Used with permission from Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet by Tonia Reinhard, $24.95 paperback, Firefly Books, 2010. The following excerpt can be found on Page 159.
• Origanum majorana Sweet Marjoram
• Origanum onites Pot Marjoram
• Origanum vulgare Oregano
In a Nutshell
ORIGIN: Oregano: the Mediterranean to central Europe; sweet marjoram: North Africa and southwest Asia; pot marjoram: the Mediterranean
SEASON: Summer to autumn
WHY THEY'RE SUPER: High in vitamin K; good source of fiber, calcium, iron, and manganese; contain antioxidant phenols, flavonoids, and carvacrol
GROWING AT HOME: Easy to grow
What’s in a Serving of Dried Marjoram/Oregano(2 teaspoons/3.6 grams)
CALORIES: 10 (40 kJ)
PROTEIN: 0.4 grams
TOTAL FAT: 0.2 grams
SATURATED FAT: 0 grams
CARBOHYDRATES: 2.4 grams
FIBER: 1.6 grams
Sweet marjoram, pot marjoram, and oregano are the best known of the 36 species belonging to the genus Origanum. By far the most widespread and best known is oregano, now inextricably linked with Italian foods such as pasta sauces and pizza. Native to Europe, it was, however, originally used more widely as a medicinal herb. Spanish explorers in what is now Oregon may have mistakenly conferred its name after spying an aromatic herb resembling oregano on the coastline. Marjoram is closely associated with England and cottage gardens, but it was not introduced to England until 1573, when it was brought from Portugal. As its name implies, sweet marjoram has a sweet scent (it is sometimes incorporated in perfumes) and a sweet flavor, milder than oregano. Pot marjoram, which originated in the Mediterranean region, has a stronger flavor, more akin to oregano; it is widely used in Turkish cuisine. Marjoram and oregano are an excellent source of vitamin K, and a good source of fiber, calcium, iron, and manganese. They also contain antioxidants such as henols, flavonoids, and carvacrol.
The Healthy Evidence
A 2005 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported on the antioxidants contained in oregano. The plant’s essential oils were tested for their ability to inhibit specific pathogenic bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes, and were found to be highly effective in suppressing its growth. In addition, the compounds exhibited antioxidant functions. A 2010 study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism reported that a compound found in both marjoram and oregano, carvacrol, “had an unprecedented capacity” to affect an important immune system marker; the researchers concluded that this may help prevent inflammation and protect against arthritis.
Making the Most of Oregano and Marjoram
The best way to maximize the benefits of these herbs is to use them in both fresh and dried forms. Incorporate them in tomato sauces and pizza toppings, or try them fresh in salads. Dried oregano and marjoram can also be used to add antioxidants and flavor to vegetables and roasted meats.