Many plants have an interesting past that includes medicinal use. One such plant includes the burning bush (Dictamnus albus), also known as gas plant and false Dittany. The Eurasian native was thought to have derived the name Dictamnus from the mountainous Greek city in which it commonly grew. The plant has also been compared to the burning bush found in the Bible, its name deriving from the plant’s ability to burn easily from its volatile oils.
The plant, it is said, will readily catch fire in hot weather or when a flame is taken to it and then extinguish itself without any damage to the bush. Indeed the burning bush is covered with a flammable, glue-like substance. The lemon-scented oil evaporates from its leaves. In addition to its historical value, there have been several medicinal uses of Dictamnus albus. Some are still in practice even today.
The plant’s flowering stems, leaves, and root bark have been used in herbal medicine for centuries. An infusion made from the flowers and leaves were often taken as remedies for miscellaneous troubles. Believed to stimulate uterine muscles, promote urine flow, and ease the colicky pains of constipation, many people would readily ingest up the Dictamnus albus remedy. The root bark was normally harvested and then dried for later use. Mixed with peppermint, the powered root was used as a remedy for epilepsy.
The root infusion was also popular for curing or treating diseases of the head, as with those associated with fevers. It was also used to induce menstruation, treat cramps, and kill parasites. Applied topically, the medicinal uses of Dictamnus albus also included the treatment of various skin diseases, like scabies, impetigo, and eczema. The plant may have been used for the treatment of jaundice as well. Additionally, its external use provided relief from arthritis, rheumatism, joint pain and inflammation.
While it is not as popular today as it once was, burning bush remedies are still continued to some extent. The infusion of the leaves is commonly used as a substitute for tea. Dictamnus albus acts as a mild stomach tonic, and is most often employed as such today. It’s also found popularity as treatment for a variety of nervous complaints. Use of the plant must be taken with caution.
In large doses, it is considered to be somewhat poisonous, causing phototoxicity. Essentially, the oil produced from the bush may cause an allergic reaction simply from handling the plant. This can result in anything from a minor irritation to chemical-like burns.