Herb: Sweet Briar


Latin name: Rosa rubiginosa


Synonyms: Rosa eglanteria


Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)



Medicinal use of Sweet Briar:

The flowers and hips are aperient, astringent and stomachic. An infusion of dried rose petals can be used to treat headaches and dizziness, with honey added the infusion is used as a heart and nerve tonic and a blood purifier. A decoction of the petals is used to treat mouth sores. The seed is rich in vitamin E and an oil extracted from the seed is used externally in the treatment of burns, scars and wrinkles. The fruit of many members of this genus is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially in vitamins A, C and E, flavanoids and other bio-active compounds. It is also a fairly good source of essential fatty acids, which is fairly unusual for a fruit. It is being investigated as a food that is capable of reducing the incidence of cancer and also as a means of halting or reversing the growth of cancers.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Shrub

Height:
2.5 m
(8 1/4 foot)

Flovering:
June
to July


Scent:
Scented
Shrub

Habitat of the herb:

Open copses and old hedgerows. Usually found on calcareous soils, it is one of the first shrubs to colonize chalk grassland.

Edible parts of Sweet Briar:

Fruit - cooked. It is used in making jellies etc. The taste is best after a frost. The fruit is up to 25mm in diameter, but there is only a thin layer of flesh surrounding the many seeds. Some care has to be taken when eating this fruit, see the notes above on known hazards. A pleasant tasting fruity-flavoured tea is made from the fruit, it is rich in vitamin C. Petals - raw or cooked. Remove the bitter white base. Used in confectionery. Young shoots - raw. Used as they come through the ground in spring. The seed is a good source of vitamin E, it can be ground into a powder and mixed with flour or added to other foods as a supplement. Be sure to remove the seed hairs.

Other uses of the herb:

The plant makes a good low hedge. The prickles on the stem make it a useful security hedge.

Propagation of Sweet Briar:

Seed. Rose seed often takes two years to germinate. This is because it may need a warm spell of weather after a cold spell in order to mature the embryo and reduce the seedcoat. One possible way to reduce this time is to scarify the seed and then place it for 2 - 3 weeks in damp peat at a temperature of 27 - 32C (by which time the seed should have imbibed). It is then kept at 3C for the next 4 months by which time it should be starting to germinate. Alternatively, it is possible that seed harvested "green" (when it is fully developed but before it has dried on the plant) and sown immediately will germinate in the late winter. This method has not as yet(1988) been fully tested. Seed sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame sometimes germinates in spring though it may take 18 months. Stored seed can be sown as early in the year as possible and stratified for 6 weeks at 5C. It may take 2 years to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Plant out in the summer if the plants are more than 25cm tall, otherwise grow on in a cold frame for the winter and plant out in late spring.Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel, July in a shaded frame. Overwinter the plants in the frame and plant out in late spring. High percentage. Cuttings of mature wood of the current seasons growth. Select pencil thick shoots in early autumn that are about 20 - 25cm long and plant them in a sheltered position outdoors or in a cold frame. The cuttings can take 12 months to establish but a high percentage of them normally succeed. Division of suckers in the dormant season. Plant them out direct into their permanent positions. Layering. Takes 12 months.

Cultivation of the herb:

Open copses and old hedgerows. Usually found on calcareous soils, it is one of the first shrubs to colonize chalk grassland.

Known hazards of Rosa rubiginosa:

There is a layer of hairs around the seeds just beneath the flesh of the fruit. These hairs can cause irritation to the mouth and digestive tract if ingested.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.