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The Power of Bulgarian Rose in Cosmetics

Bulgarian rose - Historical Significance, Cultivation, Distinct Features, Uses, Symbolism

Rosa Damascena, commonly known as the Damask rose or the Bulgarian rose, is a highly fragrant and prized species of rose that holds a special place in various cultures and industries. Here are some more details about this fascinating flower:

Historical Significance

  • Early Cultivation:

It is believed that Rosa Damascena was first cultivated in Persia (modern-day Iran) and other regions of the Middle East over 2,000 years ago. The rose’s cultivation likely began in the region surrounding Damascus, Syria, which is why it is often associated with the city and bears its name.

  • Symbolism and Cultural Importance:

In antiquity, roses, including Rosa Damascena, held great cultural and symbolic value. They were associated with various deities in ancient Greek, Roman, and Persian mythologies, and they were often used in religious ceremonies and rituals. The rose’s beauty and fragrance made it a symbol of love, purity, and divine perfection.

  • Trade and Spread:

The popularity of Rosa Damascena and its sought-after rose oil led to its widespread cultivation and trade routes throughout the ancient world. Traders and travelers carried the rose’s cultivation knowledge and seeds along the Silk Road and other trade networks, leading to its introduction to different regions and cultures.

  • In the Islamic World:

Rosa Damascena’s significance continued to grow during the Islamic Golden Age (8th to 14th centuries). Islamic scholars, particularly those in the fields of medicine and perfumery, extensively studied and wrote about the rose’s properties and uses. The rose and its oil became integral to traditional Islamic medicine and aromatherapy.

  • Influence on Modern Rose Varieties:

Rosa Damascena played a crucial role in the development of various modern rose varieties. Through natural cross-pollination and deliberate hybridization, breeders and horticulturists used the Damask rose to create new rose cultivars with different colors, forms, and fragrances.

  • Rose Cultivation in Bulgaria:

The cultivation of Rosa Damascena in Bulgaria dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries when it was introduced to the region. Bulgaria’s unique climate, with hot summers and cold winters, along with fertile soil, proved to be ideal for growing high-quality roses. Over time, Bulgaria became one of the world’s leading producers of rose oil and rose-related products.

  • Continued Cultural Significance:

Throughout the centuries, Rosa Damascena has remained a symbol of cultural heritage, particularly in regions where it is traditionally cultivated. Rose festivals and celebrations, like the Rose Festival in the Bulgarian Rose Valley, continue to honor this ancient flower and its historical significance.


Cultivation of Rosa Damascena, the Damask rose, is a delicate and labor-intensive process that requires specific conditions and careful attention to detail. The cultivation of this exquisite flower is primarily for the production of rose oil, rose water, and other rose-based products. Here’s more about the cultivation process:

Rose Museum, Kazanlak
  • Geographic Regions:

Rosa Damascena is cultivated in specific geographic regions that provide the ideal climate and soil conditions for its growth. The Rose Valley in Bulgaria, the regions around Kazanlak (The town of Kazanlak is where you’ll find the planet’s only museum entirely dedicated to the oil-yielding rose plant) and Karlovo, is one of the most renowned areas for cultivating Damask roses. Other regions in Turkey, Iran, and India are also known for growing these roses.

  • Soil and Climate:

The soil should be well-draining and rich in nutrients to support healthy rose growth. The presence of minerals in the soil contributes to the rose’s unique fragrance and the oil’s high-quality. The climate should have a balance of warm, sunny days and cooler nights to ensure optimal growth and rose oil production.

  • Propagation:

Rosa Damascena is typically propagated through cuttings rather than seeds to maintain the characteristics of the parent plant. Rooting hormone is often used to encourage the cuttings to develop roots before they are transplanted to their final growing location.

  • Planting:

Rose plants are usually planted in the autumn or early spring when the soil is moist and the temperatures are mild. Proper spacing between plants is essential to ensure adequate air circulation and prevent diseases. The rows of rose plants are aligned to facilitate easy access for harvesting.

  • Pruning:

Regular pruning is essential for rose bushes to maintain their health and promote flower production. Pruning is usually done during the dormant season, which varies depending on the region. Removing dead or diseased wood and shaping the bushes helps to improve air circulation and reduce the risk of pests and diseases.

  • Harvesting:

The most crucial period in rose cultivation is the harvesting of the rose flowers. Rosa Damascena usually blooms in late spring to early summer, and the flowers are harvested early in the morning when their oil content is at its highest. During the harvest, skilled pickers carefully collect the petals by hand to avoid damaging the flowers.

