Springtime on Kefalonia. Among the abundance of beautiful flowers there is one that goes almost unnoticed. The lovely Rock rose with the botanical name Cistus is a small shrub and its pink or white flowers have crumbled petals.

You can’t find them everywhere as they prefer poor soil in rocky areas. Sometimes there is a whole hillside full of white Rock rose with just a few pink spots here and there. Other areas seem to be preferred only by the pink Rock rose and finally there are areas where you can find neither one.

As a medical plant the pink Cistus incanus is the desired flower to collect on Kefalonia. In 1999 it was chosen as European plant of the year. The reason: It seems that this species of Cistus is a powerful weapon against a number of diseases due to the plant’s high level of polyphenols. Polyphenols help the body fight against the so called free radicals that can contribute to causing cancer or heart disease.

It was found that Cistus incanus have more polyphenols than almost any other plant in Europe. This little flower is an all-rounder. It is said to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral and even anti-fungal abilities as well as helping the immune system against allergies. You can drink it as tea or use a concentrated tea to treat skin irritations or injuries.

Did they find all this out in 1999? Far from it. Already in ancient times Cistus was used for medical purposes. First references go back to the 4th century BC. But this old knowledge fell into oblivion. Only in a few regions in Greece and the Mediterranean, people still use the pink Rock rose as a cure for injuries, the flu or just as a daily tea to stay healthy.

Drying Cistus on Kefalonia

Cistus drying

So, there are many good reasons to go out into Kefalonia’s nature and collect Cistus. The first little pink flowers show up in March. Then, in April and May you can see them in many places. After collection the Cistus is taken home and either placed on a clean sheet in the shade or hung upside down on a clothesline to dry for a few days in the breeze.

And then the pleasant part begins for the tea lovers and an act of self discipline for coffee fans: brew the tea and drink it.

How to prepare the Cistus tea

  • Take a small handful of dried Cistus and throw it in approx. 500ml of water. If you want it more exact: 5 tea spoons (10g) for 0,2 – 1 litre of water. Don’t let it boil for more than 5 minutes. On hot days in the summer you can drink it as ice tea with a few drops of lemon in it.
  • To treat skin irritations, injuries or foot fungus you make a stronger brew. Boil 10g of Cistus in 100 – 200ml for 5 minutes. You can use the brew for about 2 days if you keep it in the fridge. Wet a cloth or cotton wool to treat the skin.

For the tea lovers: Enjoy!

For the coffee fans: Close your eyes and think of … your health.