Rose Essential Oil: Photo Credit, Fotolia
Rose Essential Oil: Photo Credit, Fotolia

What’s in a rose (name)? As it turns out, quite a bit! Many people are familiar with rose, both as a plant and as a scent. However, there are many different species, hybrids, and cultivars of rose (some of which do not have an aroma). Here’s a quick look at the differences and similarities between two common types of rose essential oil: Damask rose and May rose.

Botanical Profile of Damask Rose

Damask rose (Rosa x damascena) is actually a rose hybrid derived from Gallic rose (Rosa gallica) and musk rose (Rosa moschata). Damask rose is a deciduous shrub with pinnate leaves and pink to light red fragrant flowers. It may flower from summer through Fall, depending upon the variety.

Damask rose is considered to be part of the old garden roses (pre-1867).

Damask Rose Essential oil

Damask rose essential oil is also called by the name rose otto but check that Damask rose is the only rose contributing to this type of rose oil, as sometimes various species of roses are merged into one oil and called rose otto, as well. Damask rose essential oil is extracted from the rose petals by steam distillation. A minute quantity is produced so it literally takes thousands of rose petals to produce the aromatic deep, sweet, floral oil. Consequently, damask rose essential oil is very expensive.

Botanical Profile of May Rose

May rose (Rosa x centifolia) is also a rose hybrid derived from one known contributor, Damask rose, and various other species that are not fully documented. May rose, or Mai de Rose, also goes by the synonyms cabbage rose, rose Maroc, and Provence rose. May rose produces round, scented flowers, with numerous overlapping petals. It is usually pink in color.

Rose Absolute

May rose is usually used to produce an extract, absolute, or concrete. Its aroma is often described by people as the aroma they remember from their childhood (indicating it is the more common garden rose). Note, however, that Damask rose also produces an absolute, so make sure you know which product (and species) you are purchasing.

Rose absolutes and concretes are generally used in natural perfumery whereas rose essential oil can be used in both natural perfumery and for therapeutic aromatherapy purposes. Absolutes and concretes use a solvent in the extraction process whereas essential oils are usually steam or water distilled.

Uses of Rose Essential Oil and Absolute

Rose essential oil is used in skincare, for stress, depression, insomnia, and for many women’s problems; the absolute is predominately used for scent purposes in natural perfumery.

Learn More About Essential Oils with Sedona Aromatherapie

If you are interested in learning more about essential oils, consider one of the Sedona Aromatherapie home study aromatherapy courses. Visit the course home page to learn more.


  • Eden Botanicals website, Rose de Mai Absolute, accessed October 19, 2015

  • Lawless, Julia, 1995, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, UK: Thorsons

  • Author is a UK-certified aromatherapist with a decade of training and practical experience in aromatherapy, published author and editor in aromatherapy, an approved education provider for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), an aromatherapy business owner, and Chief Editor for the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal.

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