  • Distillation:

After harvesting, the petals are quickly transported to nearby distillation facilities for processing. The traditional method for extracting rose oil is steam distillation. In this process, the rose petals are placed in a distillation apparatus where steam gently passes through them. The steam captures the essential oil from the petals, and the resulting mixture is then separated to obtain the precious rose oil.

  • Sustainable Practices:

In recent years, there has been an increasing emphasis on sustainable and eco-friendly rose cultivation practices. These efforts include using organic methods, conserving water, and promoting biodiversity to ensure the long-term viability of rose cultivation while protecting the environment.

Distinct Features

Here are some of the prominent distinct features of this exquisite flower:

  • Fragrance:

One of the most remarkable features of Rosa Damascena is its enchanting and rich fragrance. The flowers of this species emit a sweet, floral scent with subtle notes of fruitiness and spice. This fragrance is so captivating that it has been widely used in perfumery for centuries and remains one of the most sought-after scents in the world of perfumes and cosmetics.

  • Petal Structure:

Rosa Damascena is known for its unique petal structure. The flowers are double-layered, consisting of multiple layers of petals that overlap and form a beautiful rosette shape. The arrangement of the petals gives the flowers a full and luxurious appearance, enhancing their visual appeal.

  • Color:

The color of Rosa Damascena flowers is typically a soft shade of pink, ranging from light pink to deeper hues, though there are variations with creamy white tones as well. The gentle and delicate color adds to the rose’s elegance and romantic allure.

  • High Oil Content:

The petals of Rosa Damascena have an unusually high oil content, which sets them apart from other rose varieties. This high oil content is a crucial factor in the production of rose oil, making it one of the most valuable and expensive essential oils in the world.

  • Therapeutic Properties:

Besides its aesthetic and olfactory charm, Rosa Damascena also possesses therapeutic properties. Rose oil, derived from these roses, is known for its calming and soothing effects on the mind and body. It is often used in aromatherapy to reduce stress, anxiety, and promote emotional well-being. Rose water, another product obtained from the flowers, is used in skincare for its hydrating and rejuvenating properties.

  • Drought Resistance:

Rosa Damascena has developed a certain level of drought resistance, which allows it to thrive in regions with arid and hot climates. This adaptability to dry conditions makes it suitable for cultivation in areas where other crops might struggle to grow.

  • Symbolic Significance:

Throughout history, the Damask rose has held significant symbolism. It has been associated with love, beauty, purity, and spirituality in various cultures and mythologies. The rose’s symbolism has contributed to its use in weddings, religious ceremonies, and celebrations, cementing its place as an iconic flower of cultural heritage.

  • Delicate and Transient Beauty:

While the Damask rose’s beauty is undeniable, it is also fleeting. The flowers have a relatively short bloom period during late spring and early summer, making them a precious and cherished sight for a limited time each year. This transient beauty adds to their allure and reminds us of the fleeting nature of life and the importance of appreciating beauty in the moment.

Rose Oil Production

Rose oil production, also known as rose otto or attar of roses, is a meticulous and time-consuming process that extracts the highly prized essential oil from the petals of Rosa Damascena, the Damask rose. The production of rose oil is an art that requires skilled hands and an understanding of the delicate balance between tradition and modern technology. Here’s a detailed look at the rose oil production process:

  • Harvesting:

The first step in rose oil production is the careful and selective harvesting of rose flowers. The harvesting period usually occurs during the early morning hours when the flowers’ oil content is at its peak. Skilled pickers carefully hand-select each rose flower, removing only the fully bloomed petals. This delicate process ensures that the petals are intact and free from damage, as any bruising can affect the quality of the resulting oil.

  • Weighing and Distillation:

After harvesting, the rose petals are immediately weighed to determine the precise ratio of petals to water required for distillation. Traditionally, copper stills, known as alembics, were used for the distillation process. Today, modern distillation equipment may also be employed to produce rose oil on a larger scale.

  • Water and Steam Distillation:

The most common method of rose oil extraction is water and steam distillation. The rose petals are placed in the distillation apparatus, and purified water is added. The mixture is then heated, and steam gently passes through the petals, capturing the essential oil. As the steam cools down, it condenses into a liquid, known as the hydrosol or rose water, and the rose oil separates from the water due to its insolubility.

