Origanum. Wild Marjoram. Marjolaine sauvage, Fr. Wilder Majoran (Meiran), G.—Two species of Origanum (Fam. Labiatae) have been used in medicine. O. majorana L., or sweet marjoram, and O. vulgare L., or common marjoram. The former grows wild in Portugal and Andalusia, and is cultivated as a garden herb in other parts of Europe and in the United States. Some authors, however, consider O. majoranoides Willd., which is a native of Barbary, and closely allied to O. majorana, as the type of the sweet marjoram of our gardens. This is by others considered to be simply a form of O. vulgare L. Sweet marjoram has a pleasant odor, and a warm, aromatic, bitterish taste, which it imparts to water and alcohol. By distillation with water it yields a volatile oil. It is tonic and gently excitant, but is used more as a condiment than as a medicine. In domestic practice its infusion is employed to hasten the tardy eruption in measles and other exanthematous diseases.
The plant is a native of Europe and America. In this country it grows along the roadsides, and in dry, stony fields and woods, from Pennsylvania to Virginia, and is in flower from June to October; but is not very abundant, and is seldom collected for use.
Sweet marjoram imported during recent years from Europe is alleged to be adulterated by mixing with it broken fragments of leaflets of the poisonous coriaria myrtifolia.
Two kinds of oil of origanum are now known commercially: the Trieste oil, of dark color and high specific gravity, and the Smyrna oil, of lighter color, lower specific gravity, and milder taste. The former contains from 60 to 85 per cent. of carvacrol, C10H14O, a trace of another phenol, and cymene, C10H14. The latter contains from 25 to 60 per cent. of carvacrol and, in addition, linalool and cymene. The specific gravity of the Trieste oil ranges from 0.94 to 0.98, while that of the Smyrna oil is from 0.915 to 0.945. (Gildemeister and Hoffmann, Aetherische Oele, pp. 813, 814; see also Schim. Rep., 1913, 76.)
The French oil of marjoram is said to be distilled from Clinopodium Nepeta (L.) Kze. (Calamintha Nepeta Link. and Hoffm.). It is colorless, but gradually turns yellow on exposure. It is neutral in reaction, sp. gr. 0.904 at 16° C. (60.8° F.), and optical rotation [a]p =+18° 39' in chloroform solution. On fractionating, three constituents were isolated, laevo-pinene, calaminthone, and pulegone. Calaminthone is a new ketone, C10H16O. (See P. J., March, 1903.)
Origanum floribundum, of Algeria, yields largely of a volatile oil containing 25 per cent. of thymol. (P. J., Feb., 1903.)