Mysterious Marjoram, Oregano and Thyme –
Name Changes and Therapeutics©

Scent characteristics by Jeanne Rose

    Let us start out with the fact that all plants called Marjoram are in the Oregano group, but not all Oreganos are Marjoram. The genus name for both is Origanum. In the past Marjoram used to have its own genus. Now Oregano is the genus and Marjoram, or Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is only one variety of over fifty types of the genus Oregano. Pot Marjoram (Origanum onites) is another species, but even this causes confusion, sometimes being called Cretan Oregano because of its place of origin. In Spain, there is Thymus nummularius, and in Mexico, there is Lippia graveolens; both sold and used in place of Oregano. One last example of how it all is jumbled: Origanum vulgare, or what is taken for common Oregano, is also known as wild Marjoram or Thyme.

    Despite the heavy association of Oregano with Italy, it is likely that Oregano originated in Greece. Ancients Greeks used to let their cattle graze on fields of Oregano, in the belief that it produced tastier meat. Even the name Oregano comes from the Greek, meaning "joy of the mountain."

     Marjoram also enjoys a long and favorable history. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans would crown bridal couples with wreaths of Marjoram to symbolize love, honor and happiness. Over the years, Marjoram has been used as a remedy to aid digestion. Marjoram and Oregano continue to be used as a steam inhalant to clear the sinuses and relieve laryngitis. European singers have been known to preserve their voices with Marjoram tea sweetened with honey. A good addition to this would be Licorice root.

     According to herbalist Dodoen, in the 16th century, smelling Marjoram "mundifieth (cleanses) the brayne.

     "The combination of carvacrol and cymene results in an increased antibacterial effect on the growth and a synergistic effect on the viability of Listeria. There are monocytogenes in low concentrations. Can be used to preserve foods or cosmetics. …

“Know the Latin binomial – to be assured”

Common Name,Latin binomial, [Scent Characteristics,
Chemistry, Medicinal Uses and Other Information]


1. Marjoram, Origanum majorana [the oil has very little color, clear, non-viscous, 6, herbaceous]

2. Sweet Marjoram, Origanum majorana [the oil has very little color, clear, non-viscous, 5, herbaceous, fruity?]

3. Sweet Marjoram CO2, Origanum majorana

4. Pot Marjoram or Cretan Oregano, Origanum onites

5. Oregano or Wild Marjoram, Origanum vulgare. There is a variety called ‘hirtum’.

6. Oregano or Greek Oregano, Origanum vulgare-hirtum aka O. vulgare heracleoticum. Formerly listed botanically as Origanum heracleoticum, strongly herbaceous scent, and the tasted burns the mucous membrane. [It is a very light gold, clear, non-viscous, 6, irritating]. Main component is 75% carvacrol from the leaves, stems, and flowers. This variety acts as a disinfectant, preservative, anti-bacterial. Infusions made from Greek Oregano have a wide range of purposes, from a simple cleansing mouthwash to reducing bloat, stomach cramps and coughs.

     Carvacrol, a creosote-scented phenol, is the signature chemical responsible for the sharp, pungent flavor of the culinary Oreganos.

     Greek Oregano is one very spicy herb. It's parent Origanum vulgaris, a culinary zero, is often commercially grown and offered as Greek Oregano. O. vulgaris, often known as Wild Marjoram, is an extremely invasive plant with a pink flower. Origanum vulgaris hirtum is the true Greek Oregano with flavor so intense it numbs the end of your tongue when fresh, and like all culinary Oreganos, the flower of Greek Oregano is white.

7. Oregano Origanum compactum [pale yellow, clear, non–viscous, 5,]

8. Spanish Marjoram, Thymus mastichina herbaceous (no camphor note?) with a sweetness of fruit and some citrus [very little color, clear, non-viscous, 4?]. Components are 50% cineole, camphor & camphene

9. Spanish Oregano? Thymus capitatus vegetative, fungal, herbaceous, spice. Also called Turkish Oregano. The components are Thymol, alpha-amyrin, Carvacrol + beta-Caryophyllene Thymus essential oil inhibits the growth of both B. cinerea and P. italicum. SEM observations also indicated that the mycelia of both fungi were severely injured by the application of T. capitatus essential oil. It kills mosquitoes.

