12 Uses and Benefits of Labdanum Essential Oil

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Also known as Rock Rose, Ambreine and Cistus oil, Labdanum essential oil has a history stretching back to Antiquity.

Native to the Mediterranean region, the Labdanum bush is a resin producing shrub that grows up to 3 meters high. In earlier times the sticky resin on its branches gathered in the hair of goats as they browsed the plants, and goat herders would comb the coats of the goats to remove the precious substance.

That must have been quite a chore because goats aren’t known for their cooperative nature and they are seriously strong animals!

To this day Labdanum is still harvested (on a small scale) in Crete by driving herds of goats into dense forests overgrown with labdanum bushes. When the goats have finished feeding, their owners comb the resin out of the goat’s beard and the long hairs on their thighs.


Another method of collecting the resin is with a tool called a lambadistrion, (Labdanum gatherer). It was used to sweep the bushes and collect the resin. The lambadistrion was a wooden rake that had a double row of long leather thongs instead of teeth. The things would have acted in a similar way to the hairs on the goats.

The resin gathered from the bushes was sold for use as incense, and for medicinal uses including treating coughs and colds, rheumatism and menstrual problems.

Ladabaum is mentioned twice in the Book of Genesis where it recorded as being carried on the journey from Egypt to Palestine.

While the Latin name that we use today is Labdanum, other civilizations had their own words for the shrub and its resin. In Hebrew it was known as lôt which means resinous herb, in Assyrian it is ladunu, in Arabic, lâdhan and in Greek, it is known as ledanon.

In Ancient Egypt, Labdanum was used in their Kapet mixture. Kapet was burned as incense in their temples during religious ceremonies and also used medicinally. The Hebrews burned the resin as an incense, as did the Greeks, who called the substance from Egypt, Kyphi. Kyphi is composed of a number of other ingredients besides Labdanum. Egyptian Kapet usually contained 16 ingredients but some other recipes called for as many as 50.

Greek Kyphi recipes were recorded by Dioscorides, the famed physician of ancient Greece, in his book Materia Medica. A recipe for a lunar kyphi used 28 ingredients while a recipe for a solar mixture used 36.

Kyphi/Kapet was made by high priests over a period of many days during secret temple rituals in which incantations, chanting and meditations infused the space with the energy of the divine. The priests held the intention of their prayers in their entire being as they mixed the incense and when the incense was later burned the messages to their gods were pure.

The Egyptian Kepet was known as ‘Welcome To the Gods’ and to smell it was described by the Greek historian (and Priest of Apollo at Delphi), Plutarch, as “like listening to beautiful music.” He also described it as being able to “rock a person to sleep, brighten dreams, and chase away the troubles of the day.” The incense was said to consist of things that ‘delight in the night.’

Recipes for Kyphi are recorded in inscriptions in temples at Edfu and Dendera on the West Bank of the Nile in Upper Egypt, and on various papyrus. One Papyrus is the famous Ebers Papyrus dating to around 1500 BC, which holds many medicinal and spiritual/magical recipes. The Ebers Papyrus, a treasure from the ancient world, is said to have been found between the legs of a mummy in the Theban necropolis.

The inscription at Edfu involves the blending and aging of sixteen ingredients in a specific order over sixteen days.

The blending of ingredients was done in a precise way to produce the exact aroma and energetic vibration that the priests required. Egyptian priests were skilled magicians and their religious rites were quite different to a Sunday sermon in church today. Although in the Catholic church the use of incense still plays a major role.

In Ancient Egypt, magic was considered to be more powerful than the gods themselves because magic was the force that gave birth to the gods and the whole of creation. Magic was also the means for acquiring knowledge and for gaining control over one’s surroundings. Gods, demons and the dead could be petitioned, persuaded or threatened into assisting the magician. They were called upon to help to avert evil or to achieve one’s desires.

If you would like to experience the magical scent of the ancients, you can make your own

Kyphi incense – with as much, or as little magical intent as you like.

Recipe For Kyphi

The dry ingredients:

  • 3 parts frankincense resin
  • 2 parts myrrh resin
  • 2 parts gum arabic
  • 1 part labdanum resin
  • 1 part dragon’s blood resin
  • 1/2 part copal resin
  • 1/2 part galangal root
  • 1/2 part cinnamon
  • 1/2 part cedar wood
  • 1/2 part orris root

The wet ingredients:

  • 1 part juniper berries
  • 3 cups of raisins
  • 1 cup of chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 1/4 cup of red wine
  • couple drops of lotus oil

Grind all of the spices and resins and keep them in a sealed container for 2 weeks. Combine the wet ingredients and store them in a separate sealed container. Check on the wet ingredients from time to time, stir them and make sure that they are still covered with wine. Add a little more wine if the fruits have absorbed so much that the mixture is no longer submerged.

