Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae), Origanum
J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed
Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected
Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone.
Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.
Marjoram, Origanum majorana L., is a
tender perennial herb native to North Africa and southwest Asia
and naturalized in southern Europe. Formerly classified as Majorana
hortensis Moench. and also sweet or knotted marjoram, the
plant reaches a height of 0.5 meters and has small, gray-green,
ovate leaves, pink or purple flowers, and erect, glabrous to tomentose
stems. Marjoram is cultivated in France, Greece, Hungary, the
United States, Egypt, and several other Mediterranean countries.
The reported life zone of marjoram is 6 to
288Cdeg;C with an annual precipitation of 0.5 to 2.7 meters and a soil
pH of 4.9 to 8.7 (4.1-31). The plant is adapted to well-drained,
fertile loam soils. The cold-sensitive plant cannot survive
northern climates. For cultivation, marjoram is both seeded directly
and transplanted into fields. Harvesting is generally accomplished
at full bloom and can be done two or three times per year, depending
upon the growing region. Plant material is often dried in drying
sheds to avoid direct sunlight and thus preserve the green color
and the aroma.
The essential oil obtained by steam distillation
contains terpen-4-ol, -terpinene, -terpineol,
-terpinene, cis-sabinene hydrate, linalool, and
several other compounds (1.5-51, 1.5-142). Dried marjoram,
imported into the United States has been reported to contain thymol
and carvacrol (6.4-101). Marjoram seeds contain about 37
percent fixed oil (6.1-60). An oleoresin is also available.
The highly aromatic leaves and flowering tops
are used fresh, dried, and ground to flavor salads, stews, stuffings,
soups, eggs, vegetables, fish, meat, and sausages. Fresh leaves
are added to vinegars, and seeds are added to confections. Marjoram
has been used in bouquet garni. Leaves and flowering tops are
used in sachets and potpourris (14.1-16). Oil is used in
place of plant material and in perfumes and cosmetics. The plant
has been noted to exhibit antioxidant and antifungal properties
(1.8-8, 6.4-104, 11.1-126). Marjoram is sometimes
grown as an ornamental plant.
As a medicinal plant, marjoram has traditionally
been used as a stimulant and tonic. As a folk remedy it has been
used against asthma, indigestion, headache, rheumatism, and toothache.
Marjoram has been employed in the treatment of cancer (14.1-16).
The plant exhibits some antifungal activity (11.1-126).
There are a wide range of ecotypes and chemotypes
of marjoram, and the plant is often confused with other Origanum
species. Pot marjoram, Origanum onites L., is a short perennial
with papillose, hirsute stems, ovate leaves, and white or purple
flowers. Formerly classified as Majorana onites (L.) Benth.,
this plant is native to southeast Europe, Turkey, and Syria. Wild
marjoram refers to several plants, generally of Origanum
species that are collected and used as oregano. Thymus mastichina
L., a native of Spain and North Africa, is the source of the an
essential oil known as Spanish wild marjoram oil (14.1-8).
Marjoram and pot marjoram are both generally
recognized as safe for human consumption as natural flavorings/seasonings,
and marjoram is generally recognized as safe as an extract/essential
oil (21 CFR sections 182.10, 182.20 ).
[Note: References listed above in parentheses
can be found in full in the original reference].
Last modified 6-Dec-1997