10. Spanish Oregano, Thymus nummularius

11. Sweet Thyme, French White Thyme, Thymus vulgaris, also Thyme English Red Thyme fruity, green, herbaceous, spicy scent; the oil very light gold, clear, non-viscous, 4 in intensity.

12. Thyme Spanish Red Thyme, Thymus vulgaris spicy, herbaceous, green and hot dark red, clear, non-viscous, 5

13. Spain White Serpolet, Wild Thyme, Thymus serpyllum

14. Thyme CT Borneol, Thymus satureioides. The scent is green, herbaceous and wood and the oil is red, clear, non-viscous, 6, vegetative taste.

15. Thyme CT linalool, Thymus vulgaris CT linalool. The scent is herbaceous (no camphor note) and with floral and fruity notes

16. Thyme CT p-cymene from [Bosnia & Herzegovina] Thymus vulgaris CT para-cymene

17.Thyme CT thymol, Thymus vulgaris CT thymol

     Many of the Oregano types are in the Aromatherapy Marjoram/Oregano Kit (Mystery Oils Unraveled) to help one to learn the difference between the Oregano, Thyme and Marjoram types.

Culinary Types:
Origanum vulgare subsp. hirtum (Greek Oregano)
Origanum vulgare subsp. gracile (Russian Oregano)
Origanum vulgare subsp. glandulosum (Algerian Oregano)
Origanum majorana (sweet Marjoram)
Origanum dictamnus (dittany of Crete, hop Marjoram)
Origanum x majoricum (Italian Oregano/hardy sweet Marjoram)
The other chemical associated with the Origanum is sabinene hydrate, which is largely responsible for O. majorana sweet flavor and occurs in Origanum x majoricum, a hybrid of O. vulgare subsp. virens and O. majorana.
Origanum onites (Turkish Oregano/rigani)
Origanum syriacum (Syrian Oregano/za’atar
Lemon thyme (Thymus X citriodorus) is a hybrid between garden thyme and T. pulegioides, sometimes called Mother-of-Thyme.

General description of plant, habitat & growth:
     As described by Aromatherapy Course, Home & Family Profile It is a perennial herb growing to over one foot high, with a downy stem and small, silver-green downy leaves with tiny, pinkish white flowers. Other plants are called Marjoram and even Thyme (make sure you are getting what you want)

Portion of plant used in distillation, how distilled, extraction methods & yield:
     The flowering tops, and fresh, as well as dried, leaves are steam distilled. Yield: .05-3%.

    The genus Origanum consists of over 44 species, 6 subspecies, 3 botanical varieties and 18 naturally occurring hybrids, and includes several types of Oregano as well as sweet Marjoram (O. majorana) and dittany of Crete (O. dictamnus). Plants known and used as Oregano do not necessarily belong to the genus Origanum, however.

     Herb expert Dr. Arthur O. Tucker:
“It’s best to think of Oregano as a flavor rather than a genus or species.”



Marjoram aka Oregano - "The Herbal Nexus"


     O. majorana can be grown from seed, but propagation methods like cuttings, division and layering which clone the source plant’s chemistry and flavors are more effective. Origanum are notorious for mislabeling by commercial nurseries and retail outlets, so if purchasing a starter plant, it is a good idea to smell it before you buy it or to buy from a nursery that cares about individual plant types.

     They can survive in a variety of soils and climates but flourish in dry, rocky conditions that mimic their native habitat. Origanum can be grown in full sun or partial shade but will have improved scent and flower color with at least 1⁄2 day of sun. O. vulgare subsp. hirtum and O. x majoricum are recommended for beginners due to their flavor and hardiness..

Culinary Uses:
     Oregano and Marjoram are essential ingredients in Greek, Italian and French cuisine. O. vulgare subsp. hirtum has the classic pungent, hot and spicy Oregano flavor. Fresh and dried leaves of Oregano can be added to soups, casseroles, sauces, stew, stuffing, eggs, olives, teas, tomato-based dishes, chili and pizza.

