FWD 2 Food as Medicine: Dog Rose Hip | HerbalEGram | February 2018

HerbalEGram: Volume 15, Issue 2, February 2018

Food as Medicine: Dog Rose Hip (Rosa canina, Rosaceae)

Editor’s Note: Each month, HerbalEGram highlights a conventional food and briefly explores its history, traditional uses, nutritional profile, and modern medicinal research. We also feature a nutritious recipe for an easy-to-prepare dish with each article to encourage readers to experience the extensive benefits of these whole foods. With this series, we hope our readers will gain a new appreciation for the foods they see at the supermarket and frequently include in their diets.

The basic materials for this series were compiled by dietetic interns from Texas State University in San Marcos and the University of Texas at Austin through the American Botanical Council’s (ABC’s) Dietetic Internship Program, led by ABC Education Coordinator Jenny Perez. We would like to acknowledge Perez, ABC Special Projects Director Gayle Engels, and ABC Chief Science Officer Stefan Gafner, PhD, for their contributions to this project.

By Hannah Baumana and Alexandra McKeeb

a HerbalGram Associate Editor

b ABC Dietetics Intern (Texas State, 2017)


Rosa canina blossomThe rose (Rosa spp.) hip (also sometimes written as “rosehip”) is a pseudofruit in the economically important Rosaceae family, which includes apple (Malus spp.), strawberry (Fragaria spp.), plum (Prunus spp.), and almond (Prunus spp.). The genus Rosa includes more than 100 species that have been cultivated since ancient times in a vast array of climates.1 Both rose petals and rose hips can be used in culinary and herbal preparations. Rose plants grow as shrubs and are characterized by thorny stems, compound, serrated leaves, and attractive, colorful flowers.2 Different species of roses are native to areas around the world from Europe to Japan, where they have a long history of culinary and medicinal use.3 Today, roses are cultivated commercially for ornamental and medicinal purposes in Europe and Asia, but wild varieties are also found in North and South America.

The rose hip is an aggregate fruit that consists of several dry fruits that are enclosed by a hypanthium: an enlarged, red, and fleshy floral cup.4 In particular, the hip of R. canina, or dog rose, has been used as a medicinal ingredient for about 2,000 years and is the subject of ongoing clinical trials that focus on its anti-inflammatory and health-promoting properties.

Phytochemicals and Constituents

Rose hip is well-known for its high vitamin C content. Rose hip is also a source of many other nutrients and bioactive compounds. Noteworthy compounds found in rose hip include carotenoids, tocopherols, tannins, pectin, amino acids, fatty acids, essential oils, and an anti-inflammatory galactolipid known as GOPO: (2S)-1,2-di-O[(9Z,12Z,15Z)-octadeca-9-12-15-trienoyl]-3-O-β-D-galactopyranosyl glycerol.5

Vitamin C is necessary for the biosynthesis of collagen, a primary protein in connective tissue in the human body. L-carnitine is an amino acid that helps convert fat tissue into energy, and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) is a hormone and neurotransmitter.5 These biological functions and vitamin C’s antioxidant capabilities have led to its use as an adjunct therapy for cancer, cardiovascular ailments, cataracts, cognitive decline, and the common cold,6 but therapeutic dosages for optimal benefits have yet to be determined. It also has been reported that other organic acids and flavanols present in rose hip aid in inhibiting oxidation of vitamin C, increasing its stability and bioavailability in humans.7 Rose hip seed contains a high amount of dietary fiber, which supports the gut microbiota by increasing the absorption of nutrients.4

Carotenoids in rose hip include beta-carotene, lycopene, rubixanthin, Rosa canina hips, driedlutein, and zeaxanthin.5 Dietary carotenoids have been associated with an array of antioxidant activities: induction of apoptosis (normal, pre-programmed cell death), inhibition of mammary cell proliferation, inhibition of angina pectoris, and radical stabilization and protection from prostate cancer and macular degeneration.4 Lycopene in particular has been found in very high concentrations in rose hip fruit.6 This antioxidant phytonutrient can support cardiovascular health, protect against degenerative eye conditions such as cataracts, treat asthma and numerous different types of cancer, and support treatment of the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.5

One of the most diverse groups of phytonutrients are triterpenes (including plant sterols), some of which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties.4 Plant sterols (phytosterols) are essential in forming and maintaining cell membranes. β-Sitosterol is usually the most abundant phytosterol found in R. canina and has been found to inhibit the absorption of dietary cholesterol.4,8