  • Separation:

After the distillation process, the rose water and rose oil are separated. The rose water, which retains some of the rose’s aromatic compounds, is collected separately and can be used for various purposes, such as in skincare or culinary applications.

  • Rose Oil Collection:

The rose oil collected from the distillation process is highly concentrated and potent. Since rose petals contain a relatively low amount of essential oil, it takes a large quantity of roses to produce a small amount of rose oil. This is one of the reasons why rose oil is one of the most expensive essential oils in the world.

  • Maturation:

Once collected, the rose oil is left to mature for a period of time. During this maturation process, the oil’s fragrance deepens and matures, enhancing its quality and aroma. The length of maturation can vary depending on the producer, but it typically ranges from several weeks to a few months.

  • Quality Control:

High-quality rose oil production requires strict quality control measures at every step of the process. Experienced distillers meticulously monitor the distillation process, ensuring that the rose petals are not overcooked or undercooked, which could affect the oil’s aroma and therapeutic properties.

  • Final Packaging:

After maturation and quality control checks, the rose oil is carefully packaged into small bottles, ensuring its purity and preserving its delicate fragrance.


From perfumery to culinary arts, here are some of the most notable uses of the Damask rose:

  • Perfumery:

The fragrant and captivating aroma of Rosa Damascena makes it a prized ingredient in perfumery. Rose oil, also known as rose otto, is a key component in high-end perfumes, adding a romantic and luxurious touch to various fragrance compositions. The soft and alluring scent of the Damask rose makes it a favorite choice for creating elegant and timeless perfumes.

  • Aromatherapy:

Rose oil has therapeutic properties that make it highly beneficial for aromatherapy. Inhaling the aroma of rose oil is believed to have a calming and uplifting effect on the mind and emotions. It is often used to alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression, promoting a sense of well-being and relaxation.

  • Skincare and Cosmetics:

Rose water, another product derived from the Damask rose, is a popular ingredient in skincare and cosmetic products. Its hydrating and soothing properties make it ideal for toners, facial mists, and moisturizers. Rose oil is also used in anti-aging formulations due to its ability to promote skin cell regeneration and improve skin elasticity.

  • Culinary Arts:

Rose water and rose syrup, both made from Rosa Damascena, are used in culinary arts, particularly in Middle Eastern, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisines. They are used to add a delicate floral flavor to desserts, pastries, beverages, and traditional sweets like Turkish Delight and Indian Gulab Jamun.

  • Medicinal Uses:

In traditional medicine, Rosa Damascena has been used for its various medicinal properties. Rose water has been used as an eye wash and for soothing skin irritations, while rose oil is believed to have anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic effects. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using rose oil for medicinal purposes.

  • Religious and Cultural Ceremonies:

The Damask rose has held symbolic importance in various religious and cultural ceremonies. It is used in weddings and other celebrations as a symbol of love, purity, and beauty. In some cultures, rose petals are scattered during religious rituals and festivals as an offering or to create a festive atmosphere.

  • Potpourri and Home Fragrance:

Dried rose petals from Rosa Damascena are often used in potpourri, creating delightful natural air fresheners for homes and other spaces. The petals retain their fragrance even after drying, providing a gentle and long-lasting aroma.

  • Herbal Infusions and Beverages:

Rose petals can be used to make herbal infusions, commonly known as rose tea. The tea has a pleasant floral taste and is sometimes blended with other herbs and spices to create unique and aromatic beverages.

  • Hair Care:

Rose water is occasionally used in hair care products due to its hydrating and conditioning properties. It can help to moisturize the scalp and add shine to the hair, making it a natural and gentle addition to hair care routines.


  • Love and Romance:

The Damask rose is perhaps most well-known for its association with love and romance. Its enchanting fragrance and delicate appearance have made it a symbol of passionate love and affection. In many cultures, offering a bouquet of roses, particularly red ones, is a gesture of love and an expression of deep emotions.

  • Beauty and Elegance:

The Damask rose’s beauty and elegance have made it a symbol of aesthetic perfection. Its captivating appearance, with its layered and full petals, represents grace, refinement, and the appreciation of natural beauty.

  • Purity and Innocence:

White Damask roses, with their soft and pristine appearance, have become symbols of purity and innocence. These roses are often used in weddings and other religious ceremonies to signify the purity of love and new beginnings.

