Difference Between Rock Rose and Labdanum

An article about the difference between rock rose and labdanum. Written by professional aromatherapist and author Sharon Falsetto.

Rock rose (Cistus ladanifer L.) is responsible for producing a couple of essential oils, in addition to labdanum absolute, a material often used in natural perfumery. Here’s a quick introduction to identifying the difference between rock rose and labdanum.

The Difference Between Rock Rose and Labdanum 

Rock rose (Cistus ladanifer L.) refers to the plant itself (and its essential oil and various extracts) whereas labdanum (Cistus ladanifer L.) is the absolute, extracted (and distilled) from the natural, sticky oleoresin produced by the plant. The plant actually secretes “an oleo-resin gum from glandular hairs, which are specialised structures on the leaf surface, and this coats the leaves and stems.”1

Don’t confuse cistus essential oil with labdanum absolute. The former is usually used for aromatherapy, and the latter for perfumery.

Furthermore, another plant going by the name of frostwort (Helianthemum canadense) is often called cistus or rock rose.2,3 Although both are from the same plant family, Cistaceae, and both possess medicinal properties, the two plants should not be confused or used interchangeably.

The Difference Between Rock Rose and Labdanum Extracts4,5-8

Labdanum Gum: From crude oleo-resin
Labdanum Resinoid: Hydrocarbon extraction from the gum
Resin Absolute: Alcohol-insoluble portion of the resinoid
Cistus Oil: Steam distilled from crude oleoresin
Concrète: Hydrocarbon extract from leaves and twigs of the labdanum
Absolute from Concrète: Alcohol-soluble part of the concrète
Cistus Essential Oil: Steam distilled from the flowering plant/leaves of the plant

 Rock Rose and Labdanum Product Use1,9-12

Product Use
Cistus Essential Oil (from flowering plant/ leaves) Aromatherapy
Cistus Oil (from oleoresin) Aromatherapy/Perfumery
Absolute (from oleoresin) Perfumery
Concrète Perfumery
Hydrosol Aromatherapy

Continue Reading in Sedona Aromatics Botanical Aromatherapy™ Membership School

Information in this article is an excerpt of the full article, Intricate Rock Rose (Cistus ladanifer L.), which is available for full viewing in the Sedona Aromatics Botanical Aromatherapy™ Membership School. Learn more about rock rose including its growing profile, aroma and chemistry profile, historical use, therapeutic rose, and learn to make our Amber Soufflé Sugar Scrubbie recipe!


  1. Peace Rhind, Jennifer, 2014, Fragrance and Wellbeing, UK: Singing Dragon pp.177-179.
  2. Lawless, Julia, 2013, The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, US; Conari Press, pp.117-118.
  3. com website, Frostwort, accessed from: https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/f/frostw34.html
  4. Bayton, Ross, 2020, The Gardener’s Botanical: An Encyclopedia of Latin Plant Names, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, p.86.
  5. Takhtajan, Armen, 1997, Diversity and Classification of Flowering Plants, US: Columbia University Press, p.225.
  6. iPlantCollaborative™ website, Taxonomic Name Resolution Service (TNRS) v5, Melissa officinalis search, accessed from: https://tnrs.biendata.org/
  7. Lawless, Julia, 2013, The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, US; Conari Press, pp.117-118.
  8. Keville, Kathi, 2016, The Aromatherapy Garden, US: Timber Press Inc., p.211.
  9. Arctander, Steffen, 1960, Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin, US: Pathfinder, pp.168-169, pp.325-335.
  10. Eden Botanicals website, Cistus – Traditional, accessed from: https://www.edenbotanicals.com/cistus-traditional.html
  11. Rose, Jeanne, 1999, 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols, US: Fog, Ltd., pp.97-98.
  12. Tisserand, Robert and Rodney Young, 2014, Essential Oil Safety 2nd Edition, UK: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, pp.250-251, p.319. 

About the Author:

The author of this article has been working in the health care industry since the 1990’s and in the aromatherapy industry since the 2000’s. She is UK-certified aromatherapist and a NAHA Certified Professional Aromatherapist®. She is both a published author and editor in aromatherapy, a consultant, custom blend formulator and herbal studies and natural perfumery student. She is the author of Authentic Aromatherapy and the current chief editor of the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal. Sharon works from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona, where she gardens and distills plants from her own aromatic gardens, surrounded by natural fauna and flora on an original pioneer, semi off-grid, homestead property.

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