In May our minds might turn to flowers—not only is there Mother’s Day, proms, and the start of the wedding season, but it’s also a great month to get our gardens started.
It’s an extra bonus to learn that some of the most beautiful and popular bouquet and planting choices have several hidden health benefits in their petals, scents and seeds.
Here we share three classic favorites, which can be used for everything from tea to cooking oil; skin care to aromatherapy.
Aside from the poetic beauty and the pure romance, roses are practical and useful plants that have contributed to the health and wellness of people across the globe, for centuries!
Rose oil and rose water are extracted from the petals, and rose hips, which are the swollen seed buds, also have many valuable properties.
Skincare, especially for dry or sensitive skin, is a traditional use for the rose. There is a toning benefit that heals and shrinks the small blood vessels called capillaries under the surface of the skin. Enlarged capillaries are a primary cause of redness and irritation, and rose water is famed for soothing them.
You can make your own rose water for all these uses, and for cooking and baking as well. Traditionally, it may be steam distilled to achieve a colorless, more potent result. But there’s a fast and easy method you can use at home: simply boil distilled water and pour over rose petals. Let them steep until they cool down to room temperature. Strain and store in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to one month. One cup of packed petals to two cups of water is a good ratio. Be sure to rinse off your petals before you soak them!
The essence of rose may positively affect those with conditions of nervous tension, like ulcers and anxiety, as well as digestion and bile secretion. Rose tea made with rose petals can soothe a mild sore throat.
Rose hips are an excellent source of vitamins A, B3, C, D and E, especially Vitamin C. They also contain bioflavonoids and flavonoids like bright fruits, malic acid like apples, and zinc. Rose hip tea is used to soothe bladder and bowel, and is a common ingredient in many herbal beverages.
Technically, lavender is an herb more than a flower. But bunches of fresh or dried lavender are so pretty (and smell so good) that the flower classification makes total sense. In fact, lavender is known as one of the most recognized scents in the world.
That familiarity, and the sweet and spicy aroma, brings a comforting—even calming—effect out of the simple experience of sniffing stems or flowers. Lavender has long been relied on as one of the most useful of the essences for the relief of anxiety and stress.
As an herb, it offers a unique and nostalgic flavor to rustic foods. It is commonly included in the French herb blend known as “Herbs de Province,” which is famous for its use on healthy roasted meats, poultry and vegetables.
Lavender oil is one of the most commonly used essential oils for healing and prevention. It is rich in aromatic molecules called esters, which are antispasmodic, pacifying and tonic. Other components give lavender antiviral, bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Respiratory relief is a popular use of lavender essence, particularly to ease symptoms of colds and coughs. Singers are known to chew lavender gum or drink lavender tea to prepare their throats and vocal chords before a performance.
Good for body aches, muscle stiffness and joint pain, few things feel as wonderful as soaking in a warm bath with lavender leaves.
Almost everyone is familiar with the gorgeous sunflower plant. It’s large, majestic yellow petals found on each flower surround a center cluster of seeds—the pods of which are a gray and white striped shell over nutrient-packed seed meats inside. Similar to nuts, sunflower seeds are high in healthy oils and dietary fiber.
Sunflower seeds are an aid to digestion, because of that fiber, and an aid to brain health because of the healthy oils. Several studies have shown sunflower seeds to calm an anxious mind, help lift mood and improve outlook.
This is due to the high concentration of tryptophan within the seeds, which improves or stimulates the brain’s production of the hormone called serotonin. Serotonin not only enables relaxation and peace of mind, proper levels contribute to mental health and brain function overall.
Energy renewal is another benefit of sunflower seeds. Athletes often snack on seeds. Perhaps it’s because the seeds assist with the release of glycogen from the liver into the bloodstream, which delivers energy.
Sunflower oil is a stable oil produced from the seeds. It’s used for cooking, especially frying, as well as in cosmetics such as lip balms and skin creams. Sunflower oil in its natural form contains no trans fat, and is mostly unsaturated fat in content. It also offers high levels of alpha-tocopherol, a form of Vitamin E which acts as an antioxidant in your body.