Aljezur – This small town in the western Algarve is tucked between the Monchique mountain chain and the Atlantic ocean. A considerable area of the county is part of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park. Aljezur is known for its wild coast and untouched beaches and is a paradise for surfers, outdoor lovers and anyone who likes a quiet and peaceful lifestyle. There is virtually no industry and agriculture is mainly of subsistence, with many farmers cultivating their own plot of land. The best known local agricultural product is the sweet potato, which is honored with a yearly festival in November.
Another of the areas delicacies is the goose barnacle (perceves) which are harvested by hand in dangerous conditions, namely scrapping them of the rocks and cliffs at sea level, trying to avoid being swept away by the waves. Aljezur has a diverse fauna and flora; local plants that can be found in many places are the wild lavender (Lavandula Stoechas), the rockrose (Cistus Ladanifer), rosemary ( Rosmarinus Officinalis) and the strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) of which a typically regional schnapps is made, the Medronho.
Rockrose – The rockrose (Cistus Ladanifer) is a flowering plant from the family of the Cistaceae. This sticky shrub grows up to 2,5 meters and can be found in the western Mediterranean region; it is very common in Portugal, especially in the south (Alentejo and Algarve) where it covers large areas of the countryside.
Known in Portugal by its common name Esteva, the rockrose is used as an ornamental plant (although predominantly in countries where it is not native) and due to the high amount of resin it produces, it is an important source for labdanum, a substance used in the perfume industry, due to its resemblance to ambergris. An estimated 33% of all modern quality perfumes contain labdanum.
And, according to studies conducted, the plants in Portugal are particularly well-suited:
“Portuguese cistus oil herein characterized is richer in amber-like compounds and has a low content of hydrocarbon monoterpenes, which is desirable from the organoleptic point of view. (…) The fact that our oil already had low levels of monoterpenes constitutes an advantage for using the Portuguese plants for the production of good quality cistus oil.“ (Source: Characterization of the Portuguese-grown Cistus ladanifer Essential Oil; Paula B. Gomes, Vera G. Mata* and A.E. Rodrigues; University of Porto, in: Journal of Essential Oil Research., Vol.17, (March/April 2005)
Cistus tea – Our herbal tea is made of leafs of the Cistus Ladanifer plant, which are hand harvested, dried, cut and filtered. In some countries the eastern cousin of Ladanifer – namely Cistus Incanus – is already well-known. We are slowly re-discovering the potential of our own Cistus, which seems very promising indeed.
A survey conducted in the southwestern region of the Algarve in 2006, gathered extensive information on the traditional use of native plants for medicinal uses. The rockrose has been historically used for a number of applications, either in the form of tea, poultice, inhaled or ingested. Among the wide range of reported illnesses for which the seeds, leaves or petals of the rockrose have been used, are: diabetes, uric acid, diarrhea, colds, flu, and others. (Source: Recolha dos ‘saber-fazer’ tradicionais das plantas aromáticas e medicinais – Concelhos de Aljezur, Lagos e Vila do Bispo; Associação de produtores florestais do sudoeste algarvio; Bordeira, Setembro de 2006)
Feedback from individual costumers regarding the effects of Cistus Ladanifer herbal tea can be found under: Testimonials.
Science – There are plenty of studies on the very interesting properties of Cistus Ladanifer Extracts, such as the essential oil for example, but the scientific data on Cistus Ladanifer herbal tea is quite rare. However, there is a study published in the Phytochemical Analysis Journal which compared aqueous (water based) extracts of several cistus species. One of the parameters under study where Ellagitannins. Quoting the authors: “Ellagitannins are the largest group of tannins and possess antioxidant, antitumor, antiatherosclerotic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-hepatotoxic and antiviral activities”(page 310). Regarding the results of the comparison carried out, Cistus Populifolius, for example, has a concentration of 7.86 mg/mL; Cistus Ladanifer scores very high, with 15.12 mg of Ellagitannins per mL . Curiously, Cistus Incanus has 0 mg/mL.
For further info on ellagtannins, go to Polyphenols.
We have also compared a sample of our Ladanifer herbs with a sample of Incanus herbs for 4 different polyphenol parameters, namely gallic acid equivalent, tannic acid equivalent, catechine equivalent and epicatechine equivalent. The results are almost identical, ranging between 11,3 g/100g and 6.3g/100g. These analytical reports are available at request.
Polyphenols – Polyphenols are defined as being a “structural class of mainly natural, but also synthetic or semisynthetic, organic chemicals characterized by the presence of large multiples of phenol structural units. (…)Examples include tannic acid and ellagitannin.”
Tannins, for example, are a subset of the polyphenols . “The astringency from the tannins is what causes the dry and puckery feeling in the mouth following the consumption of unripened fruit or red wine or tea.” (Source: Wikipedia)
These polyphenols – or phenolic compounds -have been studied for almost two decades due to their interesting properties: “Phenolic compounds in foods have attracted great interest since the 1990s due to growing evidence of their beneficial effect on human health. The interest was stimulated mainly by epidemiological studies indicating an inverse association between the intake of foods rich in these compounds and the incidence of diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and cancer.” (Source: Bioavailability of the Polyphenols: Status and Controversies, Massimo D’Archivio)
“Plants produce ellagic acid from hydrolysis of tannins such as ellagitannin.” (David S. Seigler (31 December 1998). Plant Secondary Metabolism. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 978-0-412-01981-4.)
And ellagic acid, has proven antiproliferative and antioxidant properties. “As with other polyphenol antioxidants, ellagic acid has a chemoprotective effect in cellular models by reducing oxidative stress.” (Source: Wikipedia)
Preparation mode – Being a herbal health tea and due to the high amount of polyphenols, Cistus Ladanifer herbs have a slight bitter taste. Depending on individual preferences, a tea spoon full of herbs can be added to a cup (higher concentration) or a kettle (lower concentration). Ideally you’ll use water with a low mineral content. The hotter and longer the tea brews, the better, as this seems to guarantee higher polyphenol stability. Cistus herbs can be mixed with other herbal teas, as for example peppermint, and can be sweetened with honey, stevia or sugar.
Some of our clients are naturopaths that have also recommended Cistus Ladanifer herbs as sitz bath for ailments such as haemorrhoids and menstrual cramps (Dysmenorrhea).
Harvest – We only harvest by hand and frankly speaking, this is the only way to do it. Due to the difficult terrains and the fact that the plants grow freely in the wild, machines are not appropriated, as they cannot distinguish between Cistus Ladanifer and other plants. Since we only want the leaves and small branches (which are also covered in resin), we use sickles and harvest by hand. We also have to use gloves, since the shrub is very sticky. After only a few minutes, the gloves become black from the resin (labdanum) and this is how reportedly in antiquity labdanum was collected: Using goats, these would make their way through the shrubs and the sticky resin would later be scraped of their hairs to make incense.
Ideally we harvest in the morning. Being a country blessed with sunshine (around 3000 hours of sunshine per year in the Algarve) we can harvest almost all year round. This is important, as winter time is a time of high demand for our Cistus Herbal tea and we like to deliver it freshly dried.