Tag Archives: Ancient Greece

Arctium minus

Botanical Name : Arctium minus
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Cynareae
Genus: Arctium
Species: A. minus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Common Names : Lesser Burdock, Burweed, Louse-bur, Common burdock,, Button-bur, Cuckoo-button, or Wild rhubarb

Habitat : Arctium minus is native to Europe, but has become an invasive weed in Australia, North and South America, and other places. It grows in waste ground, edges of woods, roadsides etc.

Description:
Arctium minus is a binnial plant.   It can grow up to 1.5 meters (1 to 5 feet) tall and form multiple branches. It is large and bushy. Flowers are prickly and pink to lavender in color. Flower heads are about 3/4 inches (2 cm) wide. The plant flowers from July through October. The flowers resemble and can be easily mistaken for thistles, but burdock can be distinguished by its extremely large (up to 50 cm) leaves and its hooked bracts. Leaves are long and ovate. Lower leaves are heart-shaped and have very wavy margins. Leaves are dark green above and woolly below. It grows an extremely deep taproot, up to 30 cm (12 in) into the ground.
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The plant produces purple flowers in its second year of growth, from July to October. Outer bracts end in hooks that are like Velcro. After the flower head dries, the hooked bracts will attach to humans and animals in order to transport the entire seedhead.

The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, lepidoptera, self.The plant is self-fertile.  It is noted for attracting wildlife.

Cultivation :
Succeeds on most soils, preferably moist. Prefers a sunny position. Prefers partial shade according to another report. A polymorphic species. A good butterfly plant.

Propagation :
Seed – best sown in situ in autumn.

Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Leaves; Root; Seed; Stem.
Edible Uses: Coffee.

Root – raw or cooked. The best roots are obtained from young plants. Usually peeled and sliced. The roasted root is a coffee substitute. Young leaves and leaf stems – raw or cooked. Used as a potherb]. Mucilaginous. It is best to remove the rind from the stem. Young flowering stem – peeled and eaten raw or cooked like asparagus. Seed sprouts.
Medicinal Uses:

Alterative; Antibacterial; Antifungal; Aperient; Blood purifier; Carminative; Cholagogue; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Hypoglycaemic.

Burdock is one of the foremost detoxifying herbs in both Chinese and Western herbal medicine. Arctium lappa is the main species used, though this species has similar properties. The dried root of one year old plants is the official herb, but the leaves and fruits can also be us. It is used to treat conditions caused by an ‘overload’ of toxins, such as throat and other infections, boils, rashes and other skin problems. The root is thought to be particularly good at helping to eliminate heavy metals from the body. The plant is antibacterial, antifungal and carminative. It has soothing, mucilaginous properties and is said to be one of the most certain cures for many types of skin diseases, burns, bruises etc. It is used in the treatment of herpes, eczema, acne, impetigo, ringworm, boils, bites etc. The plant can be taken internally as an infusion, or used externally as a wash. Use with caution. One-year old roots are alterative, aperient, blood purifier, cholagogue, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic and stomachic. The seed is alterative, antibacterial, antifungal, antiphlogistic, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic and hypoglycaemic. It is used in the treatment of colds with sore throat and cough, measles, pharyngitis, acute tonsillitis and abscesses. The crushed seed is poulticed onto bruises. The seed is harvested in the summer and dried for later use. The seed contains arctiin, this excites the central nervous system producing convulsions an increase in respiration and later paralysis. It also lowers the blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels. The leaves are poulticed onto burns, ulcers and sores.

Other Uses:..Paper.…..A fibre is obtained from the inner bark and is used to make paper. It is about 0.9mm long. The stems are harvested in late summer, the leaves are removed and the stems steamed in order to strip off the fibre. The fibres are then cooked for two hours in soda ash before being put in a ball mill for 2 hours. The resulting paper is a light tan/ brown colour.

