Marjoram Oregano Origanum
A perennial, often bushy herb with erect, reddish, square stem branched above. The leaves are oval, opposite and stalked. Both the leaves and stems are hairy and dotted with glands. The two-lipid purplish flowers are arranged in dense cymes, forming terminal panicles, and have conspicuous purplish bracts. The fruit consists of four nutlets. All parts of the plant are pleasantly aromatic.
The flowering stems are used medicinally. The constituents include 0.4 per cent of an essential oil with thymol as its main component, also bitter compounds and tannins (8 per cent). These substances give Marjoram astringent, expectorant, antispasmodic, antiseptic, mild tonic, stomachic and carminative properties. It is used in herbal tea mixtures to treat stomach and gall bladder disorders, diarrhoea, coughs, asthma, nervous headache, general exhaustion and menstrual pain. Externally Marjoram is used in gargles, bath preparations, liniments and inhalants.
Marjoram is a favourite kitchen herb, especially in Italy where it is used to flavour pizzas and spaghetti dishes. It has a stronger taste than Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana).
Marjoram is native to Europe and grows wild on dry sunny slopes, hedge banks, roadsides and in grassland, usually on lime-rich soils. It is locally common in England and Wales but rarer farther north. It is also cultivated commercially in many countries but most supplies are still collected from the wild in the Mediterranean region. It is grown on a small scale in Britain. The generic name, Origanum, comes from the Greek words oros a mountain) and ganos (= joy, splendid), after the attractive appearance and scent of the flowers and leaves and after the natural habitat of the plant in mountains in Greece and other Mediterranean countries. Marjoram used to be considered a remedy for all manner of complaints and was also a strewing herb. The plant is widely used as a culinary herb and remains a favourite herbal remedy.
Flowering time: July to September