Rock Rose (Cistrus Creticus)

Cistus creticus, commonly know as Rock Rose, is a perennial shrub, found on dry or rocky soils in Mediterranean area and particularly in Crete island, South Greece.

Mythology and History
Cistus Incanus Creticus.

It was known to the Greeks as early as the times of Herodotus and Theophrastus.
This plant and has been prized since ancient times as the source of the substance labdanum, also known as ladanum. This sticky resin, derived from the sap of Cistus incanus has been used for centuries as an ingredient in perfumes and incense, as well as to treat colds, coughs, menstrual problems, rheumatism, as well as for embalming and aphrodisiac purposes.

Ancient Greeks used a unique method for collecting the resin from these plants. Goats were allowed to graze among the Cistus incanus shrubs, and the resin would adhere to the hair of their coats, which was then shorn and boiled. The resin, which is not soluble in water, would eventually rise to the surface and would be skimmed off for later use. This complex and time-consuming process made labdanum a rare and highly prized commodity among ancient peoples. 
Today, modern techniques have made this process much more efficient. But still today in the Greek Isles, it is collected by threshing the plants by a kind of flail from which the sticky mass is scraped off with a knife and rolled into small black balls.

Health Benefits & Modern Medicinal uses

This plant is an aromatic, expectorant, stimulant herb that controls bleeding and has antibiotic effects. It is used internally in the treatment of catarrh and diarrhoea.
Rock Rose tea is three times as healthy as green tea and elderberry juice. It protects the heart four times better than red wine and it is an antioxidant twenty times stronger than freshly pressed lemon juice. Just a cup of tea a day is proven to stimulate the immune system significantly. 

The human body requires this type of antioxidant to combat toxic substances. Scientists have found that the rock rose contains an adequate combination of these antioxidants, detoxifies the body and eliminates toxic heavy metals deriving from the smoke of cigarettes, dental fillings and environmental pollution. In addition, rock rose flower is a key ingredient in a homeopathic treatment, especially for stress.

Presently, resin’s main use is in perfume industry, as a fixative substance. It is often used in making cosmetic creams, because of its anti-wrinkle properties and shampoos, as it strengthens the hair follicle. It is also considered a sedative, astringent, heating, antispasmodic and expectorant. 

The most outstanding effect of Rock Rose is its wound healing abilities. It used in any blend for healing skin issues, new or old scars, wounds, inflammation and infections. It is wonderful in blends for mature skin. It is a great anti-inflammatory and has a penetrating, deep aroma that opens up the senses.

The secret of these incredible versatile effects of the rockrose herb is the particularly high level of vitamin P, as well as certain tannic acid compounds or what we call polyphenols. Rockrose contains the highest level of these active agents of any substance known to man. These substances have a stronger antioxidant effect than the well-known vitamins E and C.


Labdanum from mediterranean Cistus species: GC-MS fingerprints and relative quantification of antispirochaetal manoyloxides

Planta Med 2012; 78 - PA10
DOI: 10.1055/s-0032-1320325

Labdanum from mediterranean Cistus species: GC-MS fingerprints and relative quantification of antispirochaetal manoyloxides

K Kuchta 1, K Grötzinger 1, C Birkemeyer 2, HW Rauwald 1
  • 1Pharmacognosy, Leipzig Uni., Johannisal. 23, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
  • 2Anal. Chemistry, Leipzig Uni., Linnéstr. 3, 04103 Leipzig, Germany

The oleoresin labdanum from Cistus creticus was used in ancient Greece as incense, anti-infective, and wound treatment [1]. On Crete, the main production center since antiquity, it is brushed off the leaves with long textile strings. After the Ottoman conquest of Crete 1645, Western Europe imported Spanish labdanum prepared by hot water extraction of aerial parts of Cistus ladanifer. Shortly there- after, labdanum fell out of pharmaceutical use [2]. Presently, C. creticus leaf extracts from Turkey are applied by German self-help groups for borreliosis therapy [3]. Our results indicate that this anti- spirochaetal activity is mainly due to manoyloxides in the essential oil [3,4]. Here, 8 labdanum sam- ples were analyzed by GC-MS for these active constituents, revealing exceptionally high contents of 13-epi-manoyloxide, 2-keto-manoyloxide, ent-3β-hydroxy-13-epi-manoyloxide, manoyloxide, sclareol, and acetoxy-manoyloxide in the Cretan ones. In other eastern Mediterranean samples, the concentration of these compounds was several orders of magnitude lower, whereas Spanish labda- num is dominated by simple alkanes with only trace amounts of manoyloxide and 13-epi-man- oyloxide. Thus, discontinuation of medicinal use of labdanum in Western Europe is understandable as “labdanum” from C. ladanifer is clearly not equivalent to the traditionally harvested C. creticus drug. Rumors that C. creticus contains psychotropic THC were refuted.
References: 1. Aufmesser, M (2002) Dioscurides. Olms Verlag. Hildesheim. 2. Husemann, T (1889) Archiv der Pharmazie 227: 1075-1092/1105-1132. 3. Hutschenreuther, A. et al. (2010) Pharmazie 65: 290-295. 4. Grötzinger, K. et al. (2010) Planta Med 76: 245.

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