Origanum dictamnus (Lamiaceae)

  • The plant

Origanum dictamnus (dittany of Crete) is a tender perennial plant that grows wild on the mountainsides and gorges of the Greek island of Crete and reaches 20-30cm in high. It is a sub shrub with arching stems of woolly, gray-white leaves. It blossoms from June to August. It requires a rather dry, warm and well drained soil.

  • The myth

The word dictamnus is derived from Dikti, the mountain of the island of Crete where Zeus was born and the Greek word “thamnos” which means shrub.

  • Ethnopharmacology

Hippocrates recommended Origanum dictamnus for stomach and digestive system problems, rheumatism, arthritis and menstrual pains. Dittany was popular in Minoan Crete and Ancient Greece, as a highly therapeutic and injures healing plant.

  • Chemical composition and active constituents

Main component of the essential oil is carvacrol whereas the non volatile constituents are dominated by triterpene acids (ursolic, oleanolic) and flavonoids.


                                 Carvacrol                               Ursollic acid

  • Pharmacological properties and traditional medical applications

As a medicinal plant, the herb has been utilized to heal wounds, soothe pain, and ease childbirth. The root was used as a salve to treat sciatica and the juice was consumed in wine to cure snake bites. Additionally, it was used as a remedy against gastric or stomach ailments and rheumatism. Dittany as a warm drink was used as anticonvulsive, to strengthen the heart muscles and arteries and as a menstrual tonic. Externally is used as a poultice on wounds and bruises whereas when mixed with cinnamon and honey it sooths cough.