Rose hips are the fruit of the rose, which forms from the center of the flower in the late summer and fall, and contains the plants' seeds. Usually red, orange or pink, and oval in shape, these tiny seed-packed fruits can be eaten in a variety of ways, and traditionally have had a wide range of medicinal and health benefits. They are also called rose berries or rose haws.
Native Americans used rose hips as not only a tea, but as an ingredient in stews and soups, and as a cooked vegetable. During World War II, when citrus fruits were hard to find, the United States government highlighted rose hips as a food high in vitamin C that could be grown in "Victory Gardens" to help the war effort. Many published recipes for preserves and teas come from this time.
Rose hips are packaged and sold as tea, jelly, powder, oil, seeds and dried fruit. You also can collect your own from wild roses or your own roses quite easily. To make a tea, boil dried rose hips for about 10 or 15 minutes in a covered pot. The taste is not sweet, so you may wish to add other herbs like mint or cinnamon, or sugar. The boiled hips can also be mashed with butter and salt and eaten as a vegetable.
The main nutritional property of rose hips is their high content of vitamin C. Rose hips also pack in other vitamins, and high levels of antioxidants. They have measurable amounts of beta carotene, or vitamin A; several antioxidant compounds such as carotenoids, flavinoids, polyphenols, leucoanthocyanins and catechins; and plenty of pectin, which is a natural soluble fiber that aids digestion, lowers saturated fats and triglycerides and helps to lower blood pressure.
Rose hip preparations are most commonly touted as a remedy for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. A 2007 study from the Parker Institute in Denmark found that rose hip powder relieved arthritis pain, and another report by the Charité University Hospital in Germany suggests rose hips also improve range of motion in arthritis sufferers. These results are thought to be due to the anti-inflammatory properties of rose hips, which also are used in herbal medicine for that purpose. Rose hips also serve as a prevention tool against urinary tract infections.
The existing studies on rose hips' medicinal and beneficial effects have been small, and medical researchers who completed these trials advocate that larger-scale and longer-term studies be done to show the full range of effects of rose hips on human health. Also, some people have reported having an allergic reaction to the use of rose hips, while others have complained of gastrointestinal distress after eating them or drinking rose hip tea. Always check with your doctor before using a natural remedy for a medical condition.