Marjoram is also known in Latin as Origanum vulgare, Origanum onites or Origanum marjorana. The three varieties normally grown are 'wild marjoram' (common oregano), pot marjoram and sweet or knotted marjoram.
 Marjoram or Oregano ???
Marjoram and Oregano are often confused with each other. This is compounded even by experts, nurseries and shops that sell culinary herbs.
At the bottom of this seemingly unending confusion is the fact that Oregano is the larger group of plants to which marjoram also belongs. Thus all marjoram is oregano but not all oregano plants are marjoram. Both these plants belong to the same family or genus, origanum.
The history of botanical classification is on part to blame for this tangle. Marjoram orinally had its own family or genus which has now been amalgamated with that of oregano ie origanum. The latest classification deems that oregano is the genus and marjoram, or sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana) is only one of over fifty kinds of oregano listed under origanum.
Common or household names do their little bit to confuse the issue! Pot marjoram (Origanum onites) is another variety od marjoram but is also called Cretan oregano because it originated in Crete.
Plants that have no relationship with either marjoram or oregano are also called so. A Puerto Rican coleus (Coleus anboinicus) is sometimes sold as oregano. This is used in a traditional Cuban seasoning in combination with bay leaf and celery. Spanish Thymus nummularius, and Mexican Lippia graveolens are sold and used in place of oregano. And Origanum vulgare, or common oregano is also called wild marjoram!
Both Marjoram and Oregano belong to the mint family. They are similar in appearance. Marjoram is more compact, has soft grey green, oval leaves which smaller than oregano leaves. Oregano leaves are more coarse. The flowers differ in that oregano flowers are pinkish-purple while marjoram flowers are white.
 History and Provenance
Marjoram has been used as a healing herb by the Greeks. It was used in fomentations or hot packs and also as a antidote for poisons.
Greek tradition mentioned that marjoram growing on a grave ensured the happiness of the person buried in it. Aphrodite is supposed to have created marjoram as a symbol of happiness. and this symbolism lead it to be used to crown young couples with it.
In the Middle Ages sweet marjoram was used by women to put in posies, sachets and bath water. It was also added to furniture polish and used on oak furniture.
 Culinary usage
As in most herbs marjoram leaves are best used fresh. Dried leaves have a stronger flavour. Since this is subtle and easily lost in the cooking process, the herb should be added towards the end of the preparation of the dish.
The taste of marjoram is reminiscent of mint and citrus. It is excellent in salad dressings, seafood sauces, soups, and poultry, cheese, tomato, bean or egg dishes. Marjoram is used in French, English or German cooking. It is a part of a German spice mixture for sausage, used in English cooking with goose and chestnuts and in French cooking in the delightful herb amalgam herbes de Provence.
 Therapeutic Uses
Marjoram is used as a digestive aid, a throat and respiratory tonic , a mild pain reliever and a relaxant.
A USDA analysis showed that both marjoram and oregano have the highest amount of antioxidants. Refer to What is Marjoram?
 Cosmetic, beauty and other uses
Marjoram is also used personal cosmetic products like cream, soaps, body lotion, washes, and shaving gel.
The effects of marjoram essential oil in aromatherapy are said to be soothing and warming. It is said to help with a whole host of disorders like arthritis ,bronchitis, bruises ,colic ,constipation ,digestive problems ,flatulence,insomnia ,muscle, aches and pains, PMS symptoms, rheumatism, sinusitis and sprains.
Marjoram should not be used by pregnant women since it has anti-spasmodic properties and may harm the foetus.
 Growing at Home
Marjoram is a Mediterranean plant and requires the full sun, light, chalky, well-drained soils and limited manuring.
Marjoram and oregano seedlings can be watered lightly to start with but after they take, they dont need much watering and survive drought well.The plant dies down in the cold but resurfaces when the weather warms up again. The roots continue to survive underground.
The herb should be used before the plant flowers or the flowers should be culled. This is necessary, since the herb tastes bitter after it flowers.
Both herbs are excellent container plants which can be grown from seed quite easily. The plants should be manured only twice in the growing season, and watered only when the soil dries. Anyover watering or feeding will lead to a loss of leaf flavour.
Wild marjoram is best as a dried herb. The leaves may be picked when the waether is dry. The leaves may then be dried and kept in an airtight container for upto three months. Complete drying is necessary in order to prevent the growth of fungus.
Sweet or knotted marjoram should be used fresh.
- Larousse Gastronomique
- The Book of Ingredients: Philip Dowell and Adrian Bailey; Penguin/ Mermaid Books 1993
- The Complete Book of Herbs; A practical guide to growing and using herbs: Lesley Bremness: Dorling Kindersley 1988
- Marjoram, Wild
- Oregano...or is it Marjoram?
Find out about Growing Marjoram and Oregano