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Rose Hips

Medically reviewed on Sep 21, 2018

Scientific Name(s):Commonly derived from Rosa canina L., R. rugosa Thunb., R. acicularis Lindl. or R. cinnamomea L. Numerous other species of rose have been used for the preparation of rose hips. Family: Rosaceae

Common Name(s): Rose hips , heps , dog rose ( R. canina )


Rose hips provide vitamin C supplements. Rose hips have been used for diuretic actions, to reduce thirst, to alleviate gastric inflammation, and to flavor teas and jams.


There is no recent clinical evidence upon which dosage recommandations can be based. Classical use of rose petals was 3 to 6 g daily.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

There have been no reported side effects except in those exposed to rose hips dust who have developed severe respiratory allergies.


No data.


Rose hips grow from a perennial plant, which can grow 3 to 5 meters in height. Their thorny branches give way to pink and white flowers and scarlet fruits, called “hips.” 1 , 2 These rose hips are the ripe ovaries or seeded fruit of roses forming on branches after the flower. 3 They are approximately 1 to 2 cm long by 0.5 to 1.5 cm thick; oval in shape; and fleshy, shrunken, and wrinkled. Inside the hips are 3 or more small (3 to 5 mm), angular, yellow-brown seeds. 2 R. canina is native to Europe, North Africa, and temperate areas of Asia. The fruits (hips) are picked in autumn and used for the drug.


Once used as a folk remedy for chest ailments, R. canina hips were popular in the Middle Ages. 1 They are a natural source of vitamin C, which has led to their widespread use in natural vitamin supplements, teas, and various other preparations including soups and marmalades. 4 Although these products have been used historically as nutritional supplements, they have also been used as mild laxatives and diuretics. 5 Rose hip syrup was used as a nourishing drink for children. 1 It was also used to flavor teas and jams. 2


Fresh rose hips contain 0.5% to 1.7% vitamin C, 4 usually determined as a combination of l-dehydroascorbic acid and l-ascorbic acid. 6 However, the vitamin C content of dried, commercially available rose hips products varies considerably. One report evaluates stability of vitamin C, using photometry and thin layer chromatography (TLC). Results showed that loss of vitamin C was dependent on “degree of coarseness” of rose hips. Fruits cut in half lost less than 50% vitamin C in 18 months storage, while ground drug lost 100% in 6 months. 7

While some accounts suggest that rose hips are the richest natural source of vitamin C, a number of more concentrated sources have been identified. Citrus fruits contain approximately 50 mg vitamin C per 100 g; uncooked broccoli, kale, and kiwi fruit, approximately 100 mg; black currants, guavas, and some tropical vegetables, 200 to 300 mg; rose hips ( Rosa canina ), 1250 mg; acerola or Barbados cherry ( Malpighia punicifolia ), 1000 to 2330 mg; and Terminalia ferdinandiana , up to 3150 mg. 8

Rose hips also contain vitamins A, B 1 , B 2 , B 3 , and K. Other ingredients include pectin (11%), tannins (2% to 3%), malic and citric acids, flavonoids, red and yellow pigments, especially carotenoids, polyphenols, invert sugar, volatile oil, vanillin, and a variety of minor components.

Uses and Pharmacology

Vitamin C is used as a nutritional supplement for its antiscorbutic properties. Use of rose hips for their vitamin C content, in supportive therapy for cases of this vitamin deficiency is rational. 2 Because a significant amount of the natural vitamin C in rose hips may be destroyed during drying and processing, many “natural vitamin supplements” have some form of vitamin C added to them. One must read the label carefully to determine what proportion of the vitamin C is derived from rose hips vs other sources. Unfortunately, this information is not always available on the package label. However, when freshly consumed, rose hips have extremely high levels of vitamins in a form readily absorbed by the body.

Animal data

Rose hips' effects have been evaluated on blood glucose levels in rabbits. No significant changes in levels were reported. 9

Clinical data

A small pediatric population with osteogenesis imperfecta received ascorbic acid from rose hips, 250 to 600 mg/day for 10 to 42 months. Eight of 13 patients showed a decrease in number of fractures vs control, suggesting a positive outcome of vitamin C supplementation in this specific disease. 10


The laxative activity of rose hips may be related to the presence of malic and citric acids, to purgative glycosides (multiflorin A and B), 11 or to pectin content in the plant. 2 Rose hips have also been used for diuretic actions, to reduce thirst, and to alleviate gastric inflammation. 1 Its diuretic action has been disputed. 2


There is no recent clinical evidence upon which dosage recommandations can be based. Classical use of rose petals was 3 to 6 g daily. 12


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Adverse effects associated with the long-term ingestion of multi-gram doses of vitamin C (ie, oxalate stone formation) have not been reported with rose hips. 13 The German Commission E Monographs lists no known risks of rose hips. 2 Production workers exposed to rose hips dust have developed severe respiratory allergies, with mild-to-moderate anaphylaxis. 3 One report describes a German ground rose hips product sold as “itching powder” in novelty shops. The fibers of the plant seem to provoke itch and prickle sensations not by allergic means, but by mechanical irritation, similar to those of wool. 14


Rose hips ingestion is not generally associated with toxicity. More than 100 g of plant material would have to be ingested to obtain a 1200 mg dose of vitamin C, an impractical amount to ingest.


1. Chevallier A. Herbal Medicines . London, England: Pharmaceutical Press, 1996;261.
2. Bisset N. Herbal drugs and phytopharmaceuticals . Stuttgart, Germany: CRC Press, 1994;424-27.
3. Kwaselow A, et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1990;85(4):704.
4. Tyler VE. The New Honest Herbal . Philadelphia, PA: G.F. Stickley Co., 1987.
5. Duke JA. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs . Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985.
6. Ziegler SJ, et al. J Chromatogr 1987;391:419.
7. Lander C, et al. Pharmazeutische Zeitung 1986 Jun 19;131:1441-43.
8. Brand JC, et al. Lancet 1982;2:873.
9. Can A, et al. Acta Pharmaceutica Turcica 1992;34(1):17-22.
10. Kurz D, et al. Pediatrics 1974 Jul;54:56-61.
11. Leung AY. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used In Food, Drugs and Cosmetics . New York, NY: J Wiley and Sons, 1980.
12. Gruenwald, et al, eds. PDR for Herbal Medicines . 2nd ed. Medical Economics Company: Montvale, NJ; 2000; p. 644.
13. Roth DA, Breitenfield RV. JAMA (letter) 1977;237(8):768.
14. Albert M. Australas J Dermatol 1998;39(3):188-89.

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