Dittany of Crete

Loving & Healing

Chosen by ancient gods and modern witches for its healing and aphrodisiac properties, dittany of Crete also locally referred to as “erontas” meaning love, is a healing, therapeutic and aromatic plant that only grows wild on the mountainsides and gorges of the island of Crete in Greece.

dictamoThe dittany of Crete is gathered while in bloom in the summer months and it is widely used for food and beverage (vermouth and absinthe) flavoring, perfumery and medicinal purposes, in addition to its featuring as an ornamental plant in gardens

It is a small shrub featuring round green leaves with a soft, velvety texture because of a woolly covering of white-grey hair on its stems. Its flowers, are tiny pale pink surrounded by brighter purple-pink bracts that add an exuberant splash of color to the plant during summer and autumn. They are hermaphrodite flowers, meaning they have both male and female organs, and they are pollinated by bees attracted to their scent and bright color.

The dittany contains camphor and essential oils. The decoction of dittany, has a beneficial effect on the digestive system, stimulating action and cure headaches. It is also used for the treatment of heart and circulatory problems.

It is said to symbolize love and to be an aphrodisiac, since only the most ardent young lovers scrambled on the mountainsides and the deep gorges of Crete in order to collect bunches of the pink blooms to present as love tokens. These young men were named “erondades” meaning love seekers and were considered very passionate and brave but there are numerous deaths reported throughout the centuries among them.

dictamo2Hippocrates, the father of medicine, considered dittany of Crete useful for stomach aches and complaints of the digestive system and as a poultice for healing wounds, as well as inducing menstruation, while Aristotle and Theophrastus also agreed on its healing properties.

The herb is also used by modern witches in love potions and for divination and contact with spirits.

Today, the wild, naturally grown dittany of Crete is classed as “rare” and is protected by European law so it does not become extinct. The cultivation now centers on Embaros and the surrounding villages, south of Heraklion, Crete, and it is used to make herbal tea and natural beauty products.

So if you find yourself in Crete this year don’t forget to look for this amazing plant!

 Photo credits: Photo 1, Photo 2, Header Photo

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