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Medicinal Plant

Origanum Syriacum


Family: Labiatae
English Common Name: Bible Hyssop, Syrian Oregano, Wild Marjoram, thyme
Arabic Name: زعتر بري‏

Flowering Dates

Jan Feb Mar Aprl May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec


  • Usually grows in basic soils.
  • **Western Mediterranean region 


Origanum syriacum is a widespread species in the Middle East, which belongs to the genus Origanum and the large family Labiatae. This genus includes 20 species native to the mountainous Mediterranean and southeastern Asia. The Latin name Origanum comes from the Ancient Greek words oros (mountain) and ganos (joy), probably because the oregano roots prohibit the erosion of mountain slopes by rain or maybe just for the plant's fantastic smell.

Origanum syriacum is easily recognizable by its appearance and its scent. It is a white-grayish dwarf-shrub that reaches a height of 40cm. Its leaves are small, ovate and downy. They release a spicy odor and taste like oregano. Origanum syriacum is one of the few species of the family Labiatae that doesn't have a square shape stem and its young stems have a red coloring. The plant has a relatively long blooming period in the Spring and Summer, from April to September. The small white flowers are arranged densely in spike-like inflorescences.

Origanum syriacum, commonly known as Bible hyssop, Syrian oregano or wild marjoram, is a species of the genus Origanum better known in the Middle East and North Africa as zaatar (in Arabic: زعتر). This plant is the keystone herb in the condiment that bears its name. Zaatar is made from dried herbs (Origanum syriacum, thyme and summer savory), mixed with sesame seeds, sumac and salt. Both the herb and spice mixture are very popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa, where it has been used as a staple in Arab cuisine and in folk-medicine from medieval times to the present. Origanum syriacum is mentioned many times in the Bible by its common name hyssop and is used on several occasions: on Passover in Egypt (Exodus), in purifying the leper (Leviticus), in the burning of the red heifer (Numbers) and for sprinkling on a dead person (Numbers). "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean" (Psalms).

Researches at the American Unversity of Beirut aiming to confirm the historical use of Origanum syriacum in folk-medicine started in 1995. The rich chemical composition of the plant convinced Dr. Elie Barbour to take over the research in the AUB Nature Conservation Center (NCC) laboratories in 2002. Dr. Barbour worked on assessing the antifungal effect of Origanum syriacum essential oil against Candida albicans, a yeast responsible for vaginal infection. His experiments in-vitro revealed that the essential oil was more efficient than any of the four commercialized douches. Moreover, he showed on hamsters that a douche based on the diluted essential oil of Origanum syriacum led to the complete elimination of human vaginal Candida albicans. Furthermore, Dr. Barbour successfully proved on rabbit's eyes that his douche doesn't provoke any soreness. Unfortunately, he stopped his research on developing a douche based on Origanum syriacum essential oil against Candida albicans in 2008, after he didn't obtain the authorization to push it into the clinical trials.

Interestingly enough, Origanum syriacum became endangered after sacks of it were picked for commerce and export. Dr. Salma Talhouk, the chairperson of the NCC, and her PhD student Rony Chamoun, researched on the potential of Origanum syriacum to become a cultivated crop in Lebanon rather than being harvested from the wild. They established the optimal conditions of growing and drying to preserve the scent, the taste and the organoleptic attribute as a spice of Origanum syriacum. Dr. Salma Talhouk also assessed the economical feasibility of different production scenarios and demonstrated that producing Origanum syriacum essential oil would be the most profitable.


Regular Seed Propagation


  • The essential oil compisition below is of a Wild plant collected from the Baskinta Mountain at an altitude of up to 1500 meters.

    Compound RI Composition
    Aromadendrene 1422 0.12
    Bicyclogermacrene 1478 0.11
    Borneol 1156 0.22
    Camphene 933 0.24
    Carvacrol 1302 50.03
    Caryophyllene Oxide 1569 0.13
    Myrcene 977 2.69
    p - Cymene 1014 12.82
    Terpinen - 4 - ol 1172 0.64
    Terpinolene 1076 0.21
    Thujene 912 2.49
    Thymol 1279 2.62
    α - Humulene 1438 0.27
    α - Phellandrene 991 0.54
    α - Pinene 918 1.34
    α - Terpinene 1003 3.57
    β - Caryophyllene 1404 2.94
    β - Pinene 961 0.34
    γ - Terpinene 1049 16.06

  • The essential oil compisition below is of a Cultivated plant collected from the Baskinta Mountain at an altitude of up to 1500 meters.

    Compound RI Composition
    Camphene 937 0.22
    Carvacrol 1305 15.6
    Caryophyllene Oxide 1574 0.12
    Cis Sabinene hydrate 1063 0.86
    Limonene 1022 0.72
    Linalool 1091 0.29
    Myrcene 982 3.25
    p - Cymene 1020 14.62
    Terpinen - 4 - ol 1171 0.12
    Terpinolene 1077 0.28
    Thujene 916 2.15
    Thymol 1293 25.53
    α - Humulene 1444 0.34
    α - Phellandrene 995 0.83
    α - Pinene 923 1.56
    α - Terpinene 1009 5.39
    β - Bisabolene 1496 0.22
    β - Caryophyllene 1412 4.55
    β - Ocimene 1028 0.12
    β - Ocimene 1040 0.2
    β - Pinene 965 0.33
    γ - Cadinene 1501 0.13
    γ - Terpinene 1057 20.15
    δ - Carene 998 0.19

Cooking Tips

Edible Parts: Leaves, stalks, and flowering top
Modes of Consumption: Raw in salads *see recipes

Wild Thyme salad
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