Origanum majorana
Tales from the Apothecary

Tales from the Apothecary are focused on something other than medieval medical practices, and that is a light-hearted look at herbs and some of their uses today.

The word apothecary comes from apotheca, which translates to storing spices, wines and herbs. Over time, it took on new meanings. Still, it was aimed at persons with a large stock of various commodities and ingredients that dealt with alchemy, herbal remedies, hygiene products, medicines, medical advice, compounding, prescriptions, the creation and building of herb gardens, etc. Over time and in history, these gifted people became better known as chemists and pharmacists.

The first apothecary was recorded in 2600 BC and found in ancient Babylon. Whilst in 1617, the Society of Apothecaries was established in England. This gave the apothecary more freedom to sell and prescribe what was needed to their clients and buyers. It also gave birth to the term ‘quack medicine’.

If you have ever wondered why doctors are occasionally referred to as quacks, the reason comes from the Dutch term quacksalver. This, in turn, came around due to self-promotion of one’s homemade salves, ointments, and potions from somewhere in time, and it stuck. A quack, therefore, is used to describe someone’s form of medicine suggested as not treating the person with anything clearly defined.

Apothecaries were often accused of witchcraft because of strange names attached to some of their remedies, like the eye of newt and dragon blood. It was widely considered medieval magick that came out of superstition and the supernatural.

They were at the height of popularity in the 1700’s however, it was only a short time before Victorian chemists became more of a good medicine.

Not long after that, modern pharmacy emerged from the ancient practices of sweating one’s body and draining their life’s blood with leeches or bloodletting using bizarre tools or adhering to the four humours theory of blood, phlegm, and black and yellow bile, which were considered essential liquids in the human body and if they became unbalanced then this and this alone was the reason for disease.


Marjoram is a perennial herb with flavours of both citrus and pine. It is sometimes called sweet, garden, wild or knotted marjoram because the herb is occasionally confused with oregano – Marjoram’s botanical name is Origanum majorana, whilst Oregano is Origanum vulgare, so you can see they are closely related – same genus, just different species. Both are grown for their aroma and used as fresh and dried herbs in seasoning.

The main difference is that marjoram is part of the family of mint and a sub-species of oregano. The herbs can be interchanged when cooking – fresh for fresh – however, oregano has less of a sweet flavour than marjoram, so remember to use less, and dried oregano tastes stronger than new. Dried marjoram is an excellent seasoning for salad dressings, meat dishes, and many Mediterranean recipes.

Marjoram has long been used in traditional and folk remedies and recorded uses of this herb date back to the ancient Greeks. It used to be used by apothecaries when they produced love potions. It was used to create beers, tobaccos, preservatives and snuffs. Legend believes that if this herb grew by your grave, your soul would be happy in heaven. Even today, the presence of marjoram growing near loved ones suggests good luck in the next life.

It is known for its benefits and can be used in compounds regarding anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic and antimicrobial issues.

It has also been known to benefit women regarding their hormonal health and those suffering from anxiety and sleeping disorders. Also, it has analgesic properties, which are helpful to aching muscles and joints and digestion problems and improving circulation to the skin.

One of the best ways to add this herb to your diet is either as a seasoning or as a garnish in small quantities, although fresh and dried leaves can be used to make tea.


Designs – Earthly Comforts – Inspired by Nature – see collection here

Published by The Autistic Composter

Earthly Comforts is a wildlife journaling scrapbook focusing on the countryside, wildlife biodiversity and environmental conservation, flora and fauna volunteering projects, gardening, composting and vermiculture, inspiration, poetry and photography.

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