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Cistus (Rockrose)

The rockrose bush (Cistus ladaniferus, Cistaceae) is the source of both cistus essential oil, also called rockrose essential oil, and labdanum resin and absolute (See HerbClip News Labdanum March 15, 2021). Native to the islands in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, rockrose was considered sacred to Aphrodite at Paphos on the island of Cyprus.1 This plant may be the Hebrew Bible’s “rose of Sharon” from the Song of Songs (2:1)2 The Cistaceae family is a rather large and proliferating group.3 Plants from the family have been known to spread widely (and wildly) in eroded soil where fire or heavy grazing has taken place. Rockrose shrubs help to restore soil health by creating an “underground symbiotic web of mycorrhizae”. In Corsica, it has been noted that birds line their nests with aromatic plants, included rockrose, to protect against parasites. In the hot Mediterranean climate, rockrose shrubs produce a sticky, brown resin within the plant’s glandular hairs to conserve moisture.1 The resin infuses the area with a warm, earthy aroma.

While cistus essential oil was originally distilled from the gathered resin, distillation from the leaves and twigs is the preferred method. According to Holmes, flowering twigs are first steam distilled into an essential oil.1 Then the water from the steam distillation (hydrosol/hydrolat) is redistilled with hexane. The oil produced from the second distillation is combined with the steam distilled oil. Cistus essential oil is a base note with a warm, woody, balsamic, animalistic, spicy fragrance. Applications for the essential oil include viral infections, flu, diarrhea, menstrual issues, muscle and joint pain, arthritis, varicose veins, scarring, autoimmune disorders, insomnia, apathy, anxiety, and stress.1,4 Cistus essential oil is considered an astringent, hemostatic, and wound-healing agent.

Psychologically, cistus can aid in encouraging will-power and perseverance, increasing self-confidence and motivation, and relaxing the nervous system. Schnaubelt states that oils such as cistus “help to draw energy inward” allowing mind stagnation to dissipate so that underlying core issues of an illness can be expressed.5

Due to the varying ways in which the rockrose plant is distilled into essential oils and absolutes, it is important to ascertain the method whereby the essential oil has been created. Companies that provide Certificates of Analysis, Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry reports, and/or Safety Data Sheets establish assurance that the cistus essential oil contains the chemical constituents desired and that no adulteration has occurred.

Lori Glenn

HerbClip™ Managing Editor


1Holmes P. Aromatica – A Clinical Guide to Essential Oil Applications Vol 2: Applications and Profiles. London, UK: Singing Dragon; 2019.

2Keville K, Green M. Aromatherapy – A Complete Guide to the Healing Arts. 2nd ed.. Berkeley, California: Crossing Press; 2009.

3Eden Botanicals. Cistus – Organic. Eden Botanicals website. Accessed August 4, 2021.

4Worwood VA. The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. 25th Anniversary Edition. Novato, California: New World Library; 2016.

5Schnaubelt K. The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press; 2011.