Rose hips are popular in health promoting products as the fruits contain high content of bioactive compounds. The aim of this study was to investigate whether health benefits are attributable to ascorbic acid, phenols, or other rose-hip-derived compounds. Freeze-dried powder of rose hips was preextracted with metaphosphoric acid and the sample was then sequentially eluted on a C18 column. The degree of amelioration of oxidative damage was determined in an erythrocyte in vitro bioassay by comparing the effects of a reducing agent on erythrocytes alone or on erythrocytes pretreated with berry extracts. The maximum protection against oxidative stress, 59.4 ± 4.0% (mean standard deviation), was achieved when incubating the cells with the first eluted meta-phosphoric extract. Removal of ascorbic acid from this extract increased the protection against oxidative stress to 67.9 ± 1.9% . The protection from the 20% and 100% methanol extracts was 20.8 ± 8.2% and 5.0 ± 3.2% , respectively. Antioxidant uptake was confirmed by measurement of catechin by HPLC-ESI-MS in the 20% methanol extract. The fact that all sequentially eluted extracts studied contributed to protective effects on the erythrocytes indicates that rose hips contain a promising level of clinically relevant antioxidant protection.