Known Hazards :Although no reports of toxicity have been seen for this plant, some caution is advised due to the following report for the closely related A. lappa[K]. Care should be taken if harvesting the seed in any quantity since tiny hairs from the seeds can be inhaled and these are toxic.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctium_minus
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_C.htm
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Arctium+minus

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Succisa pratensis

Botanical Name : Succisa pratensis
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Genus: Succisa
Species: S. pratensis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Dipsacales

Synonyms: Ofbit. Premorse Scabious,  Scabiosa succisa.

Common Names: Devil’s-bit or Devil’s-bit Scabious

Habitat : Succisa pratensis is distributed throughout the British Isles, western and central Europe, extending eastwards into central Asia. It is absent from eastern Asia and North America. It grows in wet or dry grassland and heath on acid or basic soils.It grows in meadows, pastures, marshes, fens and damp woods on slightly acid or calcareous
Description:
Succisa pratensis is a perennial herb up to 1m tall, growing from a basal rosette of simple or distantly-toothed, lanceolate leaves. Its unlobed leaves distinguish it from Field scabious,. The plant may be distinguished from Greater Knapweed by having its leaves in opposite pairs, not alternate as in knapweed. The bluish to violet (occasionally pink) flowers are borne in tight compound flower heads or capitula. Individual flowers are tetramerous, with a four-lobed epicalyx and calyx and a four-lobed corolla. Male and female flowers are produced on different flower heads (gynodioecious), the female flower heads being smaller. The flowering period is from June until October….CLICK & SEE THE  PICTURES

The florets composing the head are all very much the same size, the outer ones being scarcely larger than the inner. The stamens of each floret, as in the other species of Scabious are a very conspicuous feature, the anthers being large and borne upon filaments or threads that are almost as long again as the corolla. The root is, when fully grown, nearly the thickness of a finger, and ends in so abrupt a way as almost to suggest that it had been bitten off, a peculiarity that has given it a place in legends. In the first year of the plant’s existence the root is like a diminutive carrot or radish in shape; it then becomes woody and dies away, the upper part excepted; as it decays and falls away, the gnawed or broken look results. The portion left throws out numerous lateral roots, which compensate for the portion that has perished. The plant derives its common name from this peculiarity in the form of the root.

‘The greater part of the root seemeth to be bitten away; old fantastick charmers report that the divel did bite it for envie, because it is an herbe that hath so many good vertues and it is so beneficial to mankinde.

Cultivation:
Succeeds in ordinary garden soil, preferring damp conditions, in sun or semi-shade. Prefers a moist peaty soil. Hardy to about -20°c. Grows well in the summer meadow, it is an excellent bee and butterfly plant and a food plant for the caterpillars of many butterfly species.

Propagation:
Seed – sow April in a cold frame. Germination is usually rapid, but the seedlings are prone to damp off so make sure they are well ventilated[1]. Prick them out into individual pots once they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Division in spring. Plant them straight out into their permanent positions.

Edible Uses: Young shoots is eaten raw. The tender young shoots are sometimes added to spring salads

Part Used in medicine: The whole Herb.

Medicinal Uses:
Anthelmintic; Demulcent; Depurative; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Emmenagogue; Expectorant; Febrifuge; Stomachic.

The herb is anthelmintic, demulcent, depurative, slightly diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, mildly expectorant, febrifuge and stomachic. It makes a useful tea for the treatment of coughs, fevers and internal inflammations and is also a popular application externally to eczema and other cutaneous eruptions. A tincture of the plant is a gentle but reliable treatment for bruises, aiding quick re-absorption of the blood pigment. The whole herb is collected in early autumn and dried for later use. Good results have been achieved by using a distilled water from the plant as an eye lotion to treat conjunctivitis

The whole herb being collected in September and dried.

It makes a useful tea for coughs, fevers and internal inflammation. The remedy is generally given in combination with others, the infusion being given in wineglassful doses at frequent intervals. It purifies the blood, taken inwardly, and used as a wash externally is a good remedy for cutaneous eruptions. The juice made into an ointment is effectual for the same purpose. The warm decoction has also been used as a wash to free the head from scurf, sores and dandruff.

