Cistus, Cistus ladaniferus, a shrub, also known as Labdanum, Rock Rose, Sun Rose and Rose of Sharon, is a member of the Cistaceae family and native to the mountainous coastal regions of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Interestingly, Cistus secretes a gum in the summer to protect itself against the intense heat. Labdanum gum has been harvested for 3,000 years and used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, catarrh and menstruation difficulties. A popular use of labdanum was in the making of ancient perfumes. It is said to resemble ambegris in fragrance and was sometimes used as a substitute for it. Apparently Ancient Greek shepherds collected ‘labdanum gum’ by combing the fleece of their sheep and goat herds. While grazing these animals would rub up against the Cistus shrubs and the natural sticky resin would get stuck to their coats.

Ian Smith reported in the In Essence Magazine Vol 6 No 3:

Broadly speaking, cistus products are obtained from the leaves and stalks of Cistus spp, and labdanum products are prepared from the oleoresin gum obtained by boiling the plant material in water. An essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the gum or directly from the leaves and twigs. An absolute is obtained by solvent extraction from the gum.

This oil has a very pungent odour that has been described by Tony Burfield as being “penetrating, herbaceous and woody.” It blends well with oakmoss, clary sage, pine, juniper, lavender, lavandin, bergamot, cypress, vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli, frankincense and chamomile maroc.

Traditionally it has been used in ointments and compresses to treat infected wounds and skin ulcers. It is excellent for skin care (eczema and psoriasis as well as mature skin and wrinkles), considered to be beneficial for increasing lymphatic drainage and helpful in cases of coughs and bronchitis. It is also used as a fixative in colognes and perfumes (especially oriental perfumes and aftershaves).

On a psychological level Cistus can be considered helpful for inner emptiness, emotional coldness and fear. It is also often used in meditation blends. Some say it helps to open the third eye, others that it helps to connect to higher realms.

In his Spiritual PhytoEssencing Materia Medica, Dr. Bruce Berkowsky, associates Cistus with the Theme of Coldness. This suggests that Cistus might be helpful anywhere Coldness is a factor, physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.

Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing. Avoid during pregnancy.

Cistus is covered in the Aromatherapy 201 Course

Cistus Hydrosol

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Cistus | West Coast Institute of Aromatherapy