Health Benefits of Rosehips
Rosehips are the bright scarlet fruits of the wild dog rose (Rosa canina), often seen dotting hedgerows in late summer and autumn. Considered safe to eat, they have long been used for culinary purposes, making sweet jellies and jams. They also have a long history of medicinal use which science is just beginning to understand.
Chemical studies of rosehips have revealed a number of potentially beneficial compounds. Firstly, they have been found to contain very high levels of lycopene. Largely responsible for the red colouration, and found most commonly in tomatoes, there is evidence to suggest that lycopene offers antioxidant protection when consumed by people.
Secondly, rosehips have been found to be particularly rich in vitamin C; one teaspoon of the pulp will provide approximately 60 mg of vitamin C, which is double that of oranges. Bearing in mind vitamin C’s well-known ability to support a healthy immune system, rosehips may be just the thing to help fight coughs and colds.
Scientists have also identified a compound within the pulp called GOPO, which is now thought to play an essential role in the anti-inflammatory benefits rosehips provide.
These elements combined have led to increased interest in the humble rosehip in scientific circles. It is now increasingly being taken by health-conscious individuals why rely on it to ease a range of health conditions.
But what are the potential health benefits of consuming rosehips?
Rosehips for Arthritis
One of the most promising potential health benefits of rosehips are their impact on arthritic joints. A growing body of scientific research points to improvements both in joint pain scores and general mobility after taking rosehips for a period of time.
In one study 94 patients suffering from osteoarthritis of either the knee or ankle were provided either with 5 grams of rosehip extract or a placebo for a period of three months, though participants were allowed to use more traditional pain medications if necessary. They were then assessed for improvements in their arthritic symptoms.
The experts found that the group enjoying the rosehip supplement started to report significant improvements in pain after just three weeks of medication. By the time that the three month trial had elapsed, pain control had continued to improve, with participants reported less use of other pain killers. Improvements in joint stiffness were also observed over this longer period of time.
Interestingly, another study carried out a similar experiment but tried to correlate the size of improvement with the initial severity of joint pain. They found that improvements “tended to be greater in patients with greater degrees of pain and disability”. This is an interesting and notable observation because many other treatments popular with arthritis sufferers tend to have the biggest impacts in less severe cases.
A crossover trial is one in which half the participants receive the test ingredient (rosehip) while the other half take a placebo. Part way through, however, some participants have their supplement switched. This not only adds to the rigour of the experiment, but also allows us to see what happens when people switch between two treatments.
A notable crossover trial was carried out on rosehips in which 112 volunteers were involved. The group taking the rosehip to start with saw improvements in joint pain and stiffness that the placebo group did not. On switching the supplementation, however, the group that had been taking rosehip continued to experience benefits - even when given the placebo. This, of course, perplexed the scientists.
Further analysis indicated a “carryover” effect, that even when individuals taking rosehip stop consuming the supplement for some weeks the initial beneficial impacts continue to show.
Knee joints are commonly affected by arthritis and such impacts can be particularly debilitating. For this reason, much arthritis research focuses on this site, and rosehips have also been investigated in this regard. A trial involving 94 participants, in whom half were given rosehip powder and the other half a placebo, saw significant improvements after 12 weeks. The results indicated that the rosehip group experienced notable improvements in joint flexibility and as a result their ability to walk.
Studies have also dug deeper into the two most common types of arthritis - osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis - to see whether the impacts of rosehip on these two conditions differ...
100 participants with hip and knee osteoarthritis took either 5000mg rosehip or a placebo daily for four months. Those taking rosehip supplements experienced significant improvements to hip flexion and pain but reported little change to the range of motion of the hip.
112 participants with osteoarthritis took either 5000mg of rosehip or a placebo daily for three months. 66% of those taking rosehip reported significant reductions in pain, compared to only 36% in the placebo group. Rosehip was also shown to improve morning stiffness and reduce the amount of painkillers needed.
A smaller-scale non-placebo-controlled study involved 30 participants with osteoarthritis of the hand. Researchers found that the key ingredient GOPO significantly reduced nagging pain in 95% of the participants and they were a third less likely to use conventional painkillers after taking the supplement.
89 participants with rheumatoid arthritis took either 5000mg of rosehip or a placebo daily for six months. Those supplementing with rosehip experienced greater improvements in quality of life and physical function, compared to participants in the placebo group. 20% to 25% increase in mobility.
So far, the evidence suggests that while rosehips cannot cure arthritis, doses of 5000mg per day may be effective at improving the condition of affected joints and reducing inflammation. As a result, they may make living with arthritis more bearable and significantly improve the quality of life.
Healthy Skin Aging
Rosehips have a long history of use in the cosmetics industry, with rosehip oil being a particularly popular format. However is there any science to support its ongoing use?
In a study 34 women aged between 35 and 65 and suffering from facial wrinkles were split into two groups. During the eight week study half of the volunteers received a rosehip powder supplement, while the other half received a proven anti-wrinkle capsule. After two months of consumption participants were asked to complete a questionnaire reporting on their experiences.
