Medical Herbs Catalogue



Botanical Name: Helianthemum Canadense (MISCH.)
Family: N.O. Cistaceae

Synonyms: Cistus. Frostweed. Frostplant. Rock Rose. Canadisches Sonnenroschen. Helianthemum Ramultoflorum. Helianthemum Rosmarinifolium. Helianthemum michauxii. Helianthemum Corymbosum. Cistus Canadensis. Lechea Major. Heterameris Canadensis.
Part Used: The dried herb.
Habitat: Eastern United States.

Description: The official name comes from the Greek helios (the sun) and anthemon (a flower). The genus differs from the Cistus in having imperfectly three-celled instead of five or ten-celled capsules. Two distinct varieties of the species are known, the early and late flowering forms. They grow in sandy soil, from 6 to 12 inches high, with upright stems, branching or almost without branches, leaves light or dark green, small and lanceolate, and flat, yellow flowers, solitary or in terminal clusters. The popular names spring from the peculiarity of thin, curved, ice-crystals projecting in early winter from fissures in the bark near the root. The taste is astringent, slightly aromatic and bitter. It has no odour.

Constituents: A volatile oil, wax, tannin, fatty oil, and a glucoside that will crystallize into white needles. Chlorophyll, gum and inorganic salts were also found in Helianthemum Corymbosum.

Medicinal Action and Uses: Antiscro fulous, astringent, alterative and tonic. It has for long been used in secondary syphilis, diarrhoea, ulcerations, ophthalmia, and any conditions arising from a scrofulous constitution. Locally it is useful as a wash in prurigo and as a gargle in scarlatina, and in poultice form for scrofulous tumours and ulcers.

It is said that an oil helpful in cancer has been obtained from it.

It may be combined with Corydalis Formosa and Stillingia, in secondary syphilis, and the infusion may be used in chronic diarrhcea and dysentery.

An overdose may produce nausea and vomiting.

Dosage: Of extract, 2 grains. Of fluid extract, 1 fluid drachm as an alternative and astringent.

Other Species:
H. Corymbosum may be used indiscriminately as officinal.

Cistus Creticus, or European Rock Rose, the only other plant of the order used in medicine, yields the gum resin Ladanum or Labdanum, a natural exudation valued as a stimulant expectorant and emmenagogue. It has been used in plasters, and formerly in catarrh and dysentery. An oil with the odour of ambergris has been obtained from the resin.

Labdanum is found in masses weighing up to several pounds, enclosed in bladders. It softens in the hand when broken, becoming adhesive and balsamic. It burns with a clear flame. An adulterated kind is in contorted, hard pieces, mixed with sand and earth.

C. Landaniferous, C. Ledon and C. Laurifolius are said to yield the same substance, most of which comes from the Grecian Islands.

All these Cistus and Helianthenums grow in the author's garden at Chalfont St. Peters.