Wild Rose Medicine

It's that special time of year again when the Valley is awash with the scent of Wild Rose (Rosa Multiflora). Have you been lucky enough to catch it wafting on the wind like thick perfume?

Anyone who knows me well knows I'm basically obsessed with this plant and with good reason- it's amazing!  I first started thinking about working with it after reading folk herbalist Kiva Rose's work with the native roses of her New Mexico home.  I've found our resident Rose to make good and powerful medicine, and have come to rely on it often both in my practice and personally.  It's truly a treasure and such abundant bioregional medicine.

Wild Rose (Rosa multiflora) Materia Medica

Wild Rose (Rosa Multiflora, Rosa sp) syn Multiflora Rose, Baby Rose, Seven Sisters Rose, Japanese Rose, Ye Qiang Wei (China), No-Ibara (Japan), Jjillenamu (Korea)
Family Rosaceae

Part Used: Flowers + Leaves (collected together).  Hips.

Habitat: Woodland and field edges, yards, bikepaths, farms, disturbed soil.

Cultivation:  Prefers full sun to part-shade.  Wants to create a hedge and will sprout young bushes next to the parent bush. Tolerant of a very wide variety of soils.

Description:  Medium-sized, thorned shrub that can form a thicket.  Compound leaves with 5 to 9 leaflets and feathered stipules.  Multiple white (most common in our area) to pinkish flowers arise on corymbs in early to mid-June, are 2-4 cm in diameter, and have an incredible fragrance.   They have the classic Rose Family 5 petals and numerous yellow stamens.

Herbal Ecology:  Rose multiflora was introduced to the Northeast in the 1930’s originally to provide wildlife forage in the winter (rose hips), for soils stabilization, and living fences.  It is now completely naturalized and found throughout all of the northeast, most of the central states, and the west coast states.  Is not present in the inter-mountain west and Rockies.  It can also be found in Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and northern Europe.  Originally native to eastern Asia- China, Japan, and Korea.  The rose hips do in fact provide excellent winter forage for birds, deer and other wildlife. They also provide excellent shelter and many birds nest in them.  It is a plant of edges and seems to protect exhausted agricultural land, and prevent further encroachment on woodlands.  It is a definite "people plant" and likes to hang-out in areas disturbed by us humans. 

wild rose3.jpg

Collection: Flowers bloom in early-mid June.  Each cluster will have flowers in varying stages of flowering- it's fine to harvest as long as some of it is in flower. No need to pluck off the stems unless you're making Rose Flower Honey.  I like to collect a full cluster of flowers and 1-2 leaflets.  I collect the collect leaves any time before frost. Collect hips after a strong frost.

Taste: Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Astringent

Energetics: Cool, Dry/Contracting. VPK= (may increase Kapha and Ama in excess)

Herbal Actions:  Flowers + Leaves- Anti-inflammatory, Vulnerary, Relaxant Nervine, Astringent, mild Anti-Infective (esp topically), Hemostatic/Styptic, Cardiovascular Tonic, Blood Tonic (esp Hips), Liver Relaxant, Aphrodesiac, Blood-Mover, Shen Tonic  Hips- Blood Tonic, Astringent, Vulnerary

Constituents: Flowers- B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Carotene, Calcium,Potassium, Anti-Oxidants, Bioflavinoids, Polyphenols. Hips- Vit C, Vit A, Vit B1, Vit B2, Vit B3, Niacin, Bioflavinoids, Vit K, Vit E, Polyphenols, Pectin 