Culpepper assigned it many uses, saying that the root boiled in wine and drunk was very powerful against the plague and all pestilential diseases, and fevers and poison and bites of venomous creatures, and that ‘it helpeth also all that are inwardly bruised or outwardly by falls or blows, dissolving the clotted blood,’ the herb or root bruised and outwardly applied, taking away black and blue marks on the skin. He considered ‘the decoction of the herb very effectual as a gargle for swollen throat and tonsils, and that the root powdered and taken in drink expels worms.’ The juice or distilled water of the herb was deemed a good remedy for green wounds or old sores, cleansing the body inwardly and freeing the skin from sores, scurf, pimples, freckles, etc. The dried root used also to be given in powder, its power of promoting sweat making it beneficial in fevers.

The SHEEP’S (or SHEEP’S-BIT) SCABIOUS (Jasione montana) is not a true Scabious, though at first sight its appearance is similar. It may be distinguished from a Scabious by its united anthers, and it differs from a Compound Flower (Compositae, to which the Scabious belongs) in having a two-celled capsule. It is a member of the Campanulaceae, and is the only British species. The whole plant, when bruised, has a strong and disagreeable smell.

Other Uses:  A green dye is obtained from the leaves.

It is a good source of nectar and is the foodplant of Marsh fritillary, whose eggs are laid in groups on the underside of the plant, and Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth Hemaris tityus. As both plant and invertebrates are rare, their survival relies on careful management of sites containing these species.

The aim is to produce an uneven patchwork of short and long vegetation by the end of the grazing period, between 8 and 25 cm (3.1 and 9.8 in). This is to allow the devil’s bit scabious food plant to grow.This can be achieved through low intensity grazing (also known as extensive grazing) using cattle. Sheep are not so good as they are more efficient at removing wild plants.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succisa_pratensis
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/s/scadev31.html
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Succisa+Pratensis

Lavatera arborea

Botanical Name: Lavatera arborea
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Lavatera
Species: L. arborea
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Malvales

Common Names: Malva arborea, or, more recently as Malva eriocalyx, The tree mallow

Habitat:  Lavatera arborea is native to the coasts of western Europe and the Mediterranean region, from the British Isles south to Algeria and Libya, and east to Greece.It tolerates sea water to varying degrees, at up to 100% sea water in its natural habitat, excreting salt through glands on its leaves. This salt tolerance can be a competitive advantage over inland plant species in coastal areas. Its level of salinity tolerance is thought to be improved by soil with higher phosphate content, making guano enrichment particularly beneficial
Description:
Lavatera arborea is a shrubby annual, biennial or perennial plant growing to 0.5–2 m (rarely 3 m) tall. The leaves are orbicular, 8–18 cm diameter, palmately lobed with five to nine lobes, and a coarsely serrated margin. The flowers are 3–4 cm diameter, dark pink to purple and grow in fasciculate axillary clusters of two to seven. It grows mainly on exposed coastal locations, often on small islands, only rarely any distance inland….CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES

Although long considered a species of Lavatera, genetic and morphological analysis by Martin Forbes Ray, reported in 1998, suggested it was better placed in the genus Malva, in which it was named Malva dendromorpha M.F.Ray. However the earlier name Malva arborea L. (Webb & Berthol.) was validly published and has priority over Malva dendromorpha.

Cultivation:
An easily grown plant, succeeding in any ordinary garden soil in sun or partial shade. Prefers a light well-drained moderately fertile soil in full sun. A soil that is too rich encourages foliar growth at the expense of flowering. Tolerates maritime exposure. Plants are very fast-growing and often flower in their first year from seed. They flower so freely in their second year that they normally die afterwards, though they sometimes perennate. When well sited, this species usually self-sows freely. There are some named forms developed for their ornamental value.

