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Herb Gallery

Mei Gui Hua (Rosa rugosa)

  • Botanical name: Rosa rugosa
  • Common name: Wild rose
  • Family: Rosaceae, rose family
  • Part used in Chinese medicine: flower bud
  • Major Chinese medicine actions:
  • Regulates qi and blood gently, harmonizes Spleen,
    Stomach and Liver, regulates menstruation
Rosa rugosa
Rosa rugosa

Photo Credits: (top to bottom)
Photo 1: Rosa rugosa; 08/2008; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute
Photo 2: Rosa rugosa; 08/2008; author C. Micleu; permission Jade Institute

Growing and Propagation

The plant prefers full sun and well-drained soil enriched with organic matter. It will grow about 3-5 feet high, spreading 3-4 feet wide, and is hardy in USDA zones 2 to 8.

Like all roses, the rugosa will tend to send up suckers. The largest may be left to grow, but removing them will produce a more vigorous shrub. Propagation is easily achieved by transplanting the plant suckers. Dig a healthy, large 12-inch or larger sucker with a big root. If kept moist, they generally transplant well.

Harvesting and Preparation

For medicinal purposes, the flower buds must be cut just before opening. If they are cut too early, the bud will be too small, but if left too late, the flower will open. Best quality Mei Gui Hua are large, unopened, dark colored buds with a strong fragrance.


Native to northeast Asia, the Rosa rugosa, or shrub rose, has now become naturalized throughout the temperate regions of the world, growing both wild and cultivated in gardens. It is a drought tolerant hardy shrub that is almost indestructible, growing well even with neglect and poor soil. Lovely, fragrant flowers bloom on prickly stems from spring to autumn, followed by bright orange to red rose hips in the autumn. The autumn foliage turns a pretty bright orange. There are several varieties in cultivation but a double purplish-pink and double white are the most commonly grown in recent times. In Chinese medicine, the dark purple-pink rose buds are used.

In China, the darker rose petals are also used to flavor hot tea and to make a refreshing cool summer drink. A rose petal sugar preserve is made from flowers gathered as soon as they open. The petals are spread in a thin layer on a tray and dried until withered. Then they are slightly kneaded by hand and mixed with an equal amount of sugar (for example, I cup of sugar to 1 cup tightly packed rose petals). The mixture is stored in a tight jar for future use, added to teas and cakes for flavoring.

A famous cake called “tang yuan” is commonly sold in sidewalk stalls in Chengdu, China. To make this cake, 1/3 cup of toasted sesame seeds are ground to a powder and mixed with the 1/3 cup rose sugar, described above, and 1/2 stick softened butter (or lard and chicken fat if you live in China). The mixture is rolled into a 1/2-inch stick to be used as filling for the cake. The pastry is made with dough made from 1/2 cup glutinous rice flour mixed with 1/2 cup water. Taking a 3/4-inch piece of dough, it is rolled and then pressed into a 1 1/2-inch patty. Placing a piece of filling in the center, the tang yuan is rolled into a ball. When ready to serve, the balls are dropped one at a time into a pot of boiling water, gently stirring to prevent them from sticking together. Reducing the heat to medium, they are simmered for 2-3 minutes. Tang yuan is sometimes served in a bowl with a bit of the cooking water, or without water and drizzled with a little fruit syrup.