Rose hip seed contains polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), linoleic acid (LA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).4 These compounds can support cardiovascular health by decreasing triglycerides and cholesterol levels in the blood, inhibiting thrombosis, dilating blood vessels, and inhibiting inflammation. Several studies on the LA and ALA contents in rose hip seed extract have shown inhibition of the enzymes cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and COX-2, which are involved in the production of pro-inflammatory compounds called prostaglandins.4,5 The galactolipid GOPO has been shown to attenuate inflammatory responses in different cellular systems such as macrophages, peripheral blood leukocytes, and chondrocytes.5

Historical and Commercial Uses

The rose flower has had a significant cultural impact throughout human history. Rose has been mentioned in the clay tablets of Mesopotamia, the writings of Confucius, and Greek mythology, and it is especially prominent in Turkish folk literature.9 The Ottomans made heavy use of rose in medicinal preparations, in particular rose water. They believed that smelling rose water could strengthen the spirit and emotions, Rosa canina illustrationempower the brain and mind, regulate rapid heartbeat, alleviate nausea, strengthen the stomach, and heal disorders of the eyes if applied topically. The Greek physician Dioscorides authored the first known record of rose as a medicinal plant in the first century CE and mentioned both internal and external applications. For other recorded historical uses of the rose plant, see Table 1.

Rose hip continues to be used as both medicine and food in Turkey, where it is valued for its medicinal and aromatic properties and as an ingredient in snacks, marmalades, and juices.6 In Romania, Turkey, and Iran, rose hip is used in a variety of forms as a source of vitamins A and C to supplement intake and as folk medicine to treat the common cold, gallstones, constipation, and gastric disorders. Currently, Turkey supplies about 70% of the world’s rose products, such as rose water and essential oil.9

Rose hip is a common food product in European countries, as well, where it appears in desserts, breads, jellies, marmalades, ice cream, puddings, soups, syrups, and beverages.6 In the United States, indigenous peoples such as the Chumash and Samish tribes have used native wild rose hip (R. californica) raw, cooked, or brewed into wine. Medicinally, native tribes have used rose hip topically to relieve colds, infections, pain, inflammation, and influenza. In China, rose hip is used to flavor wine and is popular for its vitamin-rich extract that can help treat a variety of illnesses associated with the common cold and inflammation.3,6 Rose hip seed-derived oils are very popular in China in skincare and cosmetics.

Table 1: Recorded Therapeutic Uses for Dog Rose (Rosa canina)4

Plant Part

Therapy Type



Internal use

Anal hemorrhoids, dysuria, cough, rheumatism


Internal use

Colds, flu, cough, itching, eczema


Internal use

External use

Kidney stones


Fruits (shells)

Internal use

Cold, flu, cough, bronchitis, asthma, nephritis, gallbladder disease, burns, vitamin C deficiency, colic, lower urinary tract disorders, arthritis, rheumatic disorder, eyewash, diarrhea, intestinal catarrhs

Fruits (seeds)

Internal use

Kidney and lower urinary tract health, osteoarthritis, rheumatism, gout, sciatica, cold, fever, blood purification, vitamin C deficiency

Fruits (seeds and shells)

External Use

Rheumatism, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, cardiac disorders, hypoglycemia, and infection

Modern Research

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of rose hip have been studied in clinical trials that predominantly used powdered rose hips as the active ingredient. The majority of trials have focused on these properties when assessing obesity and obesity-related metabolic disorders (comorbidities) as well as arthritis and pain-related conditions. In vitro studies have also been conducted to assess rose hip’s effects on cell health and protection.

Obesity and Metabolic Disorders

In clinical trials, those taking dried and powdered rose hip fruit experienced significant reductions in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and systolic blood pressure compared to those taking a placebo, as well as reduced cardiovascular risk markers in obese subjects.10 Rose hip powder also was associated with significantly decreased fasting blood glucose levels and the total cholesterol/high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ratio in patients with type 2 diabetes.11

In vitro, rose hip extract has been found to significantly increase proliferation of BTC-6 cells (murine pancreatic β-cells) with no reported cytotoxicity of healthy cells compared to the control.12 The regeneration of pancreatic β-cells has been shown to play an essential role in managing diabetes mellitus. This increase in β-cell proliferation may be one of the mechanisms in which rose hip extract helps manage diabetes mellitus. This proliferative effect could counteract the deficiency of pancreatic β-cells found in this condition and increase their viability and performance.

Arthritis and Pain-Related Conditions

Arthritis is an inflammatory condition characterized by the destruction of cartilage and joints and can eventually lead to negative effects on the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood, and nerves. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a form of arthritis that is triggered by articular cartilage destruction. Most often, OA treatment aims to subdue symptoms related to pain or stiffness and reduce inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune inflammatory condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints, causing pain similar to OA.