Propagation:
Seed – sow late summer in situ[200]. The seed should germinate within 4 weeks.

Edible Uses: Young leaves – raw or cooked. A mild flavour, but the leaves are dry and hairy and not that agreeable in quantity on their own[K]. They can be used as part of a chopped mixed salad.
Medicineal Uses:
The leaves of the species are used in herbal medicine to treat sprains, by steeping them in hot water and applying the poultice to the affected area. It is theorised that lighthouse keepers may have spread the plant to some British islands for use as a poultice and to treat burns, an occupational hazard. Thought to have been used as an alternative to toilet paper. The seeds are edible and are known in Jersey as “petit pains”, or “little breads”.
Other Uses:
Tree mallow was considered a nutritive animal food in Britain in the 19th century, and is still sometimes used as animal fodder in Europe.

Lavatera arborea has long been cultivated in British gardens, as described in the 1835 self-published book British Phaenogamous Botany, which used the then-common name Sea Tree-mallow: “This species is frequently met with in gardens, where, if it is allowed to scatter its seeds, it will spring up for many successive years, and often attain a large size. The young plants will, as Sir J. E. Smith observes, now and then survive one or more mild Winters; but having once blossomed it perishes.”

While sometimes detrimental to seabird habitat, management of tree mallow (both planting and thinning) has been successfully employed to shelter nesting sites of the threatened roseate tern, which requires more coverage than common terns to impede predation.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavatera_arborea
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Lavatera+arborea
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/m/mallow07.html

Croup

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Alternative Names: Viral croup; Laryngotracheobronchitis – acute; Spasmodic croup

Definition:
Croup  is a respiratory condition that is usually triggered by an acute viral infection of the upper airway. The infection leads to swelling inside the throat, which interferes with normal breathing and produces the classical symptoms of a “barking” cough, stridor, and hoarseness. It may produce mild, moderate, or severe symptoms, which often worsen at night.

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The barking cough of croup is the result of inflammation around the vocal cords (larynx) and windpipe (trachea). When the cough reflex forces air through this narrowed passage, the vocal cords vibrate with a barking noise. Because children have small airways to begin with, those younger than age 5 are most susceptible to having more-marked symptoms with croup.

Croup typically occurs between the ages of six months and six years, but the peak age is two and it’s less common after three. Children with asthma may get repeated episodes.

Croup usually isn’t serious. Most cases of croup can be treated at home. Sometimes, your child will need prescription medication.

Once due primarily to diphtheria, this cause is now primarily of historical significance in the Western world due to the success of vaccination.

Croup affects about 15% of children, and usually presents between the ages of 6 months and 5–6 years. It accounts for about 5% of hospital admissions in this population. In rare cases, it may occur in children as young as 3 months and as old as 15 years. Males are affected 50% more frequently than are females, and there is an increased prevalence in autumn (fall).

History:
The word croup comes from the Early Modern English verb croup, meaning “to cry hoarsely”; the name was first applied to the disease in Scotland and popularized in the 18th century. Diphtheritic croup has been known since the time of Homer’s Ancient Greece and it was not until 1826 that viral croup was differentiated from croup due to diphtheria by Bretonneau. Viral croup was thus called “faux-croup” by the French, as “croup” then referred to a disease caused by the diphtheria bacteria. Croup due to diphtheria has become nearly unknown due to the advent of effective immunization

Symptoms:
Croup is characterized by a “barking” cough, stridor, hoarseness, and difficult breathing which usually worsens at night. The “barking” cough is often described as resembling the call of a seal or sea lion.

As the cough gets more frequent, the child may have labored breathing or stridor (a harsh, crowing noise made during inspiration).The stridor is worsened by agitation or crying, and if it can be heard at rest, it may indicate critical narrowing of the airways. As croup worsens, stridor may decrease considerably.

Other symptoms include fever, coryza (symptoms typical of the common cold), and chest wall indrawing. Drooling or a very sick appearance indicate other medical conditions

Rarely, croup can last for weeks. Croup that lasts longer than a week or recurs frequently should be discussed with your doctor to determine the cause.

