AND THOUGH SWEET MARJORAM WILL YOUR GARDEN PAINT
WITH NO GAY COLORS, YET PRESERVE THE PLANT,
WHOSE FRAGRANCE WILL INVITE YOUR KIND REGARD
WHEN HER KNOWN VIRTUES HAVE HER WORTH DECLARED,
ON SIMONIS’ SHORE FAIR VENUS RAISED THE PLANT,
WHICH FROM THE GODDESS’ TOUCH DERIVED HER SCENT.
PAUL DE RAPIN 1661-1725
ORIGANUM MAJORANA, SWEET MARJORAM,MARJORAM, MAJORLANE, MAJORANE,MARJORLAINE,
OREGANO IS BOTANICALLY NAMED ORIGANUM MAJORANA, WHICH TRANSLATES TO THE MAJOR ORIGANUM. THE PLANT THAT ENDS UP IN A LOT OF ITALIAN RED SAUCES HAS BEEN CALLED A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT THINGS AT DIFFERNT POINTS IN HISTROY. SOMETIMES ITS CALLED MARJORY, MARJORAM, OREGANO, ORGANY, TO MENTION A FEW TAGS THIS SAME PLANT HAS BEEN SADDLED. MOST TEXTS A HUNDRED YEARS OLD AND OLDER REFER TO IT AS MARJORIE, SO DONT GET CONFUSED AS YOU READ THIS TEXT IF YOU SEE THE TWO WORDS USED INTERCHANGEABLY, ITS THE SAME PLANT. TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE, THERE ARE A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT MEMBERS OF THE ORGANUM FAMILY. THE WORLD OF PLANTS IS RATHER CONFUSING AND CONSIDER THIS YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO DISCOVER THIS. I SUSPECT THE PLANT HAS CALLED ITSELF THE SAME THING SINCE ANTIQUITY, IF PLANTS BOTHER NAMING THEMSELVES. MOST CONFUSION IN PLANT ARISES WHEN IT COMES TO WHAT WE CALL THEM.
TO GET THIS MAYHEM STARTED LETS LOOK AT THE WORD ORGANUM. THE WORD IS DERIVED FROM TWO GREEK WORDS, HOROS AND GANOS. HOROS MEANS HILL AND GANOS DECORATION. THE COMBIATION COMES TO HILL DECORATION. YOU SEE, THOSE STRANGE BOTANICAL NAMES ALL MEAN SOMETHING REAL BASIC. OREGANO GROWS WILD ON THE HILLS AROUND THE MEDITERANEAN AND SOME HILLS ARE QUITE LITERALLY COVERED , EVERY SQUARE INCH, WITH A CARPET OF OREGANO. AS WITH MOST HERBS BEES FEEDING ON THESE HILLS OF OREGANO PRODUCE A FANTASTIC HONEY THAT IS MUCH ACCLAIMED FOR ITS CLARITY AND RICHNESS.
THERE IS RECORD OF OREGANO ARRIVING IN ENGLAND FROM THE CONTINENT IN THE 13TH CENTURY. IT WAS A VERY IMPORTANT MEDECINAL AND CULINARY HERB LONG BEFORE THIS MOMENT IN ENGLAND . THERE IS ACTUALLY AN ITALIAN CITY CALLED MAJORI, WITH OUR FRIEND THE OREGANO AS CENTERPEICE IN THE COAT OF ARMS.
IT WAS USED TO SCENT THE AIR AND IN THE CLOSETS AS A MOTH BALL AGENT.
GERARD SAYS THAT THE BEST TIME TO PICK OREGANO FOR MEDICAL USE IS WHEN IT IS IN FLOWER. THE NICEST PART OF HAVING OREGANO IN THE GARDEN IS THAT ITS EVERGREEN AND PROVIDES THE COOK WITH A YEAR ROUND SUPPLY OF FRESH OREGANO. FRESH OREGANO IS MUCH NICER TO WORK WITH THAN THE DRIED. THE FLAVOR IS M
UCH MORE SUBTLE AND BELNDS MORE NICELY INTO AN HERB MIXTURE. I FIND DRIED OREGANO TO OVER POWERING FOR MOST DISHES , WHEREAS THE FRESH IS MUCH MORE SOCIAL.
ONE USE OF OREGANO THAT HAS FALLEN INTO DISUSE IS A OREGANO COUGH DROP. THE LEAVES AND FLOWERS OF THE HERBS ARE GROUND INTO A FINE POWDER AND MIXED WITH HONEY. THIS MIXTURE IS THEN COOKED DOWN TO THE POINT THE MIXTURE TURNS TO HARD CANDY AND CAN BE MADE INTO DROP;LETS. THESE SUCKERS ARE VERY EFFECTIVE IN RELIEVING THE SYMPTOMS OF A CHEST COLD.
