Garden View: Stop, smell and make roses into medicinal tea

For centuries, rose petals have been used in making medicinal teas.

As we celebrate January as National Tea Month, I thought it would be interesting to explore some of the herbs that help make tea a healthy drink.

Growing up, my grandmother had a beautiful rose garden and she regularly made rose water and rose petal tea.

Today, we usually treat roses as landscape plants, but they have been an import herb for many years in cultures around the world.

Rose petals are sometimes added to traditional green tea or mixed with other medicinal herbs like lemon grass, hibiscus, mint and chamomile to combine health benefits.

Rose is naturally caffeine free, and studies show that petals contain several polyphenols that provide a variety of antioxidants known to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, support heart health and combat aging. Rose petals have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.

The colored pigments in petals are rich in anthocyanins, which help protect the urinary tract and eye health, as well as lower chances of getting some cancers. The lighter petals also impart a sweeter taste to tea while darker petals may be more peppery or bitter.

You can use fresh petals (about 2 cups of petals per 3 cups of water) or dried petals when making tea (1 to 2 tablespoons per cup of water). If you are going to use fresh petals, make sure no pesticides were used on the roses.

Do not use rose petals from the floral industry, as most of these roses are sprayed to protect the plants and flowers. Rinse fresh petals in cold water to remove dust and any insects. Drain them well and pat dry with a paper towel.

If drying, simply let the petals air dry in a single layer, for a week or two.

Once dried, they should be placed in sealed jars in a dark, cool area (a kitchen cabinet), until needed for tea.

While most types of roses are edible and can be used in tea, the Food and Drug Administration recognizes four rose species as generally safe for use: Rosa alba, Rosa centifolia, Rosa damascene, and Rosa gallica.

January is a great time to celebrate tea and to use it to improve our health. Today, the Growing Growers Farmers Market will have several rose petal herbal teas, including rose and lemon grass, rose and mint, rose and chamomile and rose with hibiscus, the traditional Mexican flor de Jamaica.

This market is open every Saturday (except major holidays), from 9 a.m. to noon, in McAllen’s Firemen’s Park, at the corner of First Street and Business 83. For more information about the farmers market, contact (956) 330-6410.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. She can be reached by e-mail at barbarastorz@ hotmail.com.