At the end of the two weeks, mix the two sets of ingredients together to form a sticky paste.

Roll the paste into small balls about one inch in diameter. Place on wax paper and leave to dry for two to six weeks – the time they take to dry will depend on your climate.

Store the incense wrapped in cheesecloth in an airtight container.

Burn a ball of the incense on a charcoal disk whenever you want to smell the aroma of beautiful music, chase the troubles of the day away and be carried away into the arms of restful sleep.

Now that we’ve finished our detour into the delightful world of the ancients, we should get back to Labdanum itself and its modern applications!

Modern mass production of Labdanum (Cistus ladaniferus), sadly leaves out our capricious friends, and instead involves boiling the leaves and the twigs of the plant to extract the Labdanum resin. The resin then undergoes solvent extraction to create an absolute.

The aroma of Labdanum is highly complex. It has a warm, sweet, balsamic, dry herbaceous, musky scent, with woody, earthy and smoky undertones. The fragrance of Labdanum has been compared to that of Ambergris (the substance produced in the intestines of the sperm whale), and as a leathery, honey-like fragrance with notes of plum and oakmoss.

In perfumery Labdanum is often used to  produce an ambergris like note since a ban on using natural ambergris was enforced to protect the Sperm whale.

Another fragrance note that Labdanum produces is that of Amber, where it is combined with Frankincense, Benzoin and Vanilla.

In aromatherapy it’s considered to have warming, sensual properties and the ability to affect the subconscious in profound ways.

Labdanum contains over 170 pinenes. Pinenes are a type of terpene that have the ability to increase airflow to the lungs and help with conditions like asthma. Pinenes are also analgesic and anti-inflammatory which makes any essential oil with a high percentage of pinenes useful for sufferers of chronic pain.

Pinene can help to fight cancer by encouraging cancer cells to self destruct (apoptosis) and by inhibiting their growth. Pinene is a strong antioxidant and can even help to boost memory and cognition.

Labdanum’s main actions are considered to be:

  • Analgesic – relieves pain
  • Anti-inflammatory – reduces or prevents inflammation
  • Antimicrobial – kills or resists pathogenic microorganisms.
  • Antioxidant – prevents oxidation damage to other molecules in the body
  • Antiseptic – kills microorganisms
  • Antitussive – relieves coughs
  • Astringent – dries and constricts tissue
  • Balsamic – soothing and calming
  • Emmenagogue – stimulates menstrual flow. (Dangerous in pregnancy)
  • Expectorant – loosens mucus in the respiratory tract and aids expulsion
  • Tonic – strengthens the body

Labdanum is often labeled with its Latin appellation, Cistus ladaniferus, some retailers will sell it as Labdanum, but with others you’ll need to search for Cistus ladaniferus, Cistus, or Rock Rose.

Labdanum is a slightly expensive essential oil and the absolute retails for around $100 an ounce, depending on the source. Another much cheaper product is available – usually produced in India, and this is an essential oil produced by steam distillation. This type of Labdanum won’t have the same strong therapeutic qualities as the absolute.

1. Labdanum Essential Oil Can Ease Breathing In Asthmatics

Labdanum Essential Oil Can Ease Breathing In Asthmatics

Labdanum is rich in Pinenes which act as bronchodilators and make breathing easier in conditions like asthma where the airways are constricted.

Labdanum essential oil can be mixed with a carrier oil and massaged into the skin or it can be inhaled using a steam (see below), or via the fine mist created with an aromatherapy diffuser.

2. Enhance Memory And concentration With Labdanum Essential Oil

The pinenes in many essential oils have the ability to enhance cognition and boost memory. They do this by inhibiting the breakdown of neurotransmitter molecules which is induced by a substance called acetylcholinesterase.

The brain boosting benefits of Labdanum essential oil can be obtained by massage with a small amount of diluted essential oil, or by diffusing the oil.

3. Soothe A Sunburn With Labdanum Essential Oil

With its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties labdanum essential oil will take the pain from a sunburn and help the skin to heal. Since sunburned skin is a cancer risk, the cancer fighting abilities of the pinenes in the oil can help to reduce the risk of skin cancer developing in the future.

The antioxidant qualities of Labdanum also prevent cell damage by combating the free radicals induced by the UV rays, that cause so much trouble.

Add a few drops of Labdanum oil to water and shake well to mix, spray over skin that is too sensitive to touch, or add to chilled aloe vera gel and smooth over your skin.

