DITTANY OF CRETE

Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae), Origanum dictamnus L.

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

Dittany of Crete, Origanum dictamnus L. (formerly Amaracus dictamnus Benth. or Amaracus tomentosus Moench.), is one of the best-known healing herbs of folklore. Native to the mountains of Crete and also called dittany or dictamnus, this perennial plant can reach a height of 0.3 meters. Procumbent white, woolly stems, usually trailing, develop pink or purplish flowers in the summer. The small gray leaves have a velvety texture.

Of minor importance today, dittany of Crete is primarily used as a potted plant or as an ornamental plant in garden borders. The flowers have been used in herbal teas, but the plant has no culinary value. As a medicinal plant, the herb has been utilized to heal wounds, soothe pain, cure snake bites, and ease childbirth. In addition, it has been used as a renedy against gastric or stomach ailments and rheumatism.

Dictamnus albus L. (Dictamnus fraxinella Pers.), known as dittany and fraxinella, is often confused with dittany of Crete. This perennial plant is of the Rutaceae family and reaches a height of approximately one meter. Grown as a garden plant with showy pink, purple or white flowers, its dried leaves can be used in teas. The plant has been used medicinally as a diuretic, emmenagogue, and expectorant. However, the seed pods can cause contact dermatitis. The plant is known as the gas plant because it will often give a burst of flame when a lighted match is held beneath the flower cluster (14.1-3).

Cunila origanoides Britt. is called dittany, Maryland dittany, and stone-mint. This low-growing perennial with a minty flavor is native to the eastern United States. The plant, which has been classified as Satureja origanoides L. and Cunila mariana L., is primarily used as an ornamental border in gardens, although the leaves may be used in herbal teas.

Dittany of Crete is generally recognized as safe for human consumption as a natural flavoring (21 CFR section 172.510 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].


Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997