     Flowers have a flavor similar to the leaves and can be a flavorful and decorative addition to vegetables, salads and other foods. Sweet Marjoram has a mild, sweet flavor that compliments many foods. Syrian Oregano is a primary ingredient in za’atar, a Middle Eastern condiment combining Oregano, sesame seeds, Sumac berries and salt.

     The leaves of Oregano and Marjoram are used for flavoring foods, and are best added to hot dishes at the end of cooking to preserve the flavor and prevent bitterness. They are an important component of commercially produced poultry-seasoning mixes.

     Marjoram is more often used in recipes of French or English origin. Its sweeter, milder flavor works in cheese, tomato, bean and egg dishes, salad dressings, seafood sauces, and on poultry.

     Dried Oregano leaves often are more flavorful than the fresh, because the essential oils are more concentrated. Use twice the amount of the fresh herb as you would the dried. But Marjoram tends to be better when used fresh.

Essential Oil Uses of mild Oregano/Marjoram/Thymus mastichina:
Properties (by IG=ingestion or IN=inhalation or AP=application):

    Diuretic, digestive, antispasmodic, and carminative.

    Powerful anaphrodisiac, calmative, antitussive (cools cough), and expectorant.

     Analgesic, antispasmodic, vasodilator, vaginal tonic, vulnerary, antiseptic, antibiotic, anti-infectious, and emmenagogue.

Physical Uses & How used (IG or AP):

     Digestive disturbances, flatulence, and constipation.

     Sweet marjoram is tonic; alleviates pain; it is excellent in massage formulas for overexerted muscles as it increases circulation by dilating arteries; as a muscle relaxant, for muscle stiffness, rheumatism, and loss of muscle tone due to deadened nerves.

Inhaled for dyspnea, colds, bronchitis, respiratory infections, head congestion, circulation, cardiovascular disease, migraine headaches, and epileptic seizures.

Emotional Uses (AP or IN):

Tension, anxiety, insomnia, vertigo, and feelings of oppression, stress, grief, irritability, sighing, and sometimes-overactive sex drive.

Properties of the Hydrosol:
The hydrosol of Oregano is very useful as a tool to clean the home; to take by the teaspoonful in water for a cold or flu or to ‘head’ one off; to use as a gargle or mouthwash for sore throat; to add to washing waters as an application to cleanse dirty wounds; and many other applications.

Herbal Uses:
     From Herbs & Things and other material. Both Oregano and Marjoram have been used in folk medicine to treat colds, coughs, gastrointestinal problems and a variety of other conditions, and several plants in the genus especially those high in the phenol carvacrol have antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.

     The oils of both O. majorana and O. vulgare are used commercially to scent soaps, lotions and colognes. Both plants have also been used to make dyes. The colorful purple flowers of O. vulgare subsp. vulgare are ideal for everlastings, wreaths and swags, and the leaves and flowers of sweet Marjoram, O. vulgare and O. onites can be included in potpourris. Oregano also has medicinal and cosmetic uses, such as in bath oils and sachets to help relieve aches and stiff joints. The dried flowers are used for fragrance in potpourris and perfumes.

Aromatherapy Kits including the “Is It Marjoram Kit” and the books mentioned can be purchased at by calling 415-564-6785.

Rose, Jeanne. Herbs &Things. Last Gasp. 2002
Rose, Jeanne. Aromatherapy Course – Home & Family. printing 2007
Rose, Jeanne. Hydrosols & Aromatic Waters, 2007. Available from New Age Creations at 415-564-6785

Since 1969, Jeanne Rose has also authored over 20 books including the well-respected 375 Essential Oils & Hydrosols, a complete reference book of plant extracts and hydrosols with phyto-chemical, clinical and botanical indices. Recently, she has produced a workbook on Blending Essential Oils and another transformative book on Natural Perfumery.  Jeanne has a unique and mindful approach as she reaches out into the hearts of thousands of readers through her Jeanne Rose News-Online email forum and seminars.  In addition to teaching through books and her three home-study courses, Jeanne travels throughout the United States and Canada during the Fall and Spring of each year to teach weekend Seminars on various aspects of aromatherapy and herbalism.

All rights reserved 2004, 2006. No part of this article may be used without the prior permission of Jeanne Rose. © Authors Copyright Jeanne Rose, http: •


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