Rose hips are the fruits of rose plants. Wild roses are the ancestors of today’s garden roses and a strong presence in the flora of most continents. Just as important, many species of wild roses, such as Rosa canina or Rosa rubiginosa, produce edible fruit with great nutritional value and therapeutic properties. Rose fruits, commonly called rose hips, rosehips or simply hips, are used as a natural source of vitamin C in dietary supplements and preparations from the fruit pulp and seeds such as rose hip fruit tea or rose hip seed oil are used for lowering high blood pressure, treating heart failure, reducing water retention and have proven benefits for relieving arthritis pain.
What is rose hip?
The rose hip is the fruit of the rose plant (alternative spelling: rosehip). Other common names include rose hep and rose haw or simply hip, and may be used to refer to the fruits of any species of wild or cultivated rose. The names sea tomato, beach tomato and beach plum are more commonly used to refer to the fruit of the Rosa rugosa species. There is an estimated of over 300-350 species of wild rose plants, and roughly 10 times more cultivars and hybrids. Commonly occurring species include: Rosa canina, Rosa rugosa, Rosa Rubiginosa, Rosa Moschata, Rosa moyesii, Rosa acicularis etc. and can be found in Europe, Northern Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and North America, basically all over the world.
What do rose hips look like?
There is some variety as to how rose hips look like. Fruit size, shape and color vary depending on the species. For the most part, rose hips are small, berry-sized, oval or egg-shaped fruits, roughly 1.5-2 cm long. Some fruits are particularly narrow and elongated at the end opposite to the stem and look like a bottle. The fruits of some species are rounder instead of elongated (about 2-3 cm in diameter), and look like crab apples; sometimes they’re flattened at both ends. Ripe rose hips are typically bright red or orange-red in color, but some species produce orange, red-purple or dark purple, almost black fruits. Fruits typically have 5 green or brown-spotted, elongated sepals at the end opposite to the stem which wither with time, leaving a small, black tuft with 5 corners.
Each fruit contains several, large, cream-colored, pointy seeds and overall little pulp. The pulp is orangey towards the middle and redder in proximity to the skin. The longer the fruit stays on the plant, the less pulp it ends up having as the cold and frost cause it to dry out and shrivel. Botanically speaking, rose hips are a type of false fruit, an accessory fruit, but are culinary berries or fruits. See the picture below for a better idea on how rose hips look like.
What do rose hips taste like?
Ripe rose hips taste a lot like a slightly tart, unsweetened jam. The taste is mild and pleasant, with warm flavor notes, not very sweet. The pulp is soft and creamy, sometimes also hairy. The seeds are hard and taste bitter. Rose hips ripen in October, but can stay on the plant until December or, in exceptional cases, until February or early March (unless there is a hard winter or birds or other animals help themselves to them). Rose hips are best picked after the first frosts which soften the fruit and tone down their tart flavor. The fruit is perfectly edible raw, but because it doesn’t have a very popular flavor profile which is why it’s preferred for jams, syrups, tea, even soup, and other preparations.
What to do with rose hips
The small size of the fruit and the small content of pulp are the biggest reasons why rose hips are not usually eaten as fruit, but used to make preserves such as jam, jelly, marmalade (to use in pies and pastry fillings) or rose hip leather, but also soups, syrup and rose hip fruit tea, or rose hip seed oil. Rose hip parts used in tea include the whole fruit, fresh or dried, the fruit without seeds, and even the young leaves or twigs in some species. The tea is used internally for its cardiovascular benefits, and the oil topically for joint inflammation and pain in arthritis and gout, but also in beauty regimens for face, skin and hair care. Other uses: the pulp serves as raw material for vitamin C extraction and is used to make naturally-sourced vitamin C supplements and immune system boosting dietary supplements. The fruits can be fermented to make wine, specialty fruit brandies such as ‘palinka’ or ‘palinca’ and other alcoholic beverages.
Rose hips nutrition facts per 100 g
- Energy value: 162 kilo-calories/kcal
- Water content: 58.66 g
- Carbohydrates: 38.22 g
- Dietary fiber: 24.1 g
- Sugars: 2.58 g
- Protein: 1.6 g
- Fat: 0.34 g
- Vitamin A: 217 mcg/micrograms from antioxidants: beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 0.016 mg
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 0.166 mg
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 1.3 mg
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 0.800 mg
- Vitamin B6: 0.076 mg
- Vitamin B9 (folate): 3 mcg/micrograms
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): 0 mg
- Choline: 12 mg
- Vitamin C: 426 mg
- Vitamin D: 0 mcg/micrograms
- Vitamin E: 5.84 mg in the form of alpha-tocopherol, beta, gamma and delta-tocopherol
- Vitamin K (phylloquinone): 25.9 mcg/micrograms
- Calcium: 169 mg
- Copper: 0.113 mg
- Magnesium: 69 mg
- Manganese: 1.02 mg
- Phosphorus: 61 mg
- Potassium: 429 mg
- Sodium: 4 mg
- Zinc: 0.25 mg
Despite not being popular fruits to eat raw, rose hips are actually a good source of nutrition. The fruits are one of the best sources of vitamin C in nature, and one of the most readily available, given the fact that rose plants are part of the spontaneous flora present on most continents. According to the numbers made available by the USDA, rose hips are also an excellent source of dietary fiber, low in sugar and salt (sodium), a good source of vitamin A, vitamin B3, B5, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese and potassium.