4. Use Labdanum Essential Oil To Clear Congestion

Labdanum essential oil is an effective expectorant which means that it can loosen mucus so that you can clear it out more effectively and relieve your discomfort. You can add a few drops of the oil to a carrier oil, like coconut oil or olive oil, and rub the oil into chest neck and back. Or you can inhale a decongestant steam. To make a steam, boil water and carefully pour it into a non absorbent ceramic bowl (plastic taints). Add a few drops of Labdanum essential oil and drape a towel over your head. Lean over the bowl and use the towel to form a tent that traps the steam around you. Don’t lean too close to the steam or it could scald your skin. Close your eyes to protect them, and inhale the steam as deeply as you can. Take breaks to blow your nose, or cough up mucus. Keep inhaling the steam until the water cools and the steam runs out.  

5. Stop An irritating Cough With labdanum Essential Oil

Labdanum essential oil is an antitussive and an anti-inflammatory. Antitussives are used in cough medicines that treat dry coughs. When a cough is dry and non productive, it is usually due to tissues in the airway that have become over sensitized. The antitussive suppresses the cough by acting on the region of the brain responsible for initiating the cough. Anti-inflammatories work directly on the inflamed tissue, and antioxidants combat the sensitivity by protecting the tissue from the irritation caused by damaging free radicals. These combined actions allow the sensitive tissue the chance to return to normal which stops the cough altogether.

The molecules in essential oils are small enough to be absorbed through the skin and enter the bloodstream and one drop of essential oil can contain 40,000 molecules. This method of transdermal delivery is exactly the same as that used for some drugs.

Dilute a few drops of oil with a carrier oil and rub into your throat and chest. You can also benefit from inhaling a steam as described above.

Make the Labdanum even more effective by taking plenty of antioxidant Vitamin C, and by drinking anti-inflammatory ginger tea.


6. Labdanum Essential Oil Can Improve The Appearance Of Wrinkles

Labdanum is often used to revive a dull, mature complexion and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

The astringent properties of Labdanum tighten the tissues and reduce puffiness, while its antioxidants fight the free radicals that cause the cell damage that leads to wrinkles. Skin cells unimpeded by free radical damage can function optimally and restore the healthy appearance of skin.

Use the essential oil mixed with your regular moisturizer, or combine a few drops with a light but rich carrier oil like jojoba or rice bran oil, and massage into the affected skin.

7. Relieve Stress With Labdanum Essential Oil

Labdanum has a very calming effect on the mind and is considered a very valuable aid to relieve stress, tension, anxiety and emotional trauma. Massage diluted labdanum essential oil into your skin or infuse your surroundings with the healing aroma with an aromatherapy diffuser.

8. Regulate Your menstrual Cycle And Ease Cramps And PMS With Labdanum Essential Oil

Labdanum oil is an emmenagogue, which means that it acts on your hormones to regulate your cycle and produce beneficial PMS relieving effects. Use of an emmenagogue can help to clear up problems with irregular periods and take away their annoying unpredictability.

An emmenagogue that also has stress relieving properties is doubly useful if the reason for your disturbed cycle is of an emotional nature.

Labdanum’s hormone balancing and analgesic effects also relieve the symptoms of PMS and menstrual cramping.

Massage diluted Labdanum oil into the abdomen to stimulate menstruation when you think your period should be due.

9. Use Labdanum Essential Oil To Clean Wounds

The pinenes in Labdanum are effective antibacterial substances, and oils rich in these terpenes are particularly well suited for wound cleaning. Labdanum also brings with it anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties.

Simply dilute several drops of Labdanum with clean cool water and stir to mix. Then use a cotton ball to dab the antiseptic wash onto the wound. Clean the wound with clear water first to flush out dust and dirt. For later pain relief and to keep infection causing microbes at bay, dilute a little Labdanum with coconut oil and apply the oil as a healing salve. You can make a longer lasting, easier to use salve by melting a little beeswax and mixing it with your oils.

10. Treat Acne and Pimples With Labdanum Essential Oil

The anti-inflammatory, astringent and antimicrobial properties of Labdanum essential oil will help to combat the bacteria that feast on excess sebum deep in the skin pores, remove excess oil and calm irritation.

Add a few drops of Labdanum to your regular skin care products or make a soothing toner using Labdanum and water. You can also make a simple anti acne moisturizer by mixing Labdanum with a non comedogenic carrier oil like rice bran oil, argan oil, or jojoba oil.

11. Labdanum Essential Oil Relieves Joint And Muscle Pain

Enjoy the relief from pain that using Labdanum can bring. Its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties work well to lessen the cause of the pain and to dull its sensation. The calming properties of Labdanum also reduce stress and worry which can contribute to tense, painful muscles.

Use Labdanum mixed with any carrier oil, and massage into stiff joints and aching muscles.

12. Enjoy Restful Sleep With Labdanum Essential Oil

Use a little Labdanum to massage over your skin before bed. or diffuse the oil in an aromatherapy diffuser to fill your bedroom with this relaxing, calming aroma.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.