Uses:  Flowers + Leaves-  Helpful for recovering from gut inflammation from food intolerance.  Reduces pain, heat and inflammation from wounds and skin abrasions, rashes, bites and stings- great first aid medicine.  Sunburns and mild burns (especially the vinegar).  Skin infections (cellulitis). Heart Tonic for the physiological heart and spiritual-emotional heart.  Useful for trauma, sadness and grief, depression, anxiety, heartbreak.  Heart-opening, and well known flower of love and devotion. Makes an excellent nervine- deeply calming and very fast-acting. Cardiovascular tonic, promoting proper vascular functioning, treating high blood pressure and poor circulation.   Osteoarthritis ("wear and tear arthritis"), sore muscles, chronic muscoskeletal pain.  Helps promote beneficial bacterial in our guts.  Aphrodesiac, helpful for low libido, erectile dysfunction, frigidity.  Relieves menstrual cramps, mood swings and scanty menses resulting from pelvic congestion.  Combines well with safflower or hibiscus for this.  Helpful for feelings of anger and frustration.  Smooths Liver Qi.  Helps with an overworked and congested Liver and excess heat in the digestive system.   Signs include anger and frustration, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, IBS, gastric inflammation, food allergies and intolerance and sluggish digestion that stems from stuck Liver Qi.  UTIs, yeast and vaginal infections. Major medicine in Ayurveda and Unani-tibb. Also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Tibetan Medicine. Great for all classic Pitta (excess heat) imbalances. Ayurveda often combines rose with shatavari as a tonic. Use the honey for sore throats, to stop bleeding and help minor wounds heal.  Hips- Nutritive, rich in Vitamin C and excellent for colds, flus and low immunity. Weakness, fatigue, dry skin and hair (signs of blood deficiency).  Rich in bioflavonoids, important for cardiovascular health.

Rosa Multiflora  Rose Hips

Rosa Multiflora Rose Hips


Preparations: Vinegar, Infused Oil, Essential Oil, Salve, Cream, Honey, Rose Water/Hydrosol, Tincture, Glycerite, Elixer, Liniment, Infusion, Poultice, Compress, Flower Essence, Hand/ Foot Bath, Sitz Bath, Spiritual Bathing, Vaginal Steam.  Liniment-25% Tincture/75% Oil. Tincture-50% Alcohol/ 50% Water.  Glycerite- 80% Pure Vegetable Glycerin/20% Water.  Elixer-20% Honey/80% Brandy. Vinegar- 100% Raw Apple Cider Vinegar.

Dosage: Apply oil, salve, cream, liniment, compress and poultice liberally as needed.  Honey- Eat liberally and as needed (you will probably "need" a lot!- it's amazing). Tincture, Glyerite, Elixer- Take ½-1 tsp 3x/day or more if needed. Can also be done in drop-dosing. Dilute a few tsp of vinegar in water for burns or use freely on food.

Contraindications: Rose Petals contraindicated in early pregnancy because of blood-moving effects. 

Wild Rose at home

Wild Rose at home

References & Resources:

Herbs for the Spiritual Heart
By Paul Bergner

The Yoga of Herbs
By David Frawley and Vasant Lad

Wild Rose Elixir: A Favorite First Aid Remedy By Kiva Rose

Rose Vinegar: My Favorite Sunburn Soother  By Kiva Rose

Rose Monograph By Kiva Rose

World Economic Plants: A Standard Reference, 2nd Edition
By John H. Wiersema, Blanca León

Looking for online herbal learning? Or just want to say “thanks” and help support this blog? In addition to our in-person classes, we also offer online learning through our Patreon Community! Membership starts at just $5/month and there are offerings like monthly online classes, monthly herbal study groups, and more. And if you’ve got enough content in your life it’s also just a great way to say “thanks” if you enjoy the blog!

Mushroom Medicine: Chaga

Author's Notes: Since writing this piece 3 years ago, many herbalists have raised the alarm that Chaga is becoming at-risk and threatened because of the recent trendiness is natural health circles as a panacea. I have seen the effects in the woods here in western Massachusetts.  This mushroom cannot sustain current harvest levels and I no longer advocate its harvest unless it’s harvested from a forest slated to be logged.

Chaga growing on Yellow Birch  (Betula alleghaniensis)

Chaga growing on Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)

Medicinal mushrooms are so abundant here in the Northeast, and Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is definitely one of my favorites.  Last weekend we were out on an early spring walk and I was so thrilled to find Chaga so close to home! I didn't harvest it since I have so much, but very much like knowing that it's there and will certainly go sit with it when I can. A wonderful example of bioregional medicine at it's finest, I encourage folks to ethically harvest their own Chaga when they can, as the Chaga found commercially sold from bulk herb companies is often unsustainably wildcrafted.

