A historical sample of marjoram (Origanum majorana L., Lamiaceae), more than 60 years old, was analysed and its composition compared to standard material from the European herb market, By using a solvent extract of the historical sample, the rearrangements and artefact formation usually occurring during the distillation of marjoram were avoided. The extract contained high amounts of terpinen-4-ol, thus resembling the distilled essential oil more than the solvent extract of the standard sample. So artefact formation in marjoram can also happen in planta in herbs stored for a long time under suboptimal conditions. The high content of carvacrol, normally never present in standard material from cultivation, gave an indication of the heterogeneity of marjoram in former times. and confirmed the opinion that (cultivated) marjoram is a chemovariety selected a long, time ago. Copyright (C) 2002 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.