Antioxidants in rose hip
- Pro-vitamin A antioxidant carotenes: beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin
- Carotene antioxidants without vitamin A activity: lycopene
- Xanthophylls: lutein, zeaxanthin
- Other red-pigmented antioxidants: betaine (2.9 mg of betaine/100 g) and anthocyanins in purple and some red-colored rose hip species
- Vitamin E: alpha-tocopherol, beta-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol and delta-tocopherol
- Vitamin C (highest antioxidant content in the fruit pulp)
- Dietary minerals with antioxidant activity: copper, iron, manganese
- Other antioxidants: various flavonoids with biologically active properties
There are also Omega-3, Omega-6 and other fatty acids with antioxidant activity in the seeds which are used to produce rose hip oil for topical use. Most of the vitamin E content of rose hips is concentrated in the fruit seeds.
Rose hip benefits
The benefits of rose hip are varied and primarily a result of the high vitamin C and other antioxidants content of the fruit and seeds. Here is what rose hips and rose hip seed oil are good for:
- Benefits for teeth and gums thanks to vitamin C which helps reduce the risks of gum disease and tooth decay.
- Antiviral, antibacterial and immune system modulating properties thanks to high amounts of vitamin C.
- Boost in the immune system function which results in a faster recovery from the common cold and flu (high amounts of vitamin C cause lighter symptoms that resolve faster).
- Anti-aging benefits: improved skin elasticity thanks to vitamin C content which actively stimulates collagen production to improve wrinkle appearance and skin firmness.
- Regenerative properties with benefits for faster wound healing.
- Antioxidant properties from vitamins A, C, E, copper, iron, manganese, carotenoids, anthocyanins, flavonoids and other antioxidants which reduce oxidative stress-related damage that is conducive to chronic disease.
- Anti-proliferative properties with anticancer potential thanks to a high vitamin C content.
- Strong anti-inflammatory properties resulting from the fruit’s vitamin C content, with benefits for pain relief and inflammation-related conditions.
- Rose hips, rose hip powder and supplements containing the dried fruit pulp may help with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis-related pain and inflammation, reducing joint inflammation and pain, as well as the need for anti-inflammatory medication, and improving mobility.
- Cold-pressed rose hip seed oil has emollient properties and is moisturizing, helping skin better retain moisture, and reduces dry skin sensation and itching.
- Omega-6 and Omega-4 fatty acids and vitamin E in rose hip seed oil and vitamin C in the fruit pulp have regenerative properties and help repair skin damage.
- Benefits for eyesight thanks to good amounts of vitamin A which helps with visual acuity, color vision and night vision.
- Minor benefits for reducing urinary tract infections recurrence and duration.
- Blood sugar-regulating properties thanks to a high-fiber content and extremely low-sugar content.
- Rose hips and rose hip tea and supplements may help with weight management and even support weight loss, reducing risks of type 2 diabetes and associated complications.
- Cholesterol-lowering properties from dietary fiber, vitamin C and B vitamins.
- Blood pressure-lowering and diuretic properties, with benefits for water retention, thanks to good amounts of potassium and almost no sodium.
- Potential benefits for heart failure (talk to your doctor first if you are considering introducing rose hips into your diet for the treatment of heart failure or any other condition).
- Laxative properties with benefits for constipation relief thanks to a high dietary fiber content.
- Potential anti-inflammatory benefits for inflammatory bowel conditions.
- Rose hips are potentially good for gout thanks to their high vitamin C content and diuretic properties.
- Source of varied nutrition with tonic, energizing properties.
- Supports blood coagulation thanks to a high vitamin K content.
Tips for you
Fresh rose hips and minimally processed rose hip preparations such as the dried and ground fruit pulp are the best choice if you want to enjoy all the benefits the fruit has to offer. Lack of heat preparation ensures that most of the vitamin C content in the fruit is maintained. Cooking and other heat processing cuts vitamin C content as well as alters the properties of other vitamins and antioxidants. At the same time, cooking heat increases the bioavailability of lycopene, making it easier to absorb. Eating rose hip fruits with a source of fat maximizes the absorption of fat soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, E and K. It is possible to be allergic to rose hip fruits or flower pollen and even the seed oil – if this is the case, avoid consumption in all forms and preparations.