By Hwaa Irfan
Known as oregano (English), bardaoush (Arabic), Kekik otu (Turkish), the herb that has been popularized by pizza, is a member of the Labiatae/Lamiaceae family of which there are over 240 genera and 6,500 species. Many are flowering plants. Each plant family possesses key characteristics that underlie all species within the family, therapeutically. In the case of the Labiatae family e.g. basil, catnip, clary sage, hyssop, lavender, marjoram, melissa, mints, oregano, patchouli, rosemary, sage, and thyme. The Labiatae’s therapeutic qualities include:
- Heat, thus warming physiologically and spiritually.
- Balance yang energy
- An affinity with a particular element/meridian or two
- Many are culinary indicating affinity for the digestive, metabolic, respiratory and venal systems
- Adapt to environmental change well indicating immuno-stimulant properties
- Applicable to conditions of weakness thus increasing vitality
- Used by healers and those who are overly sensitive to the environment and the energy of others
As allopathic medicine continues to find its existence, and profit margin from the earth’s natural resources through patenting, extracts from the Labiatae family include:
- Oxolabdanes for the reduction of intraocular pressure, Hoechst-Roussel Pharmaceuticals Inc.
- Extracts for the treatment of metastasis, Brown University Research Foundation
- Hydrazinocarbonyloxylabdanes for treating cardiac failure, Hoechst-Roussel Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Native to the Mediterranean region, Origanum vulgare, Wild Marjoram is sometimes referred to as oregano. It prefers the calcareous soils of open scrubs, grassland and rocky locations. Used by the ancient Greeks and Romans on graves to wish the departed happiness, Origanum vulgare has a long medicinal history. The ancient Greeks used the herb for both internal and external application, for fomentations, narcotic poisoning, convulsions, and dropsy.
Wild Marjoram, Origanum vulgare, can be found today in Asia, Europe, North Africa, and the U.K. It is a perennial plant, with creeping roots, a signature of journeying from one place/state to another.
The woody stems grow to around a feet in height, branching above to a purplish colour, a signature of the venal system. The ovate leaves alternate on the stem edged with shallow teeth, opposite to each other with many fine hairs on the underside signaturing the life force.
The tiny flowers are profuse in corymbs, with reddish bracts, signifying the blood.The corolla (ring of united petals) is purple, and two-lipped (labia) with a five-toothed calyx, and each flower has four stamens (the male part) and are in bloom from the end of June – August. Propagation is by division of the roots in the autumn.
The sweet Marjoram, Origanum majorana/hortensis, native to the Mediterranean region is more common in Europe as a half-hardy perennial that can withstand cold climates. It is a little gray-green plant that can be grown as an annual. The branches hang down and take root to form a loose, airy clump. The small, rounded leaves have a unique sweet scent when crushed that are often used in pot pourri, sachets and as a source of oil in perfume.
The essential oil is extracted by steam distillation producing 1 Ib. of oil from about 200 lb. of the plant, when about to flower. When buying look out for marjoram oil that is thin in consistency. The oil should be a pale yellow, and the aroma should have a balsamic overtone. At home, the oil should be stored like all oils in a dark glass bottle and kept away from direct light in a cool place to protect the oil from deteriorating.
Please note that the content of the following properties will vary from specie to specie:
- cis-sabinene hydrate
- Carvacrol (not present in the flowering plants)
- Linalyl acetate
- terpinen-4-ol and y-terpineol
Limonene is the source of the smell of the oil. Limonene has anti-cancerous effects, and increases the enzymes of the liver concerned with detoxification. D-limonene has been used clinically to dissolve cholesterol-containing gallstones.
Linalool decreases aggressive behavior, stress, and improves sleep
In a Moroccan study by Elhoussine Derwich and team, the phytochemicals, carvacol, thymol, γ-terpinene, p-cymene, limonene, caryophylene, cymene, ledene, linalool, a-pinene, γ- terpineol, and Germacrene-D were found to be effective antibacterial agents against staphylococcus aureus, bacillus subtilis, listeris monocytogenes, clostridium botulinum, clostridium perfringens, E. Coli, pseudomonas aeruginosa, salmonella typhimurium, campylobacter jejuni, and vibrio cholera.
The scent stimulates the salivary glands, the first stage of digestion. As a Labiatae the warming action calms the emotions, headaches, migraines, insomnia, relieves anxiety, stress and calms hyperactive people. Physiologically the essential oil acts as a muscle relaxant, pain killer, eases rheumatic pains, sprains, strains, spasms, swollen joints and painful muscles.
It soothes the digestive system and helps with cramps, indigestion, constipation and flatulence and has a beneficial action on colds, sinusitis, bronchitis and asthma.
