Herb: Rock Rose

Latin name: Cistus creticus

Synonyms: Cistus incanus creticus, Cistus polymorphus, Cistus villosus creticus

Family: Cistaceae (Rock-rose Family)

Medicinal use of Rock Rose:

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 and as an emmenagogue. The leaves are harvested in late spring and early summer and can be dried for later use, or the resin extracted from them.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)



Habitat of the herb:

Amongst scrub and in bushy places on rocks, dry hills etc to 1000 metres.

Edible parts of Rock Rose:

The leaves are used as a tea substitute. The oleo-resin obtained from the leaves and stems is used as a commercial food flavouring in baked goods, ice cream, chewing gum etc.

Other uses of the herb:

The glandular hairs on the leaves yield the oleo-resin "ladanum", used medicinally and in soaps, perfumery, fumigation etc. This resin is an acceptable substitute for ambergris (which is obtained from the sperm whale) and so is important in perfume manufacture. The resin is collected by dragging a type of rake through the plant, the resin adhering to the teeth of the rake, or by boiling the twigs and skimming off the resin. Most resin is produced at the hottest time of the year. There is a mauve-flowered variety of this species that is the most prolific producer of the resin.

Propagation of Rock Rose:

Seed - gather when ripe and store dry. Surface sow in late winter in a greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 4 weeks at 20C. Prick out the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle into individual pots. Grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter and plant them out the in the following spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. The seed stores for at least 3 years. Cuttings of softish to half-ripe wood, 8cm long with a heel or at a node, June/August in a frame. Roots are formed within 3 weeks. High percentage. Cuttings of almost mature wood, 8 - 12cm with a heel or at a node, September/October in a frame. High percentage. Lift and pot up in the spring, plant out when a good root system has formed. Layering in spring.

Cultivation of the herb:

Amongst scrub and in bushy places on rocks, dry hills etc to 1000 metres.

Known hazards of Cistus creticus:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.