Origanum dictamnus

Origanum dictamnus

Origanum dictamnus (Dittany of Crete or Hop Marjoram), known in Greek as "Δίκταμο" or in Cretan dialect "Έρωντας" (love), is a tender perennial plant that grows 20-30 cm high.

It is indigenous to Crete, Greece, where it symbolizes birth and love. Its local name in Crete ("love") is due to the fact that it likes to grow in very steep slopes on the rocky mountains of Crete. The young men used to show their courage and their love to their beloved ones by risking their lives picking it up and offering it to them.

It was used in medicine in Ancient Greece for its pharmaceutical properties on stomach aches and complaints of the digestive system. It is thought that wild beasts used to eat it to help them heal themselves when injured by hunters.

Pliny the Elder described Dittany as the most effective emmenagogic drug. Although he was against abortion, he said that the drug could be used in cases where the fetus was dead or imperiled. He also said that is was "so powerful that it shall not be in a room with a pregnant woman." The plant is also mentioned by Dioscorides and in a Hippocratic work.

Fiction

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. However, the author may be 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 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.

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