It can diminish sexual desire, and treat delayed/painful/scanty monthly periods as well as menstrual cramps.
Some of the therapeutic properties are as follows:
- Mild tonic
As an analgesic reduces pain associated with cold, fever, inflammation, exertion of muscles, toothache, headache etc.
As a spasmolytic it relieves spasms of the respiratory, digestive, and muscular systems, and eases convulsions, muscle pulls, cramps and spasmodic cholera
As an anaphrodisiac suppresses sexual desires in cases of excess.
As an antiseptic it is good for external and internal wounds
As an antiviral helps to cure viral infections
As an antibacterial kills bacteria from food poisoning, typhoid, malaria, colic, and bacterial infections in the colon, digestive system, and urinary tract
As a carminative useful in cases of gastritis and associated problems of indigestion, nausea, vomiting, chest pains, hypertension and flatulence
As a cephalic keeps the brain healthy
As a cordial it improves circulation and warms up the body useful in cases of cough, phlegm, and also relieves arthritis and rheumatism
As a diaphoretic promotes perspiration which eliminates toxins, sodium salts, excess water from the body, and helps to bring down fevers
As a digestive stimulates secretion of gastric juices, acids and bile Its aroma also
As a diuretic, increases frequency of urination thus removing excess water, sodium, uric acid, bile salts, and other toxic elements. Lowers blood pressure, clean kidneys and reduces fat.
As an emenagogue relieves irregular/delayed/painful menses. It also helps prevent untimely menopause.
As an expectorant relieves catarrh and congestion of nasal tract, larynx, pharynx, bronchi and lungs due to cold and viral infection.
As a fungicidal prevents growth of fungus, helps to clear fungal infections, and related skin diseases. , most of which are caused due to fungal infections. It also helps to cure dysentery.
As a hypotensive lowers blood pressure
As a sedative induces calm, relieves nervous stress and anxiety. It also gives a happy feeling in cases of anger or sadness.
As a stimulant improves peristalsis of the intestines thus aiding digestion
As a stomachic relieves stomach disorders, ulcers, improves flow of bile, gastric juices and acids.
As a nervine strengthens the nervous system
As a vasodilator it widens and relaxes the blood vessels thus easing flow of blood and reducing blood pressure
As a vulnerary promotes quick healing of wounds, external or internal, and protects against infection
For glossary see It All Makes Good Scents!
O. majorana/hortensis essential oil is non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitizing, but as an emenagogue, and spasmolytic should not be used during pregnancy. As a sedative, excess use can cause drowsiness.
The oil can only be used for external use, though some traditions have specific applications for internal use. It is preferable to dilute it in a Carrier Oils at 3 drops per tablespoon.
Circulatory – Poor circulation, hypertension
Digestive – Acidity, colic, cramps, flatulence, indigestion, sluggish, stomach upsets
Gender – Amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, menopause, excess sex drive
Head – Aches
Mind – Physical exhaustion, nervous tension, anxiety, insomnia
Musculoskeletal – Aching muscles, rheumatism
Nervous – Neuralgia
Renal – Fluid retention
Respiratory – Asthma, bronchitis, coughs, headaches, sinusitis
Skin – Chilblains, fungal infections
Diffuser – To aid concentration, clear the mind, lift the spirits, reduce stress,
Vapor therapy – For colds, decision-making, depression, fatigue, stress, lack of energy, low spirits, poor concentration, sluggish digestion, upper respiratory tract infections.
Massage/bath oil – asthma, arthritis, back pain, bronchitis, poor circulation, colds, coughs, detoxification, physical exhaustion, fatigue, headaches, tension, heartburn, insomnia, painful periods, migraine, muscular pains and spasms, rheumatism, sinusitis, anxiety, stress and grief
Neat – a couple of drops on cotton-wool placed relieves toothache, and in the early stages of
measles induces perspiration which ripens the eruptions
Added to a cream/lotion – bruises, chilblains,
The antiseptic effect of lemon oil on the other hand, helps to treat any cuts, boils and minor wounds. The rubefacient action of the oil further helps to sort out cellulite, as well as helping with acne.
Derwich, E. et al. “Phytochemical Analysis and in-vitro Antibacterial Activity, of the Essential Oil of Origanum Vulgare from Morocco.” American-Eurasian Journal of Scientific Research 5 (2): 120-129, 2010. ISSN 1818-6785. http://www.idosi.org/aejsr/5(2)10/6.pdf
“Sujata V. Bhati et al “Effective substance from plants belonging to the Labiatae family.” http://www.google.com/patents/US4088659