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Cistus ladanifer (Ambreine, gum rockrose, laudanum [sic], labdanum, common gum cistus, brown-eyed rockrose)

Category: Medicines - plant based



Introduction and description


Cistus ladanifer is a species of flowering plant in the family Cistaceae. It is placed within the C. salvifolius group. 

It is native to the western Mediterranean region.

Common names include gum rockrose, laudanum [sic], labdanum, common gum cistus, and brown-eyed rockrose.

It is a popular ornamental plant, grown for its strongly resin-scented foliage and conspicuous flowers. Its leaves yield a fragrant oleoresin known as labdanum or ambreine, used in perfumes, especially as a fixative, in aromatherapy and medicinally.

This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.



Cistus ladanifer is a shrub growing 1–2.5 m (3 ft 3 in–8 ft 2 in) tall and wide.

 The leaves are evergreen, lanceolate, 3–10 cm long and 1–2 cm broad, dark green above and paler underneath.

The flowers are 5–8 cm diameter, with 5 papery white petals, usually with a red to maroon spot at the base, surrounding the yellow stamens and pistils.

 The whole plant is covered with the sticky exudate of fragrant resin, the source of labdanum, used in herbal medicine and perfumery.


C. ladanifer is particularly well suited to the continentalised Mediterranean climate, standing both long summer droughts and cold weather. It is an extremely aggressive plant which has taken over much of former farmland and grasslands in the mountain regions of central Spain and much of southern Portugal. In Spanish it is known as Jara pringosa meaning "sticky shrub". In Portuguese it is known as "esteva". It has been found to have mycorrhizal associations with Boletus edulis, Boletus rhodoxanthus, and Laccaria laccata.

Medicinal uses

Dioscorides mentioned Cistus ladanifer and said
  "It is a bush that grows in the manner of cistus however produces more foliage and dark leaves on which some fat and unctous viscosity is collected….. Smeared with wine, it reduces the ugliness of the scars. Instilled with water and honey, it helps heal ear infections


Pliny the Elder also wrote about the plant.

The observations provide the medicinal uses, however it is worth pointing out that the wide distribution and morphological variation of C. ladanifer across northern Africa, the Iberian peninsula, and southern France has resulted in the recognition of three sub-species: subspp. ladanifer, sulcatus, and africanus.  It is not known whether each sub-species shares the same medicinal properties or chemical compositions of the others.

Related observations