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What is Rose Otto Oil?

By Sonal Panse
Updated May 17, 2024
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Rose otto oil, also known as attar of roses, is a yellow or yellowish-green essential oil that is derived mainly from damask and cabbage roses by the steam distillation process; another rose oil, rose absolute, is extracted by the solvent extraction process. The differences between rose otto and rose absolute lie in their extraction methods, purity and potency. Rose otto oil is not only purer and more potent than rose absolute, it is also longer-lasting. The roses are cultivated on special rose farms, the ones from Bulgaria, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, France, India and China being in the forefront of this business, as the climate in these areas is more conducive to rose plant growth. Rose oil extraction has had a long history in these regions and attar of roses has been successfully used in beauty regimens over the ages.

To make the oil, roses are plucked at early dawn and processed that very day. Steam distillation is traditionally carried out in copper sills that are filled with rose petals and water, and heated for around one and a half hours. The steam passes through a condensing apparatus into a flask, and yields concentrated rose oil and rose water. The rose water is separated from the rose oil, distilled again to obtain phenyl ethyl alcohol and is then mixed with the rose oil obtained earlier to form rose otto oil. Differences in the roses used lead to differences in the derived fragrances, but the aroma is mainly fresh and floral.

For rose absolute, the rose petals are dissolved in a solvent like hexane, an aromatic waxy substance is extracted and dissolved in alcohol, and the alcohol is then vaporized to give the rose absolute oil. In both oil extraction methods, large quantities of roses are required to produce very small amounts of rose oil, and for this reason, apart from the labor intensive process involved in the harvesting and processing, rose oil is usually rather expensive. The oil is used as an ingredient in many popular perfumes and cosmetics, and has been found beneficial in aromatherapy and in other types of natural and alternative therapies.

With its relaxing and aromatic qualities, rose otto oil is known to calm nerves, and reduce stress and anxiety. It helps resolve insomnia issues, balances hormones, lifts depression and soothes skin complaints. It has antibacterial and astringent properties, and is used to treat wounds as well as respiratory and digestive problems.

Drops of rose otto oil added to hot bathing water and on clothing can be rejuvenating. Strained eyes can be treated by placing cotton pads dipped in diluted oil on the eyelids. The oil should never be applied to the eyes directly, never be ingested and is not recommended for pregnant women. Rose otto oil solidifies at temperatures below normal room temperature; warming the oil container slightly can help it regain its former oily state.

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