Causes:
Viral croup is the most common. Other possible causes include bacteria, allergies, and inhaled irritants. Acid reflux from the stomach can trigger croup.

Croup is usually (75% of the time) caused by parainfluenza viruses, but RSV, measles, adenovirus, and influenza can all cause croup.

Before the era of immunizations and antibiotics, croup was a dreaded and deadly disease, usually caused by the diphtheria bacteria. Today, most cases of croup are mild. Nevertheless, it can still be dangerous.

Croup tends to appear in children between 3 months and 5 years old, but it can happen at any age. Some children are prone to croup and may get it several times.

In the northern hemisphere, it is most common between October and March, but can occur at any time of the year.

In severe cases of croup, there may also be a bacterial superinfection of the upper airway. This condition is called bacterial tracheitis and requires hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics. If the epiglottis becomes infected, the entire windpipe can swell shut, a potentially fatal condition called epiglottitis.

Diagnosis:
Croup is a clinical diagnosis. The first step is to exclude other obstructive conditions of the upper airway, especially epiglottitis, an airway foreign body, subglottic stenosis, angioedema, retropharyngeal abscess, and bacterial tracheitis.

A frontal X-ray of the neck is not routinely performed, but if it is done, it may show a characteristic narrowing of the trachea, called the steeple sign. The steeple sign is suggestive of the diagnosis, but is absent in half of cases.

Other investigations (such as blood tests and viral culture) are discouraged as they may cause unnecessary agitation and thus worsen the stress on the compromised airway. While viral cultures, obtained via nasopharyngeal aspiration, can be used to confirm the exact cause, these are usually restricted to research settings. Bacterial infection should be considered if a person does not improve with standard treatment, at which point further investigations may be indicated

Severity:
The most commonly used system for classifying the severity of croup is the Westley score. It is primarily used for research purposes rather than in clinical practice. It is the sum of points assigned for five factors: level of consciousness, cyanosis, stridor, air entry, and retractions.The points given for each factor is listed in the table to the right, and the final score ranges from 0 to 17.

*A total score of ? 2 indicates mild croup. The characteristic barking cough and hoarseness may be present, but there is no stridor at rest.
*A total score of 3–5 is classified as moderate croup. It presents with easily heard stridor, but with few other signs.
*A total score of 6–11 is severe croup. It also presents with obvious stridor, but also features marked chest wall indrawing.
*A total score of ? 12 indicates impending respiratory failure. The barking cough and stridor may no longer be prominent at this stage.
85% of children presenting to the emergency department have mild disease; severe croup is rare (<1%).

Treatment :-
Most cases of croup can be safely managed at home, but call your health care provider for guidance, even in the middle of the night.

Cool or moist air might bring relief. You might first try bringing the child into a steamy bathroom or outside into the cool night air. If you have a cool air vaporizer, set it up in the child’s bedroom and use it for the next few nights.

Acetaminophen can make the child more comfortable and lower a fever, lessening his or her breathing needs. Avoid cough medicines unless you discuss them with your doctor first.

You may want your child to be seen. Steroid medicines can be very effective at promptly relieving the symptoms of croup. Medicated aerosol treatments, if necessary, are also powerful.

Serious illness requires hospitalization. Increasing or persistent breathing difficulty, fatigue, bluish coloration of the skin, or dehydration indicates the need for medical attention or hospitalization.

Medications are used to help reduce upper airway swelling. This may include aerosolized racemic epinephrine, corticosteroids taken by mouth, such as dexamethasone and prednisone, and inhaled or injected forms of other corticosteroids. Oxygen and humidity may be provided in an oxygen tent placed over a crib. A bacterial infection requires antibiotic therapy.

Increasing obstruction of the airway requires intubation (placing a tube through the nose or mouth through the larynx into the main air passage to the lungs). Intravenous fluids are given for dehydration. In some cases, corticosteroids are prescribed.

