One of my favorite plants to start storing for the winter is Common Dittany or Cunila origanoides. It’s an easy to find plant here in the Ozarks, along roadsides and rocky banks, once you’ve seen one you’ll start seeing them everywhere.
Dittany is in the same family as oregano, Lamiaceae, and is often called “wild oregano” by hillfolk. It can be used much in the same way as oregano and another of its relatives, marjoram, but tends to have a very strong flavor so I usually will use less dittany in herbal preparations than I would use of oregano.
As an infusion it’s good for colds and to help open up the sinuses. Boiled strong it is a diaphoretic that helps the body sweat and can aid in lowering fevers. Traditional infusions have been used to help aid a painful birth. It can also be used as a stimulant and general tonic.
It should be known that dittany does contain trace amounts of the chemical compound thujone, an active chemical also found in wormwood, mugwort, and yarrow, and may cause drowsiness or headaches. Use only in small amounts and with caution.
Another interesting aspect of the plant is that because of the amount of oils in the sap of the plant, and because it tends to be hearty in the cold weather, it is one of a few plants that produce what are called “frost flowers” which are formed when the sap leaking from the dying plant freezes and forms these beautiful ribbons of ice. Common dittany is one of only a few plants that make these “frost flowers”. Another plant is White Crownbeard or Verbesina virginica, also known as “frostweed” for this reason.