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Wild Rose, Alchemy, All That Is By Heidi Amaru Nielsen

Pg. 48-51 3 minute read

In herbs and alchemy, Heidi Nielsen has taken us on a journey with Rosa nutkana (Nooka Rose), including harvesting, distilling, and its many uses. Wild Rose is a hardy perennial shrub in the Rosaceae family. It is native to Nooka Sound, a waterway on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It grows prevalently throughout the Pacific Northwest and can flourish in many habitats and difficult conditions.

All parts of the plant offer a variety of healing benefits. The flowers and leaves are vulnerary (wound healing) and are soothing and cooling for the skin and eyes, easing pain and reducing inflammation. Wild Rose petals are a much beloved edible flower, calming and soothing anxiety and stress and imparting a gentle and sweet aroma. Rose petals are lovely in tea or infused in honey for a sweet spoonful of heart healing to soothe grief and sadness and bringing joy and activating heart energy. Rose hips form in the fall after the blooming season and are nutrient-rich and full of vitamins A, C, and E. They are a wonderful springtime tonic for the kidneys and bladder, as they are mildly astringent and diuretic. Rose hips are gathered either in the late fall or early spring and can be boiled in tea or dried and have been eaten raw. The edible part of a rose hip is the outer shell. Great care must be taken to remove the mass of hard hairy seeds inside, as the fine hairs are irritating to the digestive tract and mouth. Rose hips make a wonderful addition to jellies and jams, offering nutritional benefits and flavour enhancement. Indigenous people have used the roots of the plant to make a tea for easing labour pains and sore throats, and the leaves and flowers for making an eye/face wash.

The gifts from the distillation process are essential oil and hydrosol. Both have benefits that are unique in their application. Essential oil is separated from the water as a highly concentrated essence. The aromatic water is less concentrated as a more subtle product. Some plants contain more volatile essential oils than others. Lavender, for example, is rich with aromatic molecules and has a higher yield of essential oil, as opposed to Wild Rose, and most varieties of rose, which require large amounts of petals in order to yield precious little essential oil. When distilling Wild Rose, I use 'freshly harvested' petals, (Earth), which are placed into my copper pot with spring water (Water) and slowly heated (Fire) so as not to damage the delicate organic constituents. As the volatile aromatic molecules of the petals begin to rise (Air) within the steam, so does my heartfelt joy at the miracle of transformation that happens within the copper pot! The three elemental principles of Alchemy, (Soul, Spirit, Body) are present in all things that exist, and are a fundamental aspect of distillation. As the plant material (Body) is gently heated, the lighter and more volatile constituents (Spirit) rise up within the steam, to be transformed to essence (Soul) in their cooling to a liquid state.

To learn more about Heidi Amaru Nielsen and her work, visit her website at

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