Alternative Treatments :-
Since most croup cases are mild in severity, over the counter treatments are often used. These treatments include ointments such as Vick’s or other menthol creams. These often are used to open up the airways. Other over the counter treatments include humidifiers to keep the humidity up in a room and lessen the chances of the airways becoming further inflamed or irritated.

Other methods of breaking croup attacks include hot shower exposure and cold air exposure. In the hot shower method, the shower is used as a sauna, in that the shower is running but people sit outside of it, taking in the warm, humid air. This method can be very effective when used in ten minute increments. Cuddling or reading to the child can limit the stress that is on the child during such a treatment. Cold or cool air exposure is another very effective alternative treatment. This method of treatment relies on the idea that the inflamed tissues will cool and shrink when exposed to cool air. Since most croup cases occur during the fall or winter seasons, this is often achieved simply by going outside or driving with the windows rolled down.

Lifestyle and home remedies:
Croup often runs its course within three to seven days. In the meantime, keep your child comfortable with a few simple measures.

*Stay calm. Comfort or distract your child — cuddle, read a book or play a quiet game. Crying makes breathing more difficult.

*Moisten the air. Use a cool-air humidifier in your child’s bedroom or have your child breathe the warm, moist air in a steamy bathroom. Although researchers have questioned the benefits of humidity as part of emergency treatment for croup, moist air seems to help children breathe easier — especially when croup is mild.

*Get cool. Sometimes breathing fresh, cool air helps. If it’s cool outdoors, wrap your child in a blanket and walk outside for a few minutes.

*Hold your child in an upright position. Sitting upright can make breathing easier. Hold your child on your lap, or place your child in a favorite chair or infant seat.

*Offer fluids. For babies, water, breast milk or formula is fine. For older children, soup or frozen fruit pops may be soothing.

*Encourage resting. Sleep can help your child fight the infection.

*Try an over-the-counter pain reliever. If your child has a fever, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may help. Cough syrup, which doesn’t affect the larynx or trachea, isn’t likely to relieve your child’s cough. Over-the-counter cold preparations are not recommended for children younger than age 5.

Your child’s cough may improve during the day, but don’t be surprised if it returns at night. You may want to sleep near your child or even in the same room so that you can take quick action if your child’s symptoms become severe.

Prognosis:
Viral croup is usually a self-limited disease, but can very rarely result in death from respiratory failure and/or cardiac arrest. Symptoms usually improve within two days, but may last for up to seven days. Other uncommon complications include bacterial tracheitis, pneumonia, and pulmonary edema

Prevention:
To prevent croup, take the same steps you use to prevent colds and flu. Frequent hand washing is most important. Also keep your child away from anyone who’s sick, and encourage your child to cough or sneeze into his or her elbow.

To stave off more-serious infections, keep your child’s immunizations current. The diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and measles vaccines offer protection from some of the rarest — but most dangerous — forms of upper airway infection.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/croup2.shtml
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/croup/DS00312
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croup
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003215.htm

http://modernmedicalguide.com/croup-acute-spasmodic-laryngitis/

http://savingmommymoney.com/croup-symptoms-and-cure

http://www.methodsofhealing.com/Healing_Conditions/croup/

http://www.sciencephoto.com/images/download_lo_res.html?id=770500647

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Dittany Of Crete (Origanum dictamnus )

 

Botanical Name : Origanum dictamnus
Family: Lamiaceae
Synonyms : Amaracus dictamnus – (L.)Benth.
Other Names :Origanum dictamnus , Dittany of Crete or Cretan  Dittany
Kingdom:
Plantae
Order: Lamiales
Genus: Origanum
Species:
O. dictamnus

Habitat : S. Europe – Crete.  Shady rocks in dry places in high mountains. It grows wild on the mountainsides and gorges of the Greek island of Crete, Greece.

