Wild marjoram is a beautiful herb which grows throughout Europe, though it is native to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia. Just to confuse you, wild marjoram, Origanum vulgare, is actually oregano and is different, though closely related to pot or sweet marjoram, Origanum majorana. Part of the mint family, or Lamiaceae, it has oppposite leaves and lovely purple flowers which grow in terminal clusters throughout July and August.
Oregano is generally considered a culinary herb but, in fact, it has a long history of medicinal use as well. In A Modern Herbal, Mrs Grieves tells us, “Marjoram has a very ancient medical reputation. The Greeks used it extensively, both internally and externally for fomentations. It was a remedy for narcotic poisons, convulsions and dropsy. Among the Greeks, if Marjoram grew on a grave, it augured the happiness of the departed, and among both the Greeks and Romans, it was the custom to crown young couples with Marjoram.”
High in flavonoids, oregano is prized as an antioxidant and is therefore useful to include in the diet on a regular basis. It is also highly antimicrobial and it was used primarily as an antiseptic by Hippocrates who employed it in the treatment of sore throats, respiratory ailments and digestive upsets. In more recent years it has been found to be active against MRSA, having more impressive results than many of the commonly used drugs. The essential oil is particularly useful and nurses and doctors could benefit from adding it to handwashes instead of the antibacterial soaps commonly used which actually cause the creation of further resistant strains of bacteria. A strong infusion can be used to help disinfect wounds or as a mouthwash, helping to heal ulcers and keep gums healthy.
It is high in thymol, also found in thyme, which has expectorant properties making an infusion of oregano a useful remedy for respiratory problems such as unproductive coughs or congestion when used as a tea or steam inhalation. It is also a useful digestive remedy – being highly aromatic it helps to dispel gas and soothe intestinal spasm.
Like sweet marjoram, it’s also useful for aches and pains. The leaves can be mashed with a little hot water to make a poultice which is then laid on the problem area and secured with bandages, or alternatively, use a compress made from a cloth soaked in the infusion. The infusion can also be added to the bath to ease rheumatic pains and muscular stiffness. I harvested enough of this lovely wild marjoram to make an infused oil which I did using the heat method. It smelt so yummy I kept half for use in salad dressings and the other half will be used in infused oil muscle rubs and salves for achy joints.
Wild marjoram is a joy to see growing. It is vibrant, healthful and vital and it helps us to be so too.