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  • Cistus in the house garden - Grá Nádúr - Photography by Alex

    Conversations with Cistus

    Cistus, Common Gum Cistus, Laudanum - Cistus ladanifer Cistaceae

    The Rock Rose or Cistus ladanifer is in full bloom. This is not a native plant to Ireland but grows happily here and is often grown as a garden ornamental.

    By Plant Medicine School, Nikki Darrell, Alex Duffy 5 Mins

    5 Mins

    Nikki's commentary

    The Rock Rose or Cistus ladanifer is in full bloom. This is not a native plant to Ireland but grows happily here and is often grown as a garden ornamental. It is a Mediterranean plant, growing in Portugal, Spain and other regions and is happy on gravelly mountainsides with sheep and goats grazing amongst the shrubs.
    It produces a resin from its leaves which was traditionally gathered by combing it out of the grazing animal's coats but is now distilled as an essential oil. The resin smells amazing- deep and grounding and has a real base note.  
    The leaves have traditionally been used as a tea to treat urinary infections, bronchitis, heavy periods and as an antiseptic. As well as the resin it contains polyphenols, proanthocyanidins, bioflavonoids, rutin and other beneficial compounds .
    In Poland its cousin Cistus incanus is widely used as a tea and has a reputation for treating Lyme disease; it can also be drunk as a tea to help repel ticks and insects from biting due to the resin it contains. We are delighted that we have 10 little seedlings of these growing happily and look forward to seeing them mature.
    It is effective against a wide range of microorganisms and can break down biofilms; an ideal ingredient for mouthwashes to keep the gums and teeth healthy. We make an oxymel for the winter with thyme and lemon honey and bay and cistus infused vinegars- it tastes gorgeous and keeps winter colds and flu at bay and helps to treat coughs.
    It is an expectorant, shifting mucus; a few years ago we made aromatic water from it in a demonstration and all the participants enjoyed tasting it- after about 20 minutes one of them asked how quickly it would work as medicine as her sinus headache had completely disappeared.
    Its astringency is also valuable as a treatment for diarrhoea. It is stimulating for the nervous system which makes it a valuable treatment for fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis. It has been used as medicine for thousands of years.
    The leaves can be harvested in late spring or early summer and used fresh or dried for later use. The seeds can be powdered and mixed with flour in cakes and bread. The oleo-resin can be eaten raw or used as a flavouring in ice cream, chewing gum and baking. The oleo-resin that is distilled is known as labdanum and is used in medicine and in soaps, perfumery, incense and as a substitute for ambergris which was obtained from whales. Like most resins, it is healing for the skin ( to help with eczema, acne and itchy skin conditions), for the psyche and on all levels. It is a beautiful plant to grow, with lovely energy and one we are learning more and more about.
    Other species of Cistus that are valuable medicinally include salvifolius, crispus, albidus, populifolius, libanotis, clusii, laurifolius and monspeliensis



    Cistus in the house garden - Grá Nádúr 1

    Monograph - TPMS

    Cistus, Common Gum Cistus, Laudanum

    Cistus ladanifer Cistaceae
    The Cistus genus is a group of evergreen shrubs with simple opposite leaves and 5 petalled flowers which are white/pink/purple and each only last a single day. 
    Cistus ladanifer is an evergreen shrub of loose, open habit with very sticky (resinous), narrow, aromatic leaves, dark green above, grey beneath. Flowers to 10cm in width, white with a deep red blotch at the base of each petal.
    Cistus incanus is also known as Hoary cistus or Rose cistus and is sometimes considered a subspecies of Cistus creticus .
    Some of the species that are useful are C. ladanifer, c. salvifolius, C. crispus, c. albidus – these are most similar to incanus. Still, c.populifolius, C. libanotis, C. clusii, C. laurifolius and C. monspeliensis will all have benefits.

    Botanical description:

    Both plants are native to Southern Europe and the dry Mediterranean region.  Both

    Parts used:

    Harvesting, Cultivation and Habitat:

    Cistus has a root fungus which helps plants to absorb water and mineral and this helps the plant grow on marginal soils.

    History and Folklore

    Cistus has been used for thousands of years- the Book of Genesis mentions the resin of this plant which is used in incense and possibly  in embalming


    Cistus incanus is a source of polyphenols, proanthocyanidins, bioflavonoids, catechins, gallic acid, rutin, and other beneficial bioactive compounds


    Traditional and current uses:

    • Extracts of the leaves have been shown to be antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and have the capacity of breaking up biofilms.  As an anti-fungal, it is effective against C. albicans, C krusei, C glabrata and Aspergillus fumigatus. Drinking 2 cups of tea per day for at least a week acts as an insect repellent.


    • Cistus has also been used to lessen the severity of cold and flu symptoms.


    • It is used externally to treat eczema, acne and psoriasis. It also clears the sinuses and sinus headaches.


    • In a mouth wash, it helps break up biofilms and keep the teeth and gums healthy. Cistus also seems to target viral envelop proteins so that they cannot attach to host cells and therefore cannot proliferate.


    • In Poland and other regions, Lyme is used to prevent tick bites (drink 2 cups a day for at least 1 week) and has been used to reduce the severity of Lyme disease symptoms. It is also used as an anti-inflammatory and to reduce aging both internally and topically. It is used to treat UTIs.
    • It is used in poultices and compresses to treat bacterial skin infections and also haemorrhoids. The tea is used as a wash to treat itchy skin, acne and also eczema or dermatitis. The tea is also considered to boost the immune system and treat colds, flu and bronchitis



    Cistus in the house garden - Grá Nádúr 2
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