091. Cistus creticus. Cretan cistus.

Botanical name: 

091. Cistus creticus. 091. Cistus creticus. C. Planta à qua colligitur Latanum. Pharm. Lond.
Synonyma. Cistus ladanifera cretica, flore purpureo. Tournef. Coroll. Infl. rei herb. p. 19. Voyage du Levant. t. i. p. 29.
Cistus ladanifera vera. Park. Theat. p. 666.
Cistus, Ledon Cretense. Bauh. Pin. p. 467.
Cistus Ledon Matthioli. Gerard. Emac. p. 1286.
Cistus (creticus) arborescens, foliis ovato-lanceolatis, hirsutis, marginibus undulatis, floribus terminalibus. Miller. Dict. Jacqu. ic. collect. i. p. 80.

Class Polyandria. Ord. Monogynia. Lin. Gen. Plant. 673.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Cor. 5-petala. Cal. 5-phyllus: foliolis duobus minoribus. Capsula.
Spec. Char. C. arborescens exstipulatus, foliis spatulato-ovatis petiolatis enerviis scabris, calycinis lanceolatis.

This handsome shrub seldom rises to any considerable height; it is covered with a dark coloured bark, and sends off several simple branches: the leaves are oblong, pointed, waved, rough, viscous, veined, and stand in pairs upon short footstalks, which are broad at the base, so as nearly to surround the younger branches: the flowers are produced in succession at the extremities of the branches in June and July; they are large, of a purplish red colour, marked with dark spots at the base of each petal, and stand on short peduncles: the calyx is divided in five large oval pointed persistent segments, of which the two outermost are the smallest: the corolla is composed of five petals, which are large, roundish, spreading, and readily fall off on being touched: the filaments are numerous, very short, slender, and supplied with simple antherae of an orange colour: the germen is oval, and supports a short style, furnished with a flat circular stigma; the capsule is roundish, and contains many small orbicular seeds.

This shrub, which is a native of Candia and some of the islands of Archipelago, was first cultivated in England by Mr. P. Miller in the year 1731, [See Aiton's Hort. Kew.] and is now to be had of several of the London gardeners,though it is not so commonly met with as many other exotic species of this genus. Not only this plant, but most of its congeners, abound with a glutinous liquor, which in summer exudes upon their leaves, and seems to be of the ladanum kind: but it is well known, that the Cistus creticus is the species from which the officinal Ladanum is collected. This is done in Candia by means of an instrument call there Ergastiri, made in the form of a rake, to which several leathern thongs are fixed instead of teeth, and with which the leaves of the shrub are lightly brushed backwards and forwards, so that the fluid Ladanum may adhere to the leather, from which it is afterwards scraped off with knives, and formed into regular masses for exportation. [See Belon. Observations de plusieurs singularités en Grece, Asie. &c. Lib. i. c. 7. and Tournefort. Voyage du Levant. t. i. p. 29. where the Ergastiri is described and figured. By the ancients we are told, that the (greek) was collected by combing the beards and thighs of goats who browzed upon the cistus, and to whose hair the drug was found to adhere: another method of gathering it, was by drawing cords over those shrubs which produced it. See Dioscorides, Mat. Med. Lib. i. p. 128. and Pliny, Hist. Nat. Lib. xii. cap. xvii.]

As this drug is observed to issue most copiously in the hottest weather, the method of gathering above described must be performed when the intensity of the sun's heat renders it a very laborious and troublesome employment.

Three sorts of Ladanum have been described by authors, but only two are now to be met with in the shops. "The best, which is very rare, is in dark-coloured masses, of the consistence of a soft plaster, growing still softer on being handled: the other is in long rolls, coiled up, much harder than the preceding, and not so dark. The first has commonly a small and the last a large admixture of fine sand, which in the Labdanum examined by the French Academy amounted to three-fourths of the mass. It is scarcely indeed to be collected pure, independently of designed abuses; the dust blown on the plant by winds from the loose sands among which it grows, being retained by the tenacious juice. The soft kind has an agreeable smell, and a lightly pungent bitterish taste: the hard is much weaker. Rectified spirit of wine dissolves nearly the whole of pure Labdanum into a golden-coloured liquor: on inspissating the filtered solution, the finer parts of the Labdanum rises with the spirit, and the remaining resin proves both weaker and less agreeable than the juice at first. On infusing the Labdanum in water, it impregnates the liquor considerably with its smell and taste, and in distillation with water, there comes over a fragrant essential oil." [Lewis, M. M. p. 368.]

This resin was formerly much employed internally as a pectoral and astringent in catarrhal affections, dysenteries, and several other diseases; at present however it is wholly confined to external use, and is an ingredient in the stomachic plaster, or emplastrum landani of the London Pharm. It is also sometimes used in the way of fumigation.

Medical Botany, 1790-1794, was written by William Woodville, M. D., and illustrated by James Sowerby.