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What is Dittany from Crete?

Dictamnus herb
origanum-dictamnus Dittany from Crete
Origanum-Dictamnus Dittany from Crete

What is Dittany from Crete?

Regularly we get the question whats Dittany as I see it often in the ingredients list by the products on your website. Dittany of Crete is a Cretan herb close related to the Oregano plant family. But Dittany is not the green herb you put in your macaroni or spice up your dish. Dittany of Crete as the name says it is a small rock plant only growing at the island of Crete – Greece. It is a small plant not bigger than 20-30 centimetres and has little green leaves like the scales of fish. If the plant is growing and you pick a leave they feel thick and a bit fury like a cactus leave. The precious Dittany plant only grows in rocky mountains and sole on the Mediterranean mountains of Crete.

During the summer months the Dittany plant flowers and has a magnificent rose to hard pink flower growing in clusters like grapes. The little flowers are hanging down and are not more than two or three centimetres big. The flowers of the Dittany plant are hermaphrodite. Meaning they have both male and female organs, and the flowers and plant are pollinated by bees attracted to their flowers and scent.

History Dittany from Crete

Stories go round naming Dittany the love herb and it is an aphrodisiac. In historical times the young male lovers on Crete went to the mountains and gorges of Crete. There they picked and collected bunches of the pink flowers to present them as love tokens to their beloved ones.

In ancient Greek times, Hippocrates an old Greek scientist and Doctor and the founder of modern medication. Hippocrates was one of the first who used herbs and plants as medication. Hippocrates considered Dittany of Crete useful for curing stomach arches and complains of the digestives system. Also, he discovered that Dittany can help with healing wounds and inducing menstruation.

Diktamos commercial farming Empharos
Diktamos commercial farming Empharos

Commercial farming

Nowadays the collection of Dittany of Crete is still a very dangerous occupation. Brave are the people who risk their life and limb to climb the rocks and mountainsides where the plants are growing. Because still most of the plants only grow in the mountains hills and slides of Crete. They grow at 160 meters above sea level between the rocks as the plant is not very suitable for commercial farming or growing.

Dittany of Crete has always been expensive to buy as it is so rare. Dittany is only gathered while in bloom during the summer months at Crete and is exported and used in cosmetics, perfumes and to flavour drinks as Vermouth, Absinthe and Benedictine.

Today Dittany of Crete is classed as “rare” and is protected by European laws so it does not become extinct. The commercial growing, farming and cultivation concentrate around the city Emparos and the surrounding villages. They are located in the prefecture Heraklion, south of Crete island capital Heraklion. The villages are producing around approximately 30 metric tons of Dittany a year as the ground is very suitable up there for the plant to grow. Emparos is one of the rare places Dittany can grow for commercial farming as the soil is porous and a sandy clay.

The use of Dittany in cosmetics.

The use of Dittany oil in cosmetics is a real treat for your skin as Dittany oil helps the skin stay healthy and robust. Especially people with sensitive skin benefit from the use of Dittany as it helps against dryness and itching. If you have a mild form of acne it helps to use an anti-acne cream with dittany as it helps regulate the production of skin fat, apply of the Dittany cream on the pimples directly.

For hair with dandruff, there are hair care products as lotions and shampoo with Dittany. The dittany in the shampoo helps to calm the scalp and restores it normal healthy strength preventing dandruff and giving your hair strength preventing hair loss.

Uses of Dittany from Crete

The 5 most common ways of using Dittany are:

1. As a herbal tea both for internal as external use.
2. As a disinfect to heal wounds.
3. For chewing (or as toothpaste) in order to relieve the throat and clean the mouth and teeth of plaque and germs.
4. As a bitter infused in alcohol as Raki or Benedictine.
5. In natural cosmetics as an anti-ageing and anti-wrinkle agent.

Dittany contains an essential oil called Carvacrol, which is a natural antibiotic, 50 times stronger than penicillin. In the leaves, there is furthermore a substance called Dictamin, which is used for cardiovascular diseases. In all, there are 70 different curative substances in the plant that can be extracted and used for medication or cosmetics.

The primary ingredients of its essential oil were found to be Carvacrol (68.96%), β-phellandrene (18.34%) and p-Cymene (4.68%)