161. Origanum Vulgare, Linn.—Common Wild Marjoram.
Sex. Syst. Didynamia, Gymnospermia.
(Herb, E.—Oleum ex herba.)
History.—Fraas [Synops. Plant. Fl. Classicae, 1845.] is of opinion that this plant is the ορίγανον μέλαν of Theophrastus, [Hist. Plant, lib. vi. cap. 2.] the αγρορίγανοσ of Dioscorides.[Lib. iii. cap. 34.]
Botany. Gen. Char.— Calyx ovate-campanulate, nearly 13-nerved, 5-toothed or 2-lipped, the upper lip entire or 3-toothed, the inferior lip 2-toothed, truncated or altogether deficient, the calyx being then obcompressed-flat. Tube of the corolla inclosed or exserted, the upper lip emarginate or slightly 2-cleft, the lower lip longer, spreading, 3-cleft. Stamens 4, ascending or straggling at the apex, or distant at the base; anthers with 6 distinct diverging or straggling cells. Lobes of the style acute, the posterior one usually shorter. Floral leaves bract-like. Flowers in spikes (Bentham).
Sp. Char.—Erect, villous. Leaves petiolate, broad-ovate, obtuse, subserrate broad-rounded at the base, green on both sides. Spikes oblong or cylindrical clustered in corymbose panicles. Bracts (floral leaves) ovate, obtuse, coloured, (commonly glandless), half as long again as the calyx (Bentham).—Creeping-rooted. Flowers light purple.
Hab.—In bushy places, on a limestone and gravelly soil. Indigenous. A native of several parts of Europe; also of Asia. Flowers in July and August.
Properties.—The whole herb (herba origani) is officinal. It has a peculiar aromatic odour, and a warm pungent taste. Sesquichloride of iron produces a green colour (tannate of iron) with the cold infusion of origanum.
Composition.—Volatile oil, resin?, tannic acid, a bitter principle, and woody fibre, are the principal constituents of this plant.
Physiological Effects.—Stimulant and carminative, like the other labiate plants.
Uses.—Principally employed to yield the volatile oil. The dried leaves have been used as a substitute for China tea. [Murray, App. Med. vol. ii. p. 173.] The infusion of origanum has been used in chronic cough, asthma, and amenorrhcea.
OLEUM ORIGANI, E. [U. S.]; Oil of Common Marjoram.—(Obtained by submitting the herb to distillation with common water.)—The average produce of essential oil from the herb is one pound from two hundred weight; but it varies exceedingly with the season and culture of the plant. [Brande, Dict. Mat. Med. p. 401.] According to Dr. Kane, its sp. gr. is 0.867, its boiling point 354° F.; and its composition C50H40O.
It is a powerful acrid and stimulant; and is applied to carious teeth by means of lint or cotton, to relieve toothache. Mixed with olive oil, it is frequently employed as a stimulating liniment against alopecia or baldness, rheumatic or paralytic affections, sprains, bruises, &c.
The red volatile oil, usually sold in the shops as oleum origani or oil of thyme, is obtained from Thymus vulgaris, and is imported from the south of France (see Thymus vulgaris).