Words on Wellness • More Than Beauty
As we enter the dark of winter with its sleepy nights and stay-cozy days, I scan for plants appearing unperturbed, even radiant no matter what the weather. One of these plants is rock rose or Cistus spp. This common landscape plant is an aromatic evergreen shrub with grey-green leaves and papery pink, white or nearly purple, open rose-like flowers.
Originally introduced from the Mediterranean, rock rose feels quite at home here and has naturalized amongst our native scrub in some areas. It tolerates poor soil and drought conditions, and fires only serve to open their seeds. For centuries the oil from wild Cistus ladaniferus or Labdanum oil has been collected for perfumery and its wound-healing properties. Now studies show that at least nine species of this plant exhibit antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, astringent and tissue-healing properties good for chronic skin conditions. The leaves are easy to collect and use as a tea to calm histamine response, to reduce the side effects of Lyme disease and its co-infections, address leaky gut and generally boost immunity. As a Bach flower remedy, rock rose is taken to treat panic, stress, extreme fright and to promote general calm and relaxation.
Another garden plant gone wild is rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), which can be found in almost every urban area around the world. Like rock rose, it is highly anti-oxidant and aromatic telling of its strong immune-protective properties. It makes a savory tea that lifts spirits, clears the mind, opens lungs and boosts circulation. Rosemary is easily integrated into your meals, but for protecting your throat from infection while you are out and about, simply pinch off a fresh green tip of the plant and chew it as you go.
Conifers are the largest plant presence in these parts, especially in winter when they green-up with all the rain. Redwood, pine and fir needles make excellent medicinal teas that address bronchial and sinus infections. High in volatile oils that support the tree’s own immunity, use the needles to make a cup of fragrant tea and receive that same support. If you have a wood burning stove, try a pot of water on top with sprigs of rosemary and conifer needles. This moistening aromatherapy treatment can help reduce the spread of molds and viruses that burgeon during wet weather.