Dittany of Crete Origanum dictamnus
This herb is often confused with Dittany (Dictamnus albus), an herb that used to be relatively common in northern Europe, but which is now under protection. As the name implies, ‘Dittany of Crete’ is native to the southern Mediterranean island of Crete, where it grows wild on steep mountain slopes. In Crete it is offered to girls as proof of true love - the act of gathering it in itself represents a willingness to risk one’s life for love’s sake.
Nowadays Dittany of Crete is not commonly used medicinally, although the ancients thought highly of it. Culpeper calls it an excellent wound herb and says that it can be used as a wash to clean ulcers and wounds. He also recommends decocting it in wine to ensure a speedy delivery. Dioscorides praised its power to repel poisons of venomous creatures, especially snakes, and says that it can also lessen the pain of the spleen. In general it is valued for its ability to clear obstructions and as such it was used to treat consumption and ‘spitting of blood’ (tuberculosis) as well as against all manners of malignant and pestilential distempers (Culpeper).
Do not use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Used in a magical context, Dittany is an excellent cleansing herb. It can be used to protect the house and personal sphere against invasive evil entities (which are often visualised as arrows), for cleansing the circle, and as a banishing herb to cast out evil spirits and to repel venomous creatures.
Dittany was sacred to the Hunter Goddess Artemis and It was believed that the herb could protect against wounds inflicted by arrows. It was said that goats that had eaten of Dittany were immune to attacks by arrows, or, that if they had been hit by one, they would rub against the herb, which would cause the arrow to fall off. By extension Dittany was used to repel all sorts of foreign and potentially harmful matter. As a drawing herb it was used to draw out splinters, and applied to snake bites it was believed to draw out their poison. When burned, the smoke was used to expel a dead embryo in cases of miscarriage miscarriage. It was a significant ingredient in famous ancient remedies known as ‘Venice treacle’, ‘Mithridate’ and ‘Diascordium’.