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Rose absolute is the essential oil extracted from the petals of Rosa damascene and sometimes Rosa centifolia, also known as the damask rose and provence rose, respectively. It differs from oils derived from any of more than 200 other species of roses in that it is obtained by solvent extraction as opposed to steam distillation. These other oils, commonly referred to as rose otto or attar of rose, are used for therapeutic purposes. Absolutes, on the other hand, are primarily used in the manufacture of cosmetics and perfumes.
Most rose absolute is obtained from the damask rose, which is widely cultivated in Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, India, Russia, and recently, China. Of these countries, Bulgaria is the largest producer and exporter. While the absolute is sometimes obtained from the province rose, which is mostly cultivated in Egypt, Morocco, and France, oil extracted from the damask rose is considered to be the prize. Both oils fetch a handsome market price. This is because the extraction process requires up to several thousand pounds of rose petals to obtain a single ounce of oil.
Aside from the sheer volume of raw material needed for production, there are other factors that drive the price of this oil. For one thing, the harvesting of the rose petals itself is labor intensive, requiring a large number of workers to get the job done. Not only are rose petals picked by hand, but they are also harvested before the sun has a chance to dry the morning dew. Finally, once collected, the petals must be processed within a few hours.
The extraction process involves the use of a solvent to isolate the soluble agents in the material, which includes aromatic compounds as well as pigments and wax. These agents then undergo a vacuum process in order to separate them from the initial solvent. This produces a wax-like material referred to as the “concrete,” which is then mixed with alcohol. Using low-pressure evaporation, the alcohol is removed from the mixture to yield rose absolute.
Although rose absolute is not recommended for therapeutic purposes in terms of internal use, it does possess several chemical constituents associated with beneficial health effects. For instance, several studies have shown that the antimicrobial agents farnesol and geraniol may inhibit tumor growth in various forms of cancer, including breast, lung, and pancreatic cancer. However, these medicinal properties are typically delivered via nebulization rather than being formulated into consumable herbal remedies. Other qualities attributed to the oil include antiviral, antibacterial, astringent, sedative, and antidepressant properties.