Origins of Dittany
The Cretan land is famous for its variety of herbs which grow in all mountainous regions of the island. One of these herbs is Dictamus. His name (Dittany) comes from the mountain range Dikti in Lassithi, Crete, on which it was in abundance. Certainly the herb, which is a native perennial plant, can be found on most mountains of Crete mainly in sheer overlays. It is well known since ancient times for its beneficial properties.
Dictamus was well known since the Minoan era, when, with this miracle herb Minoans were producing perfumes, ointments and they used them for healing wounds. It used to symbolize love and romance, because only the most ardent young lovers would climb the slopes and deep gorges of Crete to collect its flowers for their loved ones. These young lovers were called "Erontades" and they were considered to be very passionate and brave. Many of them paid this reputation with their lives as seen by various witnesses over the centuries.
The ancients ascribed to it many healing properties. Almost all writers of the time are extolling the ability of this plant to heal wounds on humans and animals. Aristotle in his work "History of Animals" mentions dictamus' ability to relieve pain and heal. Dioscorides used the plant to heal the wounds caused by war weapons, and often refers to a type of wine flavored with dictamus, the diktamniti wine. Aristotle says that the goats that live in the mountains of Crete, when injured, they chew dictamus and are quickly healed. Virgil also mentions that the goddess Aphrodite cured Aeneas with dictamus, which gathered herself from the mountains of Crete. Hippocrates in his books on "Obstetrics and gynecology" suggests to pound dictamus in hot water, so as to help pregnant women to give birth.
Dictamus' reputation reached up to the Byzantium era and it was imported from Crete in large quantities and it was used to manufacture mainly ointments. Europeans in the Middle Ages flavored liqueurs with essential oil of diktamus such as Benedictine and Trapistine.
It is sought after, rare and hard to find because it is produced in small quantities. Excessive and imprudent exploitation of wild dictamus caused a reduction or even disappearance in some areas. Nowadays Dictamus is protected by the Bern Convention.
So dictamus is now used as tonic decoction for its rejuvenating properties, for diseases of the liver and cough. Dictamus also has antiseptic and antispasmodic action. It is used as a soothing for the digestive system as well as for influenza and colds. It is believed to relieve the pain of rheumatism and arthritis and it is easily digested. It acts as anticonvulsant and contributes to the prevention and treatment of cardiac and circulatory problems. It relieves headaches, toothaches and abscesses. It also acts as an antidiabetic and emmenagogue. It has powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial, expectorant, antipyretic, antihaemorrhagic and powerful aphrodisiac properties. Generally the dictamus has been used as a traditional treatment without side effects for many years. The Cretan traditional healing uses dictamus in beverages as a panacea for many illnesses. It's most widespread use is as a hot drink during cold and flu.
How to prepare a hot beverage with dictamus:
Pour 1-2 tea spoons of dictamus into a cup of warm water, leave it for 7-10 minutes to bring out the flavour and it's medicinal substances strain it and drink it.
Dictamus in olive oil:
In a glass jar, add a cup of olive oil and three to four twigs of dictamus. Store it in a cool and dark place for about three weeks and then strain.
We can also use it in dishes, salads and sauces.