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Labdanum: aroma, uses & history

Labdanum, ladanum or ladan is a sticky brown oleoresin, whose olfactory properties undoubtedly place it among one of the most demanded ingredients in the world of perfumery.

Its complex scent is reminiscent of ambergris, also turning out to be, just like this, an excellent fragrance fixative.

This raw material is obtained from two species of rockrose, Cistus ladanifer y Cistus creticus. These plants are native to the Mediterranean basin. Growing with great ease in por and degraded soils in hot climates.

The method used to collect this raw material in the past was, to say at least, unusual. The labdanum was collected by combing the goats and sheep which were impregnated with this substance while grazing by the branches of the rockrose.

Currently, the most widespread procedure for its collection is to boil the leaves and branches of the plant, although in areas such as the island of Crete, traditional methods are still used that involve the use of tools such as the “ladanisterion”, which is rubbed on the plant in order for the resin to stick to it. This too is later exposed to the sun so that the labdanum warms up and softens, thus facilitating the separation process.

Labdanum absolute is usually obtained through solvent extraction, while its essential oil of a powerful balsamic aroma with persistent amber notes and a slight herbaceous nuance is obtained though steam distillation.


Labdanum throughout History

The great importance of labdanum in the history of perfumery is undeniable.

It was already used in Ancient Egypt, where it was a part of the Kyphi, an incense mixture which was used for medical and ritual purposes. There are theories stating that the importance of his substance in Egyptian culture was such that the false goatee of the pharaohs and the god and mythical king Osiris may represent the beard of a goat impregnated with labdanum.

The rites associated to this substance are not limited to the Egyptian culture, since peoples such as the Hebrews and the Arabs also burned this resin as incense for their rites, the latter also using them in countless ointments.

Herodotus, a Greek historian who was considered to be the father of historiography, maintained about labdanum that “…found in the places most devoided of odour, it is the substance with the sweetest aroma of all”.


Current uses of labdanum

Nowadays, this raw material is widely used to replace olfactory notes of ambergris, which is banned in many countries to protect the whales that produce it.

It is also an ingredient with exceptional fixing properties which makes it easier for the rest of the elements of a fragrance to keep their olfactory properties for a longer period of time.

These characteristics make labdanum part of a huge variety of products and applications, often found in mikados and scented candles.

At Destilerías Muñoz Gálvez, we use labdanum essential oil in fragrances seeking to achieve a complex background on which to settle all kinds of aromas. Do you want your project to have the amber notes of labdanum? Contact us without obligation using the Information available on our contact page.