A particular variety of rose hip powder from Langeland Island, Denmark, with a relatively high level of GOPO, hRosa canina hipsas shown anti-inflammatory activity in patients with OA compared to placebo, with participants reporting significant reductions in stiffness, pain during manual activities, and general feelings of discomfort.13 Daily supplementation with rose hip powder also correlated with a significant reduction in the use of conventional medications such as acetaminophen, opioids, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and reduction in pain according to the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) compared to placebo in patients with OA.14 In patients with RA, rose hip powder was associated with significant improvement according to the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) disability index after six months of daily supplementation.15 Patients with self-reported knee-related walking limitations experienced significant increases in knee joint movement and improvements in knee flexing ability compared to the control group after supplementation with rose hip powder.16

Age-Related Skin Conditions

Rose hip’s vitamin C, carotenoid, polyphenol, polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), and GOPO contents have been investigated for anti-aging activities. Oral rose hip supplementation correlated with significant differences over baseline in the depth of crow’s feet wrinkles, skin moisture content, and elasticity.17 The results were similar to those of a comparison group that used astaxanthin, a carotenoid that has gained popular use as an anti-aging agent.

Consumer Considerations

The nutrient and bioactive compound contents of rose hip depend on the subspecies, processing techniques, growing region, and environmental conditions.6 Assays show that ripe rose hips have the highest tocopherol and β-carotene levels, while unripe hips contain higher levels of ascorbic acid.18

When choosing or harvesting roses for consumption, either for petals or hips, consumers should note that the ornamental roses available in flower shops, nurseries, and grocery stores often are grown with the use of pesticides. In order to avoid chemical exposure, consumers should try to ensure that the roses are organically grown specifically for culinary and/or medicinal purposes. Wild-harvested roses should come from a habitat with no history of pesticide use or run-off (i.e., the side of a road or an unknown garden should be avoided).

Nutrient Profile19

Macronutrient Profile: (Per 100 grams rose hips)

162 calories
1.6 g protein
38.22 g carbohydrate
0.3 g fat

Secondary Metabolites: (Per 100 grams rose hips)

Excellent source of:

Vitamin C: 426 mg (473.3% DV)
Vitamin A: 4345 IU (86.9% DV)
Dietary Fiber: 24.1 g (80.3% DV)
Manganese: 1 mg (43.5% DV)
Vitamin E: 5.84 mg (38.9% DV)
Vitamin K: 25.9 mcg (21.6% DV)

Very good source of:

Magnesium: 69.3 mg (16.5% DV)
Calcium: 169 mg (13% DV)

Good source of:

Riboflavin: 0.12 mg (9.2% DV)
Potassium: 429 mg (9.1% DV)
Niacin: 1.3 mg (8.1% DV)
Iron: 1.1 mg (6.1% DV)

Also provides:

Phosphorus: 60.6 mg (4.8% DV)
Vitamin B6: 0.08 mg (4.7% DV)
Thiamin: 0.02 mg (1.7% DV)

Trace Amount:

Folate: 3.2 mcg (0.8% DV)

DV = Daily Value as established by the US Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Recipe: Immune-Boosting Rose Hip Jam

Courtesy of Katja Heino20


  • 1 cup dried, deseeded rose hips
  • 1 1/2 cups fruit juice of choice (ex: apple, cherry, pomegranate)
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest


  1. Combine rose hips and juice in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 4-5 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
  3. After refrigerating, combine rose hip/juice mixture and orange zest in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.

Image credit (top to bottom):

Dog rose blossom (Rosa canina)
©2018 Steven Foster
Dog rose hips (Rosa canina) ©2018 Steven Foster
Dog rose illustration from Atlas des plantes de France by Amédée Masclef, 1891
Dog rose hips (Rosa canina) ©2018 Steven Foster


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  10. Andersson U, Berger K, Högberg A, Landin-Olsson M, Holm C. Effects of rose hip intake on risk markers of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease: a randomized, double-blind, cross-over investigation in obese persons. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012;66:585-590.
  11. Dabaghian FH, Abdollahifard M, Sigarudi FK, et al. Anti-hyperglycemic effect of aqueous extract of Rosa canina L. fruit in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized double-blind placebo controlled clinical trial. Int J Biosci. 2015;7(2):216-224.
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  20. Heino K. Immune Boosting Rose Hip Jam. Savory Lotus website. Available at: www.savorylotus.com/immune-boosting-rosehip-jam/. Accessed February 1, 2018.