Marjoram, Oregano and Thyme –
Name Changes and Therapeutics©
Scent characteristics by
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
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
Common Name,Latin binomial,
Chemistry, Medicinal Uses and Other Information]
QUALITIES USE THE
BASIC 7 VOCABULARY OF ODOR KIT©
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,
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
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.
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,
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
Kit (Mystery Oils Unraveled) to help one to learn the difference
between the Oregano, Thyme and Marjoram 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.
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%.
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.
Dr. Arthur O. Tucker:
“It’s best to think of Oregano as a flavor rather than a genus or
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..
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
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
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
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
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
Properties (by IG=ingestion or IN=inhalation or AP=application):
Diuretic, digestive, antispasmodic, and carminative.
Powerful anaphrodisiac, calmative, antitussive (cools cough),
Analgesic, antispasmodic, vasodilator, vaginal tonic,
vulnerary, antiseptic, antibiotic, anti-infectious, and emmenagogue.
Physical Uses & How used (IG
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
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
Properties of the
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
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
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
mentioned can be purchased at
Herbs &Things. Last Gasp. 2002
Rose, Jeanne. Aromatherapy Course – Home & Family. printing 2007
Hydrosols & Aromatic Waters, 2007. Available from New
Age Creations at 415-564-6785
Jeanne Rose has also authored over 20 books including the
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: www.jeannerose.net •