Roses and their fruit coursed an incredibly fascinating path through human history. From their use by Swiss lake dwellers in prehistoric times, to Mayans and Egyptians. The ancient Chinese, Persians, Romans and Greeks all appreciated the benefits of the fruit, sometimes called a hip or a haw. They used it as both, herbal remedy and nutritious food. In 600 BC writings, the Greek poet, Sappho named this beneficial beauty “Queen of Flowers”.

Herbalists in centuries past, such as the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder, recorded numerous ways to prepare roses to extract their medicinal virtues including as treatment for the bites of rabid dogs, stomach complaints, colds and toothaches. Its scientific Latin name of Rosa Canina or Dog Rose, is thought to have derived from the Romans’ belief that rosehips could cure rabies caused by dog bites.

Legend and history have intertwined and volumes have been written about the cultivation and virtues of the much-loved rose. Findings tell us that humans used it mostly in the form of jam but also in cooking and to make teas, soup, syrup and oils.

The British kept this fruit in their pharmacopeia well into the 1930s. In fact, during World War II, the public were actively encouraged by the government to gather rosehips to make a syrup for the troops. The reason? Rosehips contain a great quantity of Vitamin C, iron, and other minerals which were beneficial for people who needed extra resources and to prevent diseases like scurvy. The details and success of the campaign are eloquently told in two articles in The Times [London, England] in autumn of 1941, and mid-winter 1942.


A national week for the collection of rose hips to be converted into syrup will open next Sunday. The Ministry of Health and the Department of Health for Scotland state that these fruits, which in the past have been allowed to go to waste, are 20 times as rich in Vitamin C as oranges.

The collecting is being organized chiefly through schools, boy scouts, and girl guides, the women’s institutes, and the Scottish women’s rural institutions. The hips, which must be ripe, can be gathered from wild or cultivated bushes, but they should be free from bits of stems and leaves. Haws, the red berries of May, are not wanted. The picking season extends until the end of October.

The collecting organizations will supply the hips in bulk to firms who have agreed to pay 2s. for 14 lb. (minimum 28 lb.), carriage forward. It is hoped that some 500 tons will be converted into syrup, which will be marketed at a reasonable price.

The Times, 22 September, 1941


National rose hip syrup, the Ministry of Health announced yesterday, will be on sale in chemists’ shops in England, Scotland, and Wales, from February 1. Rose hips are one of the richest natural sources of vitamin C, which is particularly beneficial for children, and the syrup is therefore a useful war-time substitute for orange juice and a distinct improvement on blackcurrant syrup. It is not intended that rose hip should be used by one and all as a tasty addition to everyday diet, but that is should be used for young children only.


The present supplies of the syrup are the result of a campaign organized last summer and autumn by the Ministry of Health and the Department of Health for Scotland for collecting rose hips. School teachers, boy scouts, girl guides, the W.V.S., women’s rural institutions, and other voluntary organizations co-operated, and some 200 tons, equivalent to 134,000,000 hips, were collected. The hips were converted into syrup by selected firms, and their total output amounts to 600,000 bottles.


A teaspoonful of rose hip syrup a day will supply half the vitamin C needs of a child. It can be taken neat or diluted with water, and has a pleasant flavor. Plans are being made for another collection of rose hips on a national scale this year.

The Times, 15 January 1942