Origanum vulgare (L)
Synonyms: mountain mint, oregano, origano, winter marjoram, wintersweet
Description: Origanum is a perennial plant that grows wild in the Mediterranean region and in Asia. Its creeping rootstock produces a square, downy, purplish stem with opposite, ovate leaves that are dotted with small depressions. Purple, two-lipped flowers grow in terminal clusters from July to October. It is propagated by division of the roots in the autumn.
Parts used: Aerial parts, oil.
Collection: early July, as soon as it flowers
Constituents: essential oil with thymol and carvacrol, acids, tannins, bitter principle
Actions: stimulant, diaphoretic, antiseptic, expectorant, emmenagogue, rubefacient, antispasmodic, calmative, stomachic, carminative, tonic
Indications: common cold, dyspepsia, colic, dysmenorrhoea
Therapeutics and Pharmacology: As a stimulating diaphoretic, Origanum is often used in the treatment of colds and influenza. An infusion of the fresh herb is of benefit for an upset stomach and indigestion, headache, colic and nervous complaints as well as for coughs, whooping cough and other respiratory ailments. It also helps to relieve menstrual cramps and makes a calming and tonic bath additive. An infusion of the flowers is said to prevent seasickness and to have a calming effect. Origanum can be used as a mouthwash for ulcers and inflammation of the throat, or it may be used externally for infected cuts and wounds. Tension headaches may be relieved by an infusion or by rubbing the temples with oil of marjoram. The oil may also be rubbed into areas of muscular and rheumatic pain, and topically for toothache. A lotion will relieve stings and bites. The bruised leaves placed in a pillowcase may be helpful for insomnia.
Preparation and Dosage:
Regulatory Status: GSL
Infusion: for internal use, pour a cup of boiling water onto a teaspoon of the herb and infuse for 10-15 minutes; drink three times a day.
Mouthwash: pour half a litre of boiling water onto 2 tablespoons of the herb; infuse, covered, for ten minutes and gargle for 10-15 minutes three or four times a day.
Tincture: 1-2ml three times a day.
Additional Comments: The name Origanum is derived from two Greek words - oros (mountain) and ganos (joy). The Greeks used it as a remedy for narcotic poisoning, convulsions and dropsy. If marjoram grew on a grave it ensured the happiness of the departed. Both the Greeks and the Romans crowned young couples with marjoram. Nowadays, it is almost always used as a culinary flavouring rather than a medicine. The flowering tops yield a reddish-brown dye and before the introduction of hops they were used in brewing. Wooden furniture was traditionally rubbed with the leaves to impart a pleasant fragrance.
Grieve, M. 1931 A Modern Herbal, (ed. C.F. Leyel 1985), London.
Hoffmann, D. 1990 The New Holistic Herbal, Second Edition, Element, Shaftesbury.
Lust, J. 1990 The Herb Book, Bantam, London.
Weiss, R.F. 1991 Herbal Medicine, Beaconsfield Arcanum, Beaconsfield.
Wren, R.C. 1988 Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, C.W.Daniel, Saffron Walden.
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Last updated 27th November 2014 ęPurple Sage Botanicals