The Bulgarian Rose Damascena and Its Magical Benefits
I visit my family in Bulgaria quite often, and, during my latest visit, I realised that I’ve never really talked about my country enough.
Even though I live in the UK, I still feel an intricate connection to Bulgaria – it is, after all, the land of my ancestors, the place where I was born, where I grew up, found my first love and gave birth to my daughter. But it’s special even beyond my personal experience. There’s just something, deep down inside, that fills me with infinite fascination about Bulgaria. We’ve got gorgeous natural parks, tall mountains and vast fields, sunny beaches for the summer season and excellent ski trails for the winter. The combination of fertile soil and exceptional geographical position also turn Bulgaria into a place where nearly everything can grow. The local farmers cultivate a large variety of fruits and veggies, and nature itself produces a near-endless supply of healthy herbs.
If you’ve never visited Bulgaria before, I wholeheartedly advise you to do so. There’s so much to see and experience that it would take dozens of articles to even begin covering the subject!
May and June are the best months to be in Bulgaria, both for visiting the eastern parts of Bulgaria (where our beaches are) and for staying in Central Bulgaria to visit Rose Valley (where I’m originally from). Whenever I visit during the summer months, getting from the airport to my home village can often take the better part of the day, because there’s just so many people there! This is the exact time when the Rose Festival is held, and people from all over the world flock to my little country to experience the authentic Bulgarian aesthetic and take in the gorgeous natural sights. If you’re interested in more travelling content, I’ve got a couple of articles for you, about my journeys to Switzerland and China. As of right now, however, I sadly don’t have a Bulgaria-focused article, but I plan to work on one in the near future! If you’d like to receive a notification when I post the next article, you should follow me on social media or subscribe to my newsletter for updates directly to your inbox!
Now, back to roses and rose oil. Bulgaria, among other things, is known for its production of rose oil. And, as some of you probably remember, I grew up in a small Bulgarian village, near the town of Kazanlak, in the very heart of the place called the Valley of Roses. It’s precisely there where our famed rose oil is produced. I’ve even had the pleasure of seeing parts of the process with my own eyes when I was a child, and let me tell you – it’s quite the laborious task! It wasn’t until I was older, however, that I actually took an interest in the benefits of rose oil and was able to appreciate the impact of this work fully.
The Bulgarian Rose Damascena
Known for their exquisite aroma and uses in traditional medicine, the roses cultivated in Bulgaria are of the Rosa Damascena (or Damask Rose) species. Beautiful and delicate, these flowers have played an essential role in the daily lives of the people in Rose Valley for hundreds of years, earning a well-deserved place in our local folklore. Usually associated with romantic love and relationships, they’ve found themselves the focus of countless beautiful stories, my favourite of which I’ll tell you now.
Legend has it that the Damascena rose originally came from Syria, more than 400 years ago. Back then, Damascus was a very prosperous place, home to many wealthy merchants. Our story begins in the home of one such merchant who had a gorgeous daughter. Every morning, his daughter would go to the garden and kiss the rosebuds awake, sharing her dreams with them.
One time, a young lad from the far north arrived with her father’s caravans. Strong and brave, he had decided to seek his fortune as a caravan guard, fending off the scoundrels and bandits along the roads. And, as it tends to happen in most stories, the merchant’s daughter, upon seeing his sun-kissed blonde hair and sky-blue eyes, immediately fell in love with him. But he was a mere guardsman, a low-born nobody, and her dad was his boss. It simply wasn’t meant to be.
When it was time for the lad to leave, the girl rushed to him, tears in her eyes, and presented him with a rosebud. “I might not be able to come with you, but please take this rose”, she said. “Every spring, this rose will bloom for you, as a symbol of my love”. They said farewell, and he left, never to see her again.
When the lad returned to his homeland, he planted the Damascena Rose in the valley surrounding his village. Not long after, the entire valley was covered in roses, which also gave it its current name – Rose Valley. Today, the roses there bloom during May and June, during the most wonderful hours of the morning. Far from the scorching sands of the desert, under the gentle caress of the Bulgarian spring, the roses became even more beautiful. Now known as the Queen of Roses, the rosebuds that the young man brought from many miles away have made Bulgaria famous far and wide with their delicate features and superb aroma. And the rose oil, produced from them is second to none.
The Health Benefits of Rose Oil
How Rose Oils Help Your Body
Famous for its health benefits, Damascena rose oil has earned its place in both traditional medicine and the cosmetics industry. Rose oil has been used in dealing with:
- Stress – according to a 2009 study, published in Natural Product Communications, rose oil can be used to relieve stress, normalise breathing rates and stabilise blood pressure
- Sleep issues – rose oil aromatherapy has shown promising results in improving sleep quality, especially in hospitalised patients
- Anxiety – in 2016, Nephro-Urology Monthly published an examination of the possible benefits of rose oil aromatherapy in dealing with the symptoms of anxiety
- Menopausal Symptoms – essential oils have proven their effectiveness in dealing with menopausal symptoms, and rose oil is no exception. In a 2008 study, found in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers detail the effects that essential oils can have on relieving menopausal symptoms.
- Cramps – Studies, examining the effectiveness of essential oils in abdominal massage procedures have shown promising results in alleviating cramps and menstrual pains in women of all ages.
Furthermore, rose oil is also used for the treatment of respiratory tract issues (asthma, coughs, fevers and even congestion), skin problems (dry, sensitive or irritable skin, stretch marks, acne, boils), inflammations and toxin build-ups!
Possible Side-effects of Rose Oil
Things to keep in mind when using Rose Oil
People have the tendency of perceiving essential oils as harmless. And while this is true for the most part, you should still proceed with caution, as some products can be very highly concentrated. Essential oils, especially ones of the rose variety, should never be taken internally, or applied to your eyes.
Before using a rose essential oil, you would want to make sure that it’s properly diluted, as the high concentration can cause problems. Furthermore, excessive use of any essential oil can cause issues, as they are absorbed through the skin, and large quantities can lead to toxicity build-ups.
If you’re trying out an essential oil for the first time, I’d recommend using it on a small patch of skin and waiting to see if any adverse effects manifest before proceeding.
I’d also like to remind you that, no matter how amazing and popular traditional techniques sound, they should never be used in the place of prescription medicine. Please do not self-treat conditions without consulting your doctor and never, ever, replace conventional cures with things like rose oil.
Pregnant and nursing women, as well as people taking prescription medicine for chronic conditions, should always consult with a certified medical professional before using essential oils. Remember, your health is a gift. Do not take it for granted!
What about you? Have you ever been to Bulgaria? Would you like to visit in the future? Have you heard of the Damascena rose? Give me your thoughts and experiences in the comments below! And, as always, if you think that I’ve missed something, please let me know, and I’ll add it!