Strongly aromatic, bushy, and hairy perennial growing to 32 in (80 cm). Has compound leaves and spikes of 5-petaled white or pink flowers streaked with purple.
Habitat & Cultivation
This herb grows in southern and central Europe and northern Asia, preferring warm, wooded areas. The flowering tops are gathered in late summer, the root generally in autumn.
Root, flowering tops.
Dittany’s potent volatile oil contains estragol and anethole, and a toxic alkaloid, dictamnin.
History & Folklore
Dittany exudes such large amounts of volatile oil that in hot, dry conditions, a match held close will cause the whole plant to burst into flames. The plant has been used to flavor liqueurs and has been brewed as a tea in parts of Siberia. In European folk medicine, dittany was considered an antidote to poison, pestilence, and the bites of all types of venomous animals.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Very rarely used by herbalists today, dittany has an action similar to that of rue (Ruta graveolens), in that it strongly stimulates the muscles of the uterus, inducing menstruation and sometimes causing abortion. By contrast, its effect on the gastrointestinal tract is antispasmodic. Dittany relaxes the gut and acts as a mild tonic for the stomach. The plant has also been used as a treatment for nervous conditions.
This herb is toxic. Take only under professional supervision. Do not take during pregnancy.