Perfumery & Medicine
Most Cistus species have aromatic foliage but some species also exude a highly aromatic gum or resin, called ladanum or labdanum, which has been used in incenses since ancient times and is now a valuable ingredient of perfumes. (N.B. There is no connection with laudanum!)
Ladanum and other extracts from cistus also have a long history of use in folk medicine, particularly in Greece and Turkey.
In the Bible, references to myrrh in the Old Testament (e. g. in the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis) are generally mistranslations of the Hebrew word “loth” (= ladanum). In the New Testament the word “myrrh” (e.g. as one of the gifts of the magi to the infant Jesus) has its true meaning and refers to Commiphora abyssinica.
Collecting Labdanum the Traditional Way by Hand A new website showing collection of ladanum/labdanum by the villagers of Sises in Crete, the only place where this ancient skill is still practised.
For a detailed account of the history of the gathering of ladanum in Crete and its commercial uses see:
Warren, P.M. – Cistus creticus L. – Αλαδανιά – Αγκίσσαρος – Αλάδανος – Ladanum (in English) in Detorakis, Th. & Kalokairinos (eds.) Sema Menelaou Parlama pp.243-265 (otherwise in Greek) pub. Society for Cretan Historical Studies, Heraklion 2002 ISBN 960-86721-0-4
(Other references on my bibliography page)