Description:
It  is a tender perennial plant that grows 20–30 cm high. It is a healing, therapeutic and aromatic plant
It is hardy to zone 7. It is in flower from June to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.

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Origanum dictamnus is a many branched plant with discoid to ovate grey-green leaves that are sited in pairs opposite each other. The slender arching stems and lanate leaves are covered in a velvety white down and are 13–25 mm in size.

The flowers are pale pink to purple and have a deep lilac corolla with many deep pink coloured overlapping bracts. The colourful flowers forming a cascade of elongated clusters are in bloom in the summer months. The flowers are hermaphrodite meaning they have both male and female organs and are pollinated by bees attracted to their scent and bright colour.

Said to symbolize love and to be an aphrodisiac, only the most ardent young lovers scrambled on mountainsides and the deep gorges of Crete gathering bunches of the pink blooms to present as love tokens. There are numerous deaths reported throughout the centuries by collectors of this magical herb.

Even in recent times the collection of Dittany of Crete was a very dangerous occupation for the men who risked life and limb to climb precarious rock faces where the plant grows wild in the mountains of Crete. They were named Erondades (love seekers) and were considered very passionate men to go to such dangerous lengths to collect the herb.

Dittany of Crete has always been highly prized and is gathered while in bloom in the summer months and is exported for use in pharmaceuticals, perfumery and to flavour drinks such as vermouth and absinthe.

In Ancient Greece it is believed, that Hippocrates prescribed plant cures to aid all manner of ailments and considered Dittany of Crete useful for stomach aches and complaints of the digestive system and as a poultice for healing wounds.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle in his work The History of Animals (612a4) wrote:

“Wild goats in Crete are said, when wounded by arrow, to go in search of dittany, which is supposed to have the property of ejecting arrows in the body.”

The Greek scholar and philosopher Theophrastus agreed with Aristotle about the healing properties of Dittany of Crete. In his work Enquiry into Plants he notes that Dittany was peculiar to Crete, and that it was:

“Said to be true, that, if goats eat it when they have been shot, it rids them of the arrow” (9.16.1).

Other scholars of Ancient Greece and later have made reference to Dittany but probably referred to Dictamnus albus known as False Dittany or White Dittany.

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

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soil. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires dry or moist soil.

Cultivation :
Requires a rather dry, warm, well-drained soil, but is not fussy as to soil type, thriving on chalk . Prefers slightly alkaline conditions. This species is not fully hardy in Britain according to one report  whilst another says that it is hardy to zone 7, which means that it can succeed outdoors in most parts of the country. It is, however, very susceptible to winter wet and so is more commonly grown under cover in this country. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.

Propagation:
Seed – sow early spring in a greenhouse at 10 – 13°c and only just cover the seed. Germination usually takes place within 2 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. The seed can also be sown in situ in late spring. Division in March or October. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer. Basal cuttings of young barren shoots in June. Very easy. Harvest the shoots with plenty of underground stem when they are about 8 – 10cm above the ground. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.

Edible Uses:-
Edible Parts: Leaves.

Edible Uses: Condiment; Tea.

The leaves are used for flavouring salads and vermouth. A pleasant aromatic flavour, especially when mixed with parsley, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. The flowering tops are dried and brewed into a herb tea.

Medicinal Actions & Uses:-
Antirheumatic; Oxytoxic; Stomachic; Vulnerary.

The flowering plant has been used as an antirheumatic, oxytocic, stomachic and vulnerary, though these uses appear to be obsolete in modern herbalism.

As a medicinal plant, the herb has been utilized to heal wounds, soothe pain, and ease childbirth. The root has been used in a salve to treat sciatica, and the juice was consumed in wine to cure snake bite.  In addition, it has been used as a remedy against gastric or stomach ailments and rheumatism.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Origanum+dictamnus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origanum_dictamnus
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/Plants/Lamiaceae/Origanum_dictamnus.html
http://www.arkive.org/dittany-of-crete/origanum-dictamnus/image-G18858.html

http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_DE.htm

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