I´m going to talk to you about a particular flower, one that has captured my heart. Many an herbalist has said that the path of one who walks with the plants is one of destiny. We become aware of how we don't choose which plants to work with, it´s much more a case of them choosing us.

This plant ally relationship happens organically, just like when you meet someone casually, only in years to come they become extremely instrumental in how your life plays out, or even become the love of your life… That kind of thing. It's as if there’s some universal force driving it.

In my experience this could not be truer with plants, the paths we walk in life are laden with them, and at times they scream out to be noticed. It happened to me with Hypericum or St John’s wort as she´s more commonly known. I became bewitched by her. It happened again with Lemon balm, and I will of course share their stories too, but for now I’m going to share the story of “Jara Pringosa”, as she is known here. To others she may be known as Cistus Ladanifer or even Rock rose. She´s made herself known to me by all those names, even when I didn´t really know those were all alter-egos for the same magical plant.

Cistus in the sierra aracena - ALchemy skin and soul

Cistus, comes from the Greek word kistos, this is a rather large genus of flowering plants in the rockrose family known as Cistaceae, containing about 20 species.

These are perennial shrubs, which mostly sit un-noticed until Springtime rolls around and then they make themselves known by a display of beautiful colours, textures and of course, aromas. 

Although, when in flower their blooms are delicate, lasting only a day or two, on a day of high winds their petals float in the air like feathers, detaching themselves with ease from their stems. Each shrub will produce and profound number of flowers, so to make up for their fleeting nature.

The tissue-paper flowers are generally white, or varying shades of pink to purple, often with a dark blotch or two. They may have silvery-grey or green leaves. One called “pringosa” meaning “sticky” is covered in an aromatic, sticky resin.

They are mostly found on dry or rocky soils throughout the Mediterranean region, you´ll no doubt spot them now you have been drawn in by her fascinating ways and showy looks.

Perfumery & Herbal medicine

Since I’m mostly talking about the cistus ladanifer or the sticky one, it would be foolish not to mention here its historical uses in herbal medicine and its notable history in perfumery in the form of Labdanum.

In ancient times, labdanum was collected by combing the beards and thighs of goats and sheep that had grazed on the cistus shrubs. History tells that this substance has formed part of human culture since biblical times and before. Many of the false beards worn by the pharaohs of ancient Egypt were made of goats' hair which was held together by labdanum. The resin was also used to treat infections and coughs, as well as musculoskeletal and menstrual problems.

Combing Labdanum - alchemy skin and soul

Labdanum is produced today mainly for the perfume industry. The raw resin can be extracted by boiling the leaves and twigs. There exist modern methods of extraction to obtain absolutes as well as steam extraction for the essential oil. The raw fragrant gum is a black or sometimes dark brown, hard, and brittle. The absolute is dark amber-green and very thick at room temperature and the fragrance is more refined than the resin in its raw state.

Labdanum has its place in the perfumery industry as it has a rich and complex aroma. Being sweet and fruity yet woody, animalic with musk and leather facets.

Flower essences

As a young whippersnapper I met Rock rose. Walking in the Montes de Malaga. I was studying Bach flower remedies, typologies, and psychology. I chose a plant that called my name. It was Jara.

In the plant world, Flowers are the highest expression of its life force. It is the pinnacle of its trajectory and shows its true nature and energetic imprint within this expression.

Flower Essences capture this imprint, or signature of a plant. We capture this energy, transferring into water, with the help of sunlight and mindful timing. Then preserved with brandy.

I personally subscribe to a vitalist herbalalism viewpoint, so an allopathic or "this for that" approach to using herbs/flower essences for symptoms is not how I work. I believe that we use the plant as an aid, to help us unblock and work on a particular energy that it holds. Thus we work on completing ourselves, healing ourselves holistically. Body and mind come closer to being one, as one part of our healing journey. 

"Disease is, in essence, the result of conflict between soul and mind, and will never be eradicated except by spiritual and mental effort"
Edward Bach

Our aim is to release the blockages we have to love. To love ourselves and in turn others.

There exists the typology of Rock Rose in which the flower essence can be particularly useful. This type when out of balance may suffer from:
Introversion and self-absorption
Mental rigidity of self-protection
Panic, terror, paralyzing fear
Sensation of limit situations
Panic of destructuring

Anxiety and living in an acute state of emergency, in some cases with transitory symptoms such as partial or total loss of vision, voice, mobility of a limb or sensations. Generalized tension and paralysis of the body resulting in impossibility to act in the physical world. Panic, terror, paralyzing fear. Her refuge is the return to her magical "bubble" that keeps her safe from all external conflicts, so staying in her universe is synonymous with security.
So in this way we work on Soothing the emotional, mental and spiritual bodies and alleviating trauma and anxiety. Focussing on self love and reconnecting to spiritual self and illuminating that which is hidden within self and situations.
jara pringosa alchemy skin and soul

More than meets the eye

Here in the Sierra de Huelva the landscape is made up of what is known as Dehesa, its ancient mountains and rolling hills covered in oaks used to obtain cork and acorns which feed the Iberic pig. The Jamon industry is inextricably linked to this terrain, one would not exist without the other, creating a unique biosphere of extensive swathes of land covered in plant life, coexisting.

Flora and fauna flourish here in the natural park of oak Dehesa and the temperate climate. Wildflowers abundant and centenary trees all exist as part of one. Not only the visible, but also underground where the mysterious and invisible exists.

As above so below

The hidden network, or the brain of the forests, the wood-wide web are the links between the plants and trees. These are the mycelium, the underground network of fungi completing a symbiotic relationship to the visible plant life on the surface of the earth. 

Cistus Ladanifer has a particularly curious connection to this environment and it´s mycorrhizal links. The ability of Cistaceae to thrive in many Mediterranean habitats are due to mycorrhizal ability as well as fast renewal after wildfire.

Most Cistaceae have the ability to create symbiotic relationship with root fungi of the genus Tuber. In this relationship, the fungus complements the root system in its task of absorbing water and minerals from the soil, so this plant can survive and flourish in particularly poor soils.

This fungi has an interesting quality in that it favours the Cistaceae and can kill all other vegetation within the reach of its mycelium network, giving the host plant exclusivity to the adjacent land area.

These mycelia are also the underground link between the oaks and the Cistaceae. Its so obvious when you walk the nature paths strewn with these flowers, between the oaks and see the abundance of fungi popping up through autumn and springtime.

Thats it for now...If you have any questions or comments i'd love to hear from you either by contacting me via email or leave a comment below and I'll be sure to get back to you :)

I hope you look out for this magical plant and I wish you many enjoyable hours making friends with your own plant allies!

With love,

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