The origin story of rose oil is a romantic one: In 1582, Persian Emperor Djihanguyr filled the fountains of his royal gardens with rose petals for his wedding. When his beloved bride noticed the oily residue on the surface of the water and fell in love with its scent, he had it bottled as a tribute to her.
But rosewater, a byproduct of rose oil distillation, has its own tale as old as time. Cleopatra was believed to have bathed in it—but even before her lifetime, the luxurious water can be traced back as far as 1200 BC when it was traded in the region that would become Ancient Greece. It’s been a staple in many Persian and Middle Eastern homes for generations, and eventually, natural living enthusiasts in the U.S. couldn’t resist its fragrant powers.
So what does it do? Well, like so many other plant-derived substances, rosewater has plenty of diverse uses. Here are six ways to harness the classic beauty—and aroma—of rosewater.
A culinary gem
Fans of cuisine from the Middle East and Northern India are wise to complex flavors, and rosewater is one of the key ingredients that gives dishes from these regions such depth. A food-grade rosewater like this one lends a warm, aromatic quality to cakes and pastries like baklava, and adds a delicate balance to a tart and earthy citrus carrot salad.
A pretty potion
Rosewater makes a lovely tea or tonic that is believed to have calming effects on the body’s internal system, and it can ease conditions like bloating and inflammation and even uplift your mental state. To enjoy it as a warm tea, steep a handful of fresh rose petals in boiling water for 10 minutes, strain, and sip. Or drink store-bought rosewater straight-up for extra cooling hydration.
In the mist
Upscale beauty brands charge a lot of money for a thing called a face mist, meant to soothe irritation and calm, hydrate, and brighten skin. Guess what: There’s no need to splurge. Rosewater does the trick at a fraction of the cost. And because of its natural rose essence, it smells and feels just as luxurious as any rose-infused mist on the market.
For a more concentrated application of rosewater, swap it in for toner in your skin care routine. Saturate a cotton ball with it and glide it all over the complexion to calm, cleanse, and hydrate in one swipe.
Smell the roses
Spray it on hair, body, and clothes to add a light, airy, subtly floral fragrance that can inspire a sense of love and ease. Even use it to scent sheets—the sweet smell definitely has aphrodisiac qualities.
Make your own
Wanna have some fun with rosewater? Make a DIY batch by simply dropping a handful of fresh rose petals into a jar, cover with distilled water, and put a lid on it. Steep it in the sun for two days, and that's it. To turn it into a super-moisturizing mist, add a teaspoon or so of vegetable glycerin, which pulls moisture from the air.
So what’s so great about rosewater? Aside from the fact that it’s made from one of the world’s most beloved flowers, it tastes, smells, and feels like a dream—one that includes a stroll through a gorgeous garden.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho