul Djihanguyr. The garden venue of the wedding was surrounded by a canal which, for the occasion, was filled with rose water. In the heat of the day, a “scum” floated to the surface of the water. This turned out to be rose oil, distilled naturally by the rays of the sun.

Symbolism and History of the Rose

The rose flower symbolises love, beauty and perfection. It is revered in ancient art and literature.

Rose is also an ancient symbol of pleasure.

In Rome, rose petals were strewn on the floors of the houses and on the streets during festivals and other celebrations.

The rose was also used and valued in ancient Greece, Babylon, Assyria, China and India. It is mentioned in Sanskrit texts, and the Chinese writer Li Shizhen (1518-1593) says this of a rose variety grown in China:

“Its nature is cooling, its taste is sweet with a light bitterishness, and it acts on the spleen and liver, promoting the circulation of the blood. It is prescribed in the form of an extract for haematemesis, and the flowers are used in all diseases of the liver, to scatter abscesses, and in blood diseases generally. Essence of rose is made by distilling the flowers of Rosa rugosa. Its medicinal action is on the liver, stomach, and blood. It drives away melancholy.”

Chemical Constituents


The modern science has discovered that Rose Otto Essential Oil is composed of over 300 chemical ingredients. The main ones are:

  • Citronellol (34-55%)
  • Geraniol and nerol (30-40%)
  • Stearopten (16-22%)

Phenyl ethanol (1.5-3%) and farnesol (0.2-2%) are represented in lesser amounts. The rest of the chemical components occur in minute amounts but may not be any less important in terms of the health benefits of the Rose Otto Essential Oil.

Rose Otto Essential Oil Extraction

Rose Otto Essential Oil is extracted from the rose flowers by steam distillation.

Often, the distilled oil is redistilled in a process called cohobation. The products of the first and second distillation are then mixed together. The resulting essential oil is rich in the important phenyl ethyl alcohol.

The process of making Rose Otto Essential Oil is arduous and labour-intensive.

The flowers have to be hand-picked between 5am and 10am, when the flowers are most open and their oil content is the highest.

One kilogram (2.2 pounds) of Rose Otto Essential Oil requires 4000 kilos (8800 pounds) of flowers. To produce just 28 grams (1 oz) of essential oil, 60,000 rose flowers (equivalent of 57 kg or 125.6 pounds) are needed.

It is perhaps understandable that the oil thus produced cannot be cheap and should mainly be used for ailments and issues for which it is specifically meant for, in this case sexual, reproductive and mental concerns.

Other Uses of Rose Otto Essential Oil


Rose Otto Essential Oil is an anti-depressant, antiseptic, antispasmodic and antiviral. It is also an antiphlogistic, astringent and bactericidal. It is a stomachic, choleretic, haemostatic, hepatic and cicatrisant. In addition, it acts as a laxative, and can regulate appetite. Lastly, rose otto is a tonic affecting liver, heart, uterus and the stomach.

In plain English, the Rose Otto Essential Oil has a beneficial effect on the skin, circulation, muscles, joints, the respiratory, digestive, nervous and genito-urinary systems. Its main effect on these areas of physique is cooling and soothing.

Rose otto can be used to treat dry, old or sensitive skin. It heals broken capillaries, works on eczema and herpes, and is good for wrinkles.

Rose otto helps with heart palpitations and poor circulation. It can be used to counter nausea and cholecystitis, and it is useful in cases of nervous tension and other stress-related conditions. Depression, insomnia, asthma, coughs and hay fever can all be treated with Rose Otto Essential Oil.

It is sexuality, however, where rose otto is unrivalled. It is for this purpose that Rose Otto Essential Oil is most often prescribed by aromatherapists.

Rose Otto Essential Oil in Oriental Medicine

In the eastern medicinal tradition, Rose Otto Essential Oil is used for much the same ailments as in its western counterpart, including liver problems, anxiety, depression and headaches.

It replenishes yin- or female energy and invigorates stagnant blood and qi-energy.

Rose otto aids with the flow of bile and thus treats nausea.

It cools and regulates the liver function which in turn has an effect on the level of tension, irritation, headaches and constipation a person may experience.

Rose Otto Essential Oil works on the emotions and brings back a feeling of balance and happiness.

Cautions and Advice


Rose otto is expensive, but long-lasting. Very little is needed to effect a change in health and well-being.

Rose Otto Essential Oil is non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitising. Care must be taken, however, to buy a distilled essential oil, as the oils produced by solvent extraction may contain traces of chemical solvents.

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