Sunday, March 9, 2014

The hoary rockrose

Hoary rock-rose; Cistus creticusċistu roża

The hoary rock-rose is a very scarce plant that belongs to the cistus family. It grows as a bush which in spring is covered in large pink flowers. It is a Mediterranean species that can be found up to an altitude of 1000 m and is indigenous in the Maltese islands. It is found in garigue habitat in a few localities in the western part of Malta as well as in Gozo.

In Maltese, the hoary rock-rose or as it is sometimes called the pink rock-rose, is known as ċistu roża.

This plant is used both as a food as well as a medicine. The leaves are sometimes made into a tea while an oleo-resin found in the leaves and stems is used to flavour ice cream, chewing gum and cakes.

In traditional medicine it was used externally to control bleeding and as an antibiotic and internally to treat catarrh, and diarrhoea.  As early as in the 4th century BC the ancient Greeks used rock-rose extracts to treat all kinds of skin disorders and the common cold.
Recent scientific studies have shown that this has anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-microbial and has been found to be an effective treatment of flu, coughs and colds.

The cistus family is a small family consisting of about 200 different species known for their beautiful flowers. About twenty species are found in the Mediterranean region. Cistuses are found mostly in temperate as well as in North and South America. They are particularly well adapted to survive in poor soils and can become the dominant species in some areas. 

 This article was published in TheTimes of Malta on  February 2014.

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