  • Spirituality and Devotion:

In various religious traditions, the Damask rose has been associated with spirituality and devotion. It has been used as a symbol of divine love and has been featured in religious art and iconography as a representation of heavenly beauty.

  • Femininity and Goddesses:

The rose, including Rosa Damascena, has been linked to goddesses and feminine energy in different mythologies. It is often associated with goddesses of love and beauty, such as Aphrodite in Greek mythology and Venus in Roman mythology.

  • Renewal and Rebirth:

The Damask rose’s blooming season, typically during the spring, has led to its symbolic association with renewal, rebirth, and the cyclical nature of life. Its appearance after a cold and dormant winter has been likened to the emergence of new life and hope.

  • Secrecy and Confidentiality:

The phrase “sub rosa” (Latin for “under the rose”) refers to keeping something secret or confidential. This association stems from ancient times when the rose was a symbol of confidentiality during Roman and Greek cultures. It is said that ancient gatherings would hang a rose above their meeting place as a sign that anything discussed under that rose was to remain confidential.

  • Emotional Balance and Healing:

The rose, particularly Rosa Damascena, has been used in traditional medicine and aromatherapy for its soothing and calming effects on emotions. It is associated with emotional balance, healing, and promoting a sense of well-being.

  • Luxury and Prosperity:

The Damask rose’s high value and use in luxury products, such as rose oil and perfumes, have also made it a symbol of prosperity and opulence.

Sustainable Harvesting

Sustainable harvesting practices are essential for the long-term viability of Rosa Damascena cultivation and the preservation of the environment. Given the high demand for rose oil and rose-related products, sustainable practices are crucial to ensure that the delicate balance between economic development, social well-being, and ecological conservation is maintained. Here are some key aspects of sustainable harvesting in the cultivation of Rosa Damascena:

  • Biodiversity Conservation:

Sustainable harvesting involves preserving biodiversity in the cultivation areas. This includes maintaining a diverse range of plant species, not only for the sake of ecological balance but also because biodiversity can support natural pest control, reduce the risk of diseases, and improve overall ecosystem health.

  • Water Management:

Efficient water management is crucial in areas where Rosa Damascena is cultivated, especially in regions with water scarcity. Sustainable practices include using water-efficient irrigation techniques, such as drip irrigation, to minimize water wastage and ensure that water resources are used wisely.

  • Organic Cultivation:

Many farmers are shifting towards organic cultivation methods, reducing or eliminating the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Organic practices promote healthier soil and minimize harmful impacts on beneficial insects and wildlife.

  • Crop Rotation:

Implementing crop rotation practices can help prevent soil depletion and reduce the buildup of pests and diseases specific to rose cultivation. Alternating rose crops with other plants helps maintain soil fertility and overall ecosystem health.

  • Ethical Labor Practices:

Sustainable harvesting also involves ensuring fair wages and good working conditions for the laborers involved in the rose-picking process. Ethical labor practices promote social well-being and contribute to a harmonious relationship between communities and the rose industry.

  • Regenerative Agriculture:

Some farmers adopt regenerative agriculture techniques, which focus on restoring soil health, increasing biodiversity, and reducing the carbon footprint of agriculture. This approach aims to improve the overall resilience and sustainability of the cultivation system.

  • Certification Programs:

Various certification programs, such as Fair Trade and organic certifications, provide guidelines and standards for sustainable rose cultivation. These certifications help consumers identify products that are produced with environmental and ethical considerations in mind.

  • Community Involvement:

Engaging local communities in sustainable harvesting practices is vital for the long-term success of the rose industry. Involving community members in decision-making processes and providing training and education on sustainable practices fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility towards protecting the environment.

  • Research and Innovation:

Continuous research and innovation play a significant role in improving sustainability in rose cultivation. This includes developing new cultivation techniques, exploring alternative pest management strategies, and finding ways to enhance water efficiency.

By adopting sustainable harvesting practices, the cultivation of Rosa Damascena can thrive without causing harm to the environment or depleting natural resources. It ensures that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty and benefits of this cherished flower while preserving the delicate ecosystems that support its growth.


In conclusion, Rosa Damascena, or the Damask rose, stands as a timeless symbol of love, beauty, and cultural heritage with a rich history dating back over 2,000 years. Its fragrant petals have been cherished for their role in perfumery, aromatherapy, skincare, and culinary arts. The delicate process of rose oil production, its symbolism in various aspects of life, and its sustainability practices ensure that this exquisite flower continues to enchant and thrive while respecting the environment.



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