Updated: Sep 11
And tho’ Sweet Marjoram will your garden paint
With no gay colours, yet preserve the plant,
Whose fragrance will invite your kind regard,
When her known virtues have her worth declared:
On Simois’ shore fair Venus raised the plant,
Which from the goddess’ touch derived her scent.
Origanum vulgare : Oregano : Wild Marjoram
The etymology of Origanum may be broken into two Greek words: oros (mountain) & ganos (joy) ~ thus named for how joyous it looked growing upon the hillocks.
Though more often referred to as Oregano, another common name & older one at that, is Wild Marjoram. If you are looking through old herbals, Maude Grieve's for instance, for a monograph on Oregano, check under Marjoram, Wild first.
In Greece, where Oregano waves upon the hillsides & where much of the medicinal & culinary uses with Oregano seem to originate, this lovely mint family member is called, Amarkos:
The origin of Marjoram is related by the Greeks as follows: —A young man named Amaracus was employed in the household of Cinyras, King of Cyprus: one day, when carrying a vase containing perfumes, he unfortunately let it fall, & was so frightened at the mishap that he lost all consciousness, & became metamorphosed into an odoriferous herb called at first Sampsuchon,& afterwards Amarakos.
-- Richard Folkard
We have been growing Wild Marjoram in the gardens for the past few years mostly for culinary purposes, for the pollinators who flock to the flowers, & for its generous, subtle beauty. But since the start of August, my eye & hands have been drawn more & more towards this beautiful, joyous little plant.
Occasionally, Wild Marjoram will make an appearance in an "unsick tisane" at our home. Which is to say, I will always make a batch of tisane before cold/flu season comes around because when I am under the weather, I am the worst patient! It helps to already have a blend you can drowsily, feverishly steep when in the throes of some illness or another. Typically my "unsick tisanes" will contain some combination of Bee balm, Nettles, Goldenrod, Boneset, Oregano, Sage, Marshmallow leaves, Cardamom, & Calendula. It really depends on what I have in my apothecary & garden each year.
Warming, circulating, & relaxing Oregano is perfect for many scenarios beyond the sickbed. Traditionally it has been used as a hair rinse, woven into wreaths, used to wash homes & furniture, even as a dye. Wild Marjoram, was also one of the most revered herbs for love ceremonies & magic ~ appearing in weddings & love potions alike.
I also loved reading this from Gail Faith Edwards, who has a fantastic monograph on Oregano: Marjoram stimulates clairvoyance in matters of the heart.
This year I have felt called to harvest extra to dry both for culinary recipes & tisanes. I also recently made a tincture & will be making an oxymel soon. I am looking forward to getting more aquainted with this beautiful plant & experimenting with the many ways it can be called upon in the medicine cabinet.
Below is my simple Wild Marjoram Oxymel recipe:
• Fresh, washed & coarsely chopped Wild Marjoram
• Raw, Apple Cider Vinegar (though other vinegars may also used)
• Raw, local honey
• A glass jar with airtight lid
• Wax/parchment paper
1. Place plant matter in jar, filling it all of the way if using fresh plant (or filling it about ⅓ - ½ of the way)
2. Fill jar with equal parts honey : vinegar (or 75% vinegar : 25% honey, for a less sweet oxymel)
3. Stir with chopsticks or a wooden spoon
4. Cap with airtight lid & parchment/wax paper
5. Allow to macerate in cool, dark place for 2 week up to one month, shaking when you remember
6. Strain your vinegar & pour it into a clean jar or bottle
7. Store in cool, dark place until needed + enjoy as is or added into water, tisanes, salad dressings, or other culinary recipes that call for vinegar