As it turns out, both supplements saw identical levels of satisfaction with improvements in wrinkles. Furthermore, the rosehip group reported statistically significant improvements in skin hydration and elasticity. The scientists concluded that “rose hip powder improves aging-induced skin conditions”.
It is also worth highlighting that vitamins A and C are two of the most important nutrients for the maintenance of healthy, glowing skin. Both of these vitamins are also found in abundance in rosehips. These vitamins protect collagen in the skin against free radical damage and premature ageing and encourage the growth and repair of skin tissue.
One of the more intriguing potential health benefits of rosehips is its claim to help in cases of diarrhoea. The original hypothesis came from a scientist who noticed that pigs that ate large quantities of rosehips in the autumn often ended up suffering from constipation. He wondered, therefore, whether dried rosehips might prove to be a useful solution to childhood diarrhoea.
In a study 20 grams of rosehip powder was mixed with 100ml of water before consumption. Children suffering from diarrhoea found that symptoms soon disappeared, and did so much quicker than children consuming no medication.
While this line of enquiry is still in its infancy it seems that rosehips may serve to soothe activity of the gut and reduce digestive problems. This does of course make some logical sense in that the same anti-inflammatory benefits seen in arthritis sufferers may also manage to reduce inflammation of the gut, thus alleviating the symptoms seen.
Healthy Weight Loss
Some surprising research has suggested that rosehip may have a part to play in a healthy weight loss diet.
Two particular studies are worth highlighting here. In the first, overweight subjects were provided with either 100mg of rosehip extract per day or a placebo for a period of 12 weeks. No lifestyle changes were encouraged, with participants continuing to eat or exercise as per usual.
At the end, changes to their body fat levels were recorded. The scientists found that the rosehip group demonstrated significant weight loss when compared to the control group. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that much of this weight loss was as a result of fat burning. Overall body fat fell during the trial, but was particularly pronounced in the abdominal region.
The second study assessed the impacts of rosehips on normal digestive processes. They found that a rosehip extract inhibited the action of two different enzymes known as α-amylase and α-glucosidase. These two enzymes are central to the digestive process and break down starchy foods into more accessible glucose before it enters the bloodstream.
This activity is believed to lessen sudden swings in blood glucose levels which has two potential impacts. Firstly, steadier levels of blood glucose may reduce the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Also of interest here, it may serve a purpose in helping to support healthy weight loss through the more controlled release of energy into the body.
Immune System Support
Rosehips ripen as the cold and flu season arrives and so provide a timely boost for the immune system. Vitamin C is one of the most popular supplements for warding off coughs and colds in the winter months. Rosehips are known to offer impressive levels of this nutrient. Indeed, one scientific study investigated the chemical compounds found in a range of different rose species and found that Rosa canina, the European rosehip, was “the one with the highest concentration” of vitamin C.
Rosehip supplements are therefore the perfect addition to your winter supplement regimen, while a warm mug of rosehip tea can help to soothe a sore throat.
The Best Sources of Rosehip
Rosehips have a slightly sour, zesty flavour and can be prepared in a variety of ways. The pulp itself can be added to a blender and eaten raw, or boiled and added to sauces, jellies and syrups.
Whole seed pods can also be added to herbal teas and, while there are many store-bought rosehip teas available, it’s easy to make your own. Just add a tablespoon of dried rosehips to a pot of boiling water and steep for 5 minutes, then strain, pour and add honey if desired. If you are drinking rosehip tea for its health benefits, you will need to consume around four cups per day (equivalent to 2000g to 5000g).
Rosehip supplements are a popular alternative for those looking for concentrated and standardised strengths. While the dosages used in clinical trials have varied widely from 5000mg to 40,000mg, the optimum level appears to be between 5000mg to 10,000mg per day divided into two doses (to be taken with meals). Due to the high amounts needed, many people find it easier to consume rosehips through supplements.
Side Effects of Rosehips
Rosehip tea may have mild laxative qualities when consumed in large quantities due to the fruit acid and pectin content. For this reason, some people use rosehips to treat constipation and kidney disorders.
Rosehip supplements have an excellent safety record and, to date, trials have not reported any side effects from daily doses of 5000mg. They appear to be safe to take in combination with anti-inflammatory medications; however, if you are taking any prescription medications you should always consult with your GP prior to taking food supplements. Many arthritis sufferers are turning to rosehip supplements to avoid the common side effects of anti-inflammatory medications such as drowsiness and constipation.
Rosehips are a traditional folk remedy, used for generations to improve a range of ailments. More recent scientific studies suggest that there is some basis to the use of rosehips. Particularly promising signs have been seen for the impact of rosehip on inflammation, particularly on reducing the joint pain experienced by many arthritis sufferers. Rosehips may also help to hydrate the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Like many more natural supplements, however, the results can take time to show. As a result, it is recommended that anyone considering supplementing with rosehips considers taking it for some months before a final decision is made as to its efficacy.