AS TO GROWING OREGANO, IT HAPPENS TO BE ONE OF HTE EASIER HERBS TO WOK WITH. A LOW SPREADING PERENIAL , OREGANO STAYS EVER GREEN IN MOST OF HTE COUNTRY, THE EXCEPTIONS BEING THE EXTREME NORTH.
IT TAKES AN AVERAGE SOIL AND LIKES A FULL DAYS SUN. THE PLANT GROWS TO GREAT PROPORTIONS IN THE MIDDLE SUMMER IN ITS ATTEMPT TO BLOOM. IF YOU WANT TO CUT OREGANO TO DRY FOR WINTER USE, THE TIME TO DO THIS IS AS THE SHOOTS GROW AND GAIN SOME SIZE AND BEFORE FLOWERING OCCURS. I JUST CLIP THE WHOLE PLANT BACK TO THREE INCHES ABOVE THE GROUND AND CHOP. THE PLANT WILL SHOOT UP AGAIN QUICKLY.
GERARD MAKES AN INTERESTING NOTE ABOUT WATERING OREGANO,” THEY ARE TO BE WATERED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY , WHEN THE SUNNE SHINNETH HOTTEST, EVEN AS BASILL SHOULD BE, AND NOT IN THE EVENING NOR MORNING, AS MOST PLANTS ARE. I HAVE FOUND ALL OF GERARDS GARDEN COMMENTS VERY USEFUL,THIS ONE INCLUDED.
GERARD GOES ON TO SAY THAT OREGANO BRINGS DOWN URINE AND THE MONTHLY CURSES.
THE GREEKS FELT THAT IF OREGANO APPEARED ON THE GRAVE, IT AUGURED HAPPINESS FOR THE DEPARTED SPIRIT.
DONT FORGET TO MENTION THE FREEZE FACTOR.
Chapter from Healing Plants of the Bible
Origanum maru or Origanum maru var aegypticum
Exodus 12:22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop , and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason, and none of you shall for out oat the door of his house until the morning.
Numbers 19:6 And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop , and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of heifer.
I Kings 4:33 And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of even the wall:
Psalms 51:7 Purge me with hyssop , and I shall be clean, wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Hebrews 9:19 He took the blood of calves and of goats, with water and scarlet wool, and hyssop , and sprinkled both the book, and the people.
In Exodus, we find the Egyptians having a hard time taking the Hebrew God seriously. In response, the Hebrew God has to play hard ball. He warns the Egyptians he will strike down their first born males if they do not start listening. This was a nasty threat in a society where the first son meant everything. God tells the Israelites to mark their doors with blood and the angel of death would fly on by, leaving the first born Israelites unmolested. The Bible is specific, it doesn’t say take any old branch and flick some blood on the door. The direction was take”ezzob” and use it to do the splattering.
Our mistranslator friend has visited these lines. There he was, sitting in England and he says to himself, what plant sounds like ezzob? Hyssop, that sounds about the same, that must be it. They must have used hyssop to do the splattering. Wrong. Unless the angels of death travelled to Europe, picked hyssop, and delivered to the Israelites in Egypt, the Israelites would not have used hyssop for the marking manoeuvre. There was no hyssop in Egypt at the time of the captivity.
Moreover, in the Bible we read that the plant in question liked to grow in amidst rocks and stones and even grew out of cracks in walls. Take it from this botanist, Hyssopus officinalis does not live in walls. Its not a rugged plant and the one mentioned here is clearly a tough plant. Even if hyssop grew in Egypt at that time, it does not fit the description of the plant used.
Ok, so what was it? It was origanum maru, a oregano relation well known to the Israelites and the Egyptians. In Leviticus 14:4 we read that this plant was used to purify ritually impure people, places, and things., “Then shall the priest command to the take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop.” What you have here is the shopping list of a priest on the way to do a ritually cleansing. Once an impure person, say a leper, was declared healed, he had to undergo a ritual purification. Before he could run to society.
Leprosy, and most other infectious diseases, were dealt with severely in the ancient world. People with infectious diseases were quarantined and ostracized. Once they were found to be well, the priests were called in to perform rituals to give them a clean bill of health. An ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure, so to speak. It is interesting to note that origanum was used along with cedar, both antiseptic plants, to cleanse the houses of lepers. You don’t even want to know what happens to the poor little birds. I will give you a hint, one makes it and the other doesn’t. Read your Bible for the gory details.