How to Harvest Sustainably 

Never take all the chaga from the tree- it should barely even look like you were there after you harvest.  Unlike most mushrooms, which are the fruiting body of the mushroom organism, the Chaga that we harvest is actually a mass of mycelium. If we take it all, we kill the mushroom.

Chaga in hand. Note the rusty-orange interior

Chaga in hand. Note the rusty-orange interior

How to Identify It

Chaga is a polypore mushroom most commonly found on Birch (Betula sp) trees here in the Northeast, although it can also be found on Beech (Fagus sp), Hornbeam (Carpinus sp) , Alder (Alnus sp), and Chestnut (Castanea sp). On this particular day I found it growing on Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis).  Identifying Chaga is fairly easy- it looks like a black, almost charred, growth on tree trunks bursting through the bark. Think you have Chaga but not quite sure?  First, be sure you've got a Birch tree or another one of Chaga's host trees, next break off a piece and look for a rusty orange-brown interior.  If it's got that characteristic color inside, it's Chaga!



Chaga close-up

Chaga close-up

The Medicine

Much of what we know of its medicinal use originally comes to use from Russian Folk Medicine, where it is held in high esteem.  It has a long history of use for treating many cancers, especially stomach cancer, and also as a tonic, blood-purifier, pain-reliever, restorative and general remedy for all stomach complaints, including gastritis and ulcers.

Modern use of this mushroom in contemporary herbalism echos these traditional uses, and we use it most often today for its anti-tumor effects.  Research into its pharmacology has confirmed the presence of immune-modulating polysaccharides, as well as powerful anti-oxidants.  Best used as a long-term tonic, herbalists will often use Chaga in formulas to improve and modulate immune function, to increase vitality, and as both a cancer-preventative and fighter.  Chaga really does look like canker growing on the tree, and some folks consider this a Doctrine of Signature pointing to its anti-tumor effects.


Chaga is best prepared as a decoction or double extract. Chaga Chai (the Chaga decocted with chai spices) is also a fairly recently popular way to enjoy it.

To make a decoction:
Simmer some small pieces of Chaga in water for anywhere from 5-20 minutes. 1 tsp Chaga: 1 cup water is a good ratio to use. When the Chaga is fresh, the rusty-orange interior (considered to be the most medicinal part) can be fairly easily grated for immediate or later use. Once it's dried it becomes rock-hard and more creative measures need to me employed to break it up.  When you buy it at an herb shop it will come "cut and sifted"- already broken into small pieces.

Chaga Chai

Ginger- 1-2 tbsp fresh or 1-2 tsp dried
7 Black Peppercorns
5 Clove Buds
15 Cardamom Pods
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 tbsp Chaga mushroom

 Simmer all the ingredients in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes, loosely covered. Then add 1/2 cup of milk (cow, goat, almond, oat, hemp) and gently simmer for another 10 minutes (do not bring milk to a boil if using raw cow milk).  Strain and add a sprinkle of nutmeg pwd and sweeten if desired- Chaga pairs amazingly well with maple syrup.  Enjoy!

Snow cat with Chaga

Snow cat with Chaga

Chaga, the Clinker Fungus: This Mushroom Looks Scary But Can Benefit Health
By Paul Stametes

Medicinal Mushroom: An Exploration of Tradition, Healing, & Culture
By Christopher Hobbs

Indian Herbology of North America
By Alma Hutchens

Looking for online herbal learning? Or just want to say “thanks” and help support this blog? In addition to our in-person classes, we also offer online learning through our Patreon Community! Membership starts at just $5/month and there are offerings like monthly online classes, monthly herbal study groups, and more. And if you’ve got enough content in your life it’s also just a great way to say “thanks” if you enjoy the blog!