This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Dictamnus Albus Pharm. Edinb. & Linn. Dictamnus albus vulgo five fraxinella C.B. White or Bastard dittany: a plant with oval acuminated leaves, like those of the ash tree, but smaller and more juicy, set in pairs on a middle rib, which is terminated by an odd one: on the tops of the stalks stand elegant Jong spikes of irregular white or purplish flowers, followed each by five pods full of shining black seeds. It is perennial, and grows wild in the mountainous parts of France, Italy, and Germany; from whence the white cortical part of the root, freed from the fibres and pith, is sometimes brought to us, dried, and rolled up in the form of quills.
The herb has a strong smell, of an unplea-sant resinous or bituminous kind: on the tops of the stalks, and the flower cups, the micro-scope discovers innumerable little vesicles, filled with an essential oil, the source of its strong scent. It is said, that on the approach of a candle, in very hot dry weather, its effluvia take fire.
The root, when fresh, has a moderately strong, not disagreeable smell; as met with in the shops, it has scarcely any. To the taste it discovers a pretty strong, and very durable, bitterness; which is taken up both by watery and spirituous menstrua, and on infpiffating the filtered tinctures, remains entire in the extracts: the aqueous extract is in much larger quantity than the spirituous, and proportion-ably weaker in taste. This root has been recommended as a stomachic, anthelmintic, and as an aperient in uterine obstructions; but is at present very rarely made use of. * Dr. Stcerck has published some cases in which the root of white dittany, was given with good effect in epileptic fits, melancholy, intermittent fevers, worms, and female obstructions. It was given either in powder in the dose of a scruple or half a dram, or in tincture.
Dictamnus Creticus C. B. Origanum cre-ticum latifolium tomentofum Tourn. Origanum Dittamnus Linn. Dittany of Crete: a small, shrubby, branched plant; with square stalks; roundish leaves about an inch in length, covered with a thick white down, set in pairs at the joints; and purplish labiated flowers, in loose scaly heads or spikes, drooping downwards. It is perennial, a native of stony grounds in Greece and the island of Candy, and bears the ordinary winters of our, own climate. The shops are generally supplied from Italy, with the leaves tied up in bundles, which are often damaged or decayed, and at best not superiour to those of our own growth: they have now and then pieces of the flowery heads among them, but oftener stalks, and different foreign matters.
The leaves of dittany of Crete have been chiefly recommended as emmenagogue, alexi-pharmac, and vulnerary. They are apparently, when in perfection, a very warm aromatic; of an agreeable smell, and a hot biting taste, re-sembling that of the thymus citratus, but stronger and more pungent. They impart their virtues both to water and rectified spirit; and tinge the former of a yellowish, the latter of a green colour. Distilled with water, they give over a moderately strong impregnation to the aqueous fluid; from which, if the quantity of dittany be large, there separates, as Neumann observes, a small portion of a yellowish essential oil, of a highly pungent aromatic taste and smell, and which congeals in the cold into the appearance of camphor: the remaining decoction, infpif-fated, leaves a bitterish, disagreeable mass, totally divested of the warmth and flavour of the herb. Rectisied spirit, diftilled off from the tincture made in that menstruum, brings over little or nothing of the virtue of the dittany: the spirituous extract is a tolerably grateful and very hot pungent aromatic.