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Origanum

Origanum dictamnus (*)

Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Divisio: Magnoliophyta
Classis: Magnoliopsida
Ordo: Lamiales
Familia: Lamiaceae
Subfamilia: Nepetoideae
Tribus: Mentheae
Genus: Origanum
Species: Origanum dictamnus

Name

Origanum dictamnus L.

References

* Species Plantarum 2:589. 1753
* USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. [1]

Origanum dictamnus (Dittany of Crete, Cretan Dittany or Hop Majoram), known in Greek as Δίκταμο (díktamo, cf. "dittany") or in Cretan dialect Έρωντας (erontas, "love"), is a tender perennial plant that grows 20–30 cm high. It is a healing, therapeutic and aromatic plant that only grows wild on the mountainsides and gorges of the Greek island of Crete, Greece.

Origanum dictamnus is a many branched plant with discoid to ovate grey-green leaves that are sited in pairs opposite each other. The slender arching stems and lanate leaves are covered in a velvety white down and are 13–25 mm in size.

The flowers are pale pink to purple and have a deep lilac corolla with many deep pink coloured overlapping bracts. The colourful flowers forming a cascade of elongated clusters are in bloom in the summer months. The flowers are hermaphrodite meaning they have both male and female organs and are pollinated by bees attracted to their scent and bright colour.

Said to symbolize love and to be an aphrodisiac, only the most ardent young lovers scrambled on mountainsides and the deep gorges of Crete gathering bunches of the pink blooms to present as love tokens. There are numerous deaths reported throughout the centuries by collectors of this magical herb.

Even in recent times the collection of Dittany of Crete was a very dangerous occupation for the men who risked life and limb to climb precarious rock faces where the plant grows wild in the mountains of Crete. They were named Erondades (love seekers) and were considered very passionate men to go to such dangerous lengths to collect the herb.

Dittany of Crete has always been highly prized and is gathered while in bloom in the summer months and is exported for use in pharmaceuticals, perfumery and to flavour drinks such as vermouth and absinthe.

In Ancient Greece it is believed, that Hippocrates prescribed plant cures to aid all manner of ailments and considered Dittany of Crete useful for stomach aches and complaints of the digestive system and as a poultice for healing wounds, as well as inducing menstruation.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle in his work The History of Animals (612a4) wrote:

"Wild goats in Crete are said, when wounded by arrow, to go in search of dittany, which is supposed to have the property of ejecting arrows in the body."

The Greek scholar and philosopher Theophrastus agreed with Aristotle about the healing properties of Dittany of Crete. In his work Enquiry into Plants he notes that Dittany was peculiar to Crete, and that it was:

"Said to be true, that, if goats eat it when they have been shot, it rids them of the arrow" (9.16.1).

Other scholars of Ancient Greece and later have made reference to Dittany but probably referred to Dictamnus albus known as False Dittany or White Dittany.

Today the wild naturally grown Dittany of Crete is classed as "rare" and is protected by European law so that it does not become extinct. The cultivation now centres on Embaros and the surrounding villages, south of Heraklion, Crete and is used to make herbal tea and for use in natural beauty products.


Fiction

In Book XII Virgil's "Aeneid" Venus heals the wounded Aeneas with a stalk of "dittany from Cretan Ida," a plant "with downy leaves and scarlet flower" that goats eat when stuck with arrows.

In the fantasy novel Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, dittany is the name of a substance which, when used magically, can prevent scarring if applied quickly enough after a cutting injury. The author is probably referring to the plant dictamnus albus (white dittany), which secretes an oil that has anti-inflammatory properties.

Witchcraft

The herb is used by modern witches in love potions and for divination and contact with spirits. When using Dittany of Crete as an incense, it is cautioned that spirits materialize in the smoke.

Also, small doses of the herb are believed to enhance one's ability to perform astral projection, separating the consciousness from the physical.


Aroma profile

* Carvacrol [1]
* Thymol [1]


Toxicology

* Antimicrobial activity against Listeria monocytogenes [1][clarification needed]


Notes & references

1. ^ a b c Liolios, C.C. et al. (2009). "Liposomal incorporation of carvacrol and thymol isolated from the essential oil of Origanum dictamnus L. and in vitro antimicrobial activity". Food Chemistry (Elsevier) 112 (1): 77–83. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.05.060.

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Source: Wikipedia Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License