Distribution of wild rose (rosa canina L) in US and Canada. USDA map.

Wild roses can be found growing many places across the West, including in the Payette Forest. Rosa Canina L. – also known as dog rose, dog briar and common briar – is actually an invasive plant in the US, its origins being in Eurasia and having escaped after being imported for landscaping. Dog rose flowers in June and July, producing a lovely scent, and this time of year – September and October – it produces its fruit, known as rose hips. They’re grape-sized, smooth and red.

Over the years most of my dogs have foraged huckleberries in the forest, finding and picking their own. But two years ago when my young Alaskan Malamute found some rose hips and started plucking them from the vine to eat, I wasn’t sure if they were healthy or toxic. Doing some research, I discovered that rose hips are fine for dogs and people, that in fact they may have many health benefits. Now when my dogs and I are out in the forest in autumn and come across rose hips, I encourage them to eat a few.

For verification, I checked with MCPAWS veterinarian Nancy Basinger. “My veterinary sources say the rose hips are safe and a good source of Vitamin C as well as many other undefined bioactive compounds,” she replied. “There are now rose hip products being marketed as anti-inflammatories.  Only downside might be GI upset or diarrhea if the dog ate a large amount.”

Wild roses in bloom on Brundage Mountain. Photo: McCall Digest.

Indeed, it’s believed there are similar health benefits for humans. From the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service website:

Ethnobotanical: Dog rose has multiple medical uses dating back to Hippocrates in ancient Greek times. It was used in prescriptions, but its precise use is unknown. Pliny, the Roman naturalist, attributed the plant’s name to a belief that the root could cure the bite of a mad dog. During World War II, Britain was unable to import citrus fruits so the government encouraged the gathering of dog rose hips as a source of vitamin C. Rose hip extracts are currently used in traditional European folk medicine as a diuretic, laxative, for kidney and lower urinary tract disorders, arthritis, gout, fever, colds and for vitamin C deficiency. Research has proven several compounds in extracts in the hips of dog rose have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

A friend from Sweden – Per-Ola Selander – suggested I make rose hip soup, something many Swedes enjoy as a dessert, perhaps with cream, ice cream or almond cookies, or as a drink, hot or cold. He noted that today most Swedes make it from a powder, but here’s a recipe for making your own rose hip soup (Nyponsoppa).

The author’s dogs plucking rose hips from the plant. Photo: McCall Digest.

Of course, before eating rose hips yourself – fresh, or dried as a supplement – or giving them to your dog, do your research and talk with your own health care provider and veterinarian. It’s possible there could be side effects or adverse interactions. For more information, here are two resources, one for humans and one for canines.

A few days ago, after my dogs ate several rose hips, I picked some and brought them home, thinking I’d add them to their morning meal since they liked eating them in the forest. That didn’t go over so well. Both dogs chewed their breakfast rose hip a time or two, then spit it out beside their bowl. Apparently they only like rose hips in their most-fresh form!

(Cover photo: Rose hips in the Payette Forest, October 2018. Photo: McCall Digest.)

About the author

Rebecca Wallick

Rebecca is a freelance writer and publisher living near McCall, Idaho. A Seattle native and recovering attorney, she much prefers the quiet, slow pace, and distinct seasons of the West Central Mountains, enjoying the skiing, hiking and running opportunities provided by the nearby Payette National Forest. Rebecca is a Contributing Editor with Bark magazine, and the author of Growing Up Boeing: The Early Jet Age Through the Eyes of a Test Pilot’s Daughter (Feb 2014).

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