Oregano belongs to the Labiatae family which includes mint, thyme, rosemary, and sage. There are several oregano species, all were used in medicine. One of the common characteristics of this family is scent, and scent means volatile oils. Volatile oils are always antiseptic and this is the case with oregano. The oregano tribe of plants contain a mixture of components in their volatile oils, the ingredients include thymol, carvacrol, beta-bisobolene, caryophyllene, and borneol. The various oregano plants have similar chemical constituents and were used interchangeably in the ancient world.
There are many more ingredients in their volatile oils, but we don’t have to go past thymol to see how the plant works as a disinfectant. Basically, thymol wipes out just about any bacteria it comes across. Thymol containing plants have been burned since antiquity in sick rooms, jails, and places of worship as a means of keeping the spread of disease down. They may not have known that bacteria caused disease, but they did know that if you burned certain plants, disease did not spread from one person to the next. We are talking about prehistoric disinfectant spray.
All of the references in the Bible to this plant relate in some way to making things ritually clean. It was always used as a cleansing plant. The plant was used in rites of spiritual as well as personal cleansing. Loaded with volatile oils, we can see why it was used to clean people and their material goods when infectious disease had been present. It was also used to help people with infectious diseases recover, what the Israelites didn’t know was that it killed bacteria, on a door handle or in the patient. Don’t forget, volatile oils are naturally antiseptic.
Pliny mentions this plant and called it amaracus(majorana), onitin and prasion. Lets have a look at what Arabian physicians have to say about an oregano found growing in their midst. These physicians used the dry plant as an incense to destroy infectious disease in the air and in general as an antiseptic disinfection. It was used for colds, coughs, and headache. A tea was made of it to treat diarrhoea and many painful digestive conditions associated with cramping. It was used to disinfect wounds and as a treatment to prevent infection spreading deeper into the tissue. We do not find any surprises here.
The essential oil of oregano has been proven to be spasmolytic, expectorant, diuretic,and choleretic. The fact that the Arabian physicians suggest their oregano for bronchitis makes sense. If you have bronchitis, you tend to have lots of mucous down the pipes and spasms in the pipes. The plant and its oil can take care of both problems, they relieve the spasms and move the mucous out of the windpipes. The Arabians go onto to say that the plant is diuretic, meaning it gets the kidneys pumping, riding the body of unnecessary fluid. They also say that it will improve digestion. Both of these actions have been proven. Choleretic means it improves the delivery of bile to the small intestine, which does aid in digestion. The three actions attributed to the plant by the Arabian physicians check out in the lab.
Gerard had an incredibly similar list of uses to add to the Arabian Physicians recommendations. Again we see it being used as a decongestant and a digestive stimulant. Like the Israelites, Gerard mentions that it was used to heal skin sores.
Decongestant: “It is profitably used in a looch, or a medicine to be licked,against an old cough and the stuffing of the lungs.”
Heals skin: “It healeth scabs, itches,and scurvinesse, being used in bathes, and it taketh away the bad colour which commeth of the yellow jaundice.”
Digestive aid: “The decoction looseth the belly and voideth choler.”
Joe Nasr tells us its use in Lebanon, “It is used extensively in cooking to stimulate healthy digestion. It factors into the Lebanese breakfast. It is powdered and mixed with sumach powder, sesame seeds, salt and olive oil and spread over bread dough which is then baked. This mixture of spices is called Szarta and the bread coated with it is breakfast in Lebanon. The infusions are used to disinfect the lungs, and to treat infective coughs and bronchitis. It is used as an inhalation with a bit of eucalyptus to clear the respiratory passages. For this use it s put in a pot of boiling water and the vapours are inhaled.”
Oregano is an easy to find herb and one that can be safely used at home. The oregano used by the Israelites was O.maru, the oregano found at the grocery store is O.officinalis. They are quite similar and bearing in mind O.maru is not available, close will have to do. Oregano tea is perhaps the easiest way to use this biblical medicine. The tea is mild to the taste buds and can be used in digestive upset, cramps, and of course coughs and colds.
If you want to make a relaxing oil to be used in your stress reduction program, you have the plant you need at your finger tips. Buy several bunches of fresh oregano at the market. Chop enough oregano to have two cups of chopped herb. Pour two cups of virgin olive oil over these leaves. Store this mess in a sealed jar and shake occasionally for a month. After the month has passed, strain the leaves out and keep the oil. Have someone rub you down with this oil after you have had a hard day, or rub yourself down with it. Chemicals contained in the plant melt spasms. If you feel like your body is one giant spasm after a killer modern day, by all means take advantage of this herb. You might smell like a pizza, but you will feel great.