The Story of Stoechas: from Antiquity to the Present Day

Document Type: Original Article


1 Department of Medicinal Chemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

2 Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

3 Department of Traditional Pharmacy, School of Traditional Medicine, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

4 of Pharmacognosy, School of Pharmacy, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

5 Faculty of Theology, Alzahra University, Tehran, Iran

6 Department of Traditional Medicine, Medicinal Plants Research Center of Barij, Kashan, Iran


The information about herbs’ medicinal properties is ample in traditional manuscripts, some of which are of value even in modern medicine. However, it is not usually easy to put it into practice. Identifying traditional herbs and determining their scientific names are very challenging, calling for many ethnopharmacological studies. One significant herb in traditional medicine is stoechas. Its medical properties are found in traditional manuscripts, but the true origin of the herb is not yet known. This study followed the origin of stoechas through history, from ancient Rome to the conquered lands of Islam in Spain, from North Africa to India, to  find its trace in various civilizations, including  their traditional medicines. The results showed that the stoechas mentioned in Dioscorides and Pliny’s books was referred to as Lavandula stoechas. This herb was prescribed in Persia for centuries as an imported drug, and the Arabicized/Persianized name, osṭoḵūdūs, was used for it. Several herbs have been used as stoechas due to a variety of reasons: mistranslation, miscategorization, and substitution/adulteration; the herbs were Woodfordia fruticosa (India, 11th cent.), Rosmarinus officialis (North Africa, 13th cent. Northern Iran, 17th cent.). Around 100 years ago, L. stoechas was substituted by L. dentata and around 50 years ago, it was substituted by Nepeta menthoides in herbal markets of Iran. All of these herbs were sold as stoechas because of its similar medicinal effects as well as its similar appearance. Some information about its effects is documented in various manuscripts; yet few proper studies have conducted to test them.