Rose hips are best known in the field of nutrition as a significant source of vitamin C. Vitamin C
supplements with added rose hips have long been a staple of health food store shelves and rose hip tea is popular for colds or flu.
What are rose hips? Rose hips are the small, red fruit of the Rosa genus, which contains more than a hundred species of roses. The fruit appears after the flowers have been pollinated and ripens during late summer and autumn. While indigenous medicine has utilized rose hips from a variety of roses, the dog rose (Rosa canina) is a common source of commercially available rose hips today.
After harvesting, rose hips can be used in tea, jams, syrups, wine, or powdered and added to supplement formulas. In addition to vitamin C, they contain the carotenoids beta-carotene and lycopene, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin which may help protect against macular degeneration. Other compounds identified in rose hips include pectins, organic acids, flavonoids, tannins, fatty acids and vitamins B1, B2, E and K.1
An experiment that tested the effects of a rose hip extract deprived of vitamin C on a type of white blood cell under inflammatory conditions found an inhibitory effect on reactive oxygen species, demonstrating that rose hips’ antioxidant effects are not due solely to their vitamin C content, but also to polyphenolics such as proanthocyanidins and flavonoids.2
Arthritis and Inflammation Management
In addition to helping alleviate the symptoms of colds, rose hips may be worth trying for those who suffer with osteoarthritis. A randomized, double-blind trial that compared the effects of four months of rose hip supplementation to a placebo in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip found improvement in hip joint mobility and discomfort among those treated with rose hips.3 Another randomized trial of knee and hip osteoarthritis patients revealed a reduction in discomfort and the need for medication after three months of daily treatment with rose hips in comparison with a placebo.4 A systematic review of rose hips’ clinical efficacy in supporting joint comfort concluded moderate evidence for powdered rose hip husks and seeds.5
A survey of patients with acute exacerbations of chronic pain, nonspecific low back pain, nonspecific low back discomfort with joint discomfort, and specific lower back discomfort found that treatment with rose hip and seed powder for up to 54 weeks was associated with overall improvement without serious adverse events.6
In rheumatoid arthritis, a double-blind, placebo controlled trial found improvement in disease duration, quality of life and other factors among participants who received encapsulated rose hip powder for six months in comparison with those who received a placebo.7
Rose hips contain a galactolipid compound that has been shown to ease inflammation, which could help explain its benefit in maintaining joint comfort and other inflammatory issues.8 Other research has revealed activity against cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and COX-2, both of which are involved in inflammation.9 In research involving human white blood cells and cartilage cells, powdered rose hips with or without rose hip seeds demonstrated the ability to ease inflammation and support cartilage structure.10
In a study of healthy humans, daily intake of rose hip powder lowered C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, leading the researchers to conclude that “These results indicate that rose hip can ease inflammation and might be used as a replacement or supplement for conventional drug therapies in some inflammatory issues such as joint soreness.”11
Heart and Metabolic Health
Supplementing with rosehips has also been associated with a cardiometabolic benefit. In mice, rose hip supplementation was associated with improved glucose tolerance, less liver fat accumulation, downregulation of lipogenic protein expression, and lower total plasma cholesterol and LDL to HDL ratio in comparison with animals that were not given the supplement.12
Another rodent study found improvements in impaired glucose tolerance, pancreatic beta-cell function and other metabolic factors in spontaneously diabetic rats supplemented with rose hip extract for 12 weeks.13
In obese men and women with or without impaired glucose tolerance, six weeks of daily supplementation with a drink that contained powdered rose hips resulted in lower systolic blood pressure, plasma total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and LDL to high-density lipoprotein (HDL) ratio compared to those who received a control drink, indicating a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk.14
Most recently, rose hips have been recognized as a source of trans-tiliroside, a compound that increases the activation of the enzyme adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which is the body’s master regulating switch. AMPK, found in every cell, stimulates the biogenesis of mitochondria — the cells’ energy-producing plants. It has been described as “a major survival factor in a variety of metabolic stresses and also in the aging process.”15
AMPK activation results in many of the benefits of calorie restriction, an approach that has resulted in an extension of life span in nearly every species in which it has been tested.16 It has been proposed that AMPK ultimately controls the aging process, via its signaling network.17 Loss of AMPK activation during aging has been associated with impaired metabolic regulation and increased oxidative stress, leading to chronic inflammation and metabolic disorders.
Research involving tiliroside derivatives has found an increase in GLUT-4, which transports excess glucose from the blood to the cells where it is used for energy.18 In mice given trans-tiliroside, blood glucose levels after glucose loading were significantly reduced.19
“The Rosa genus is a treasure waiting for further exploration by researchers interested in the development of safe and effective anti-arthritic agents,” concluded a review published in Pharmacological Research.20 Perhaps more exciting is rose hips’ recently discovered benefit as an AMPK activator that could help prevent some of the signs of aging.
It will be interesting to observe the unfoldment of future research associated with the rose: “Queen of Flowers.”
- Roman I et al. Chem Cent J. 2013 Apr 23;7(1):73.
- Daels-Rakotoarison DA et al. Phytother Res. 2002 Mar;16(2):157-61.
- Warholm O et al. Curr Ther Res Clin Exp. 2003 Jan;64(1):21-31.
- Winther K et al. Scand J Rheumatol. 2005 Jul-Aug;34(4):302-8.
- Chrubasik C et al. Phytother Res. 2006 Jan;20(1):1-3.
- Chrubasik C et al. Phytother Res. 2008 Sep;22(9):1141-8.
- Willich SN et al. Phytomedicine. 2010 Feb;17(2):87-93.
- Larsen E et al. 2003 Jul;66(7):994-5.
- Jäger AK et al. Phytother Res. 2007 Dec;21(12):1251-2.
- Schwager J et al. Mediators Inflamm. 2014;2014:105710.
- Kharazmi A et al. 1999;7(4):377-86.
- Andersson U et al. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Jan;300(1):E111-21.
- Chen SJ et al. J Sci Food Agric. 2017 Feb 9.
- Andersson U et al. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 May;66(5):585-90.
- Salminen A et al. J Mol Med (Berl). 2011 Jul;89(7):667-76.
- López-Lluch G et al. J Physiol. 2016 Apr 15;594(8):2043-60.
- Salminen A et al. 2012 Apr;11(2):230-41.
- Shi L et al. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2011 May;92(2):e41-6.
- Ninomiya K et al. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2007 Jun 1;17(11):3059-64.
- Cheng BC et al. Pharmacol Res. 2016 Dec;114:219-234.