If you’re not familiar with marjoram, you likely know its close cousin — oregano. What is marjoram? It’s a perennial herb originating from the Mediterranean region and a highly concentrated source of health-promoting bioactive compounds.
Oregano is a common marjoram substitute and vice versa because of their likeness, but marjoram has a finer texture and a milder flavor profile. What we call oregano also goes by “wild marjoram,” and what we call marjoram is commonly called “sweet marjoram.” So wild marjoram is actually oregano — the confusion continues!
However, marjoram has a very specific history of culinary and medicinal use. According to Greek mythology, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was a huge fan of this herb, which led to it being used to make love potions. For centuries in kitchens around the world, its uses have been and continue to be wide-ranging. Whether we’re talking about the fresh or dried version, it can be added to meat and vegetable dishes, salad dressings, and stews.
Marjoram can also be taken orally in a more concentrated medicinal form or used topically and in aromatherapy as an essential oil. The inhalation of marjoram essential oil actually has been shown to calm the nervous system and, in turn, positively impact your cardiovascular system by improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure. (1) It’s been used to treat coughs, runny noses, gallbladder issues, digestive problems, depression, dizziness, migraines, nervous headaches, nerve pain and paralysis as well. (2)
Read on to see just how this powerful herb might be able to improve your health today.
6 Marjoram Health Benefits
1. Digestive Aid
Including marjoram in you diet may help to improve your digestion. The scent of it alone can stimulate the salivary glands, which helps the primary digestion of food that takes place in your mouth. The oil continues to help you digest your meals by stimulating the peristaltic movement of the intestines and encouraging elimination. (3)
If you suffer from digestive problems like nausea, flatulence, stomach cramps, diarrhea or constipation, a cup or two of marjoram tea can help alleviate your symptoms. You can also try adding the fresh or dried herb to your next meal for digestive comfort.
2. Women’s Issues/Hormonal Balance
Marjoram is known in traditional medicine for its ability to restore hormonal balance and regulate the menstrual cycle. lIf you’re a woman, it could be the herb that finally helps you get your hormones in proper balance because it’s been shown to balance hormones naturally. Whether you’re dealing with the unwanted monthly symptoms of PMS or menopause, this herb can provide relief for women of all ages. It’s considered an emmenagogue, which means it can be used to help start menstruation. It’s also been used traditionally by nursing moms to promote breast milk production.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and infertility (often resulting from PCOS) are other significant hormonal imbalance issues that this herb has been shown to improve. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics evaluated the effects of marjoram tea on the hormonal profile of women with PCOS in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The study’s results revealed the positive effects of the tea on the hormonal profile of PCOS women. The tea improved insulin sensitivity and reduced the levels of adrenal androgens in these women. (4)
This is very significant since an excess of androgens is at the root of hormone imbalance for many women of reproductive age.
3. Type 2 Diabetes Management
Right now, more 9 percent of the population in the U.S. has diabetes, and the number only continues to rise. (5) The good news is that a healthy diet, along with a healthy overall lifestyle, is one of the best ways that you can prevent and manage diabetes, especially type 2. Studies have shown that marjoram is an herb that belongs in your anti-diabetes arsenal and something you should definitely include in your diabetic diet plan.
Specifically, it’s been shown that commercial dried varieties of this herb, along with Mexican oregano and rosemary, acts as a superior inhibitor of the enzyme known as protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B). In addition, greenhouse-grown marjoram, Mexican oregano and rosemary extracts were the best inhibitors of dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-IV). This is an awesome finding since the reduction or elimination of PTP1B and DPP-IV helps improve insulin signaling and tolerance. So both fresh and dried marjoram can help improve the body’s ability to properly manage blood sugar. (6)
4. Cardiovascular Health
Marjoram can be a helpful natural remedy for people at high risk or suffering from high blood pressure symptoms and heart problems. It’s naturally high in antioxidants, making it excellent for the cardiovascular system as well as the whole body. It’s also an effective vasodilator, which means that it can help widen and relax the blood vessels. This eases the flow of blood and reduces blood pressure.
The inhalation of marjoram essential oil has actually been shown to lower sympathetic nervous system activity and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, resulting in vasodilatation to reduce cardiac strain and decrease blood pressure. By simply smelling the essential oil, you can decrease your fight-or-flight response (sympathetic nervous system) and increase your “rest and digest system” (parasympathetic nervous system), which lessens the strain on your entire cardiovascular system, not to mention your whole body! (7)
5. Pain Relief
This herb can help reduce the pain that often comes with muscle tightness or muscle spasms as well as tension headaches. Massage therapists often include the essential oil in their massage oil or lotion for this very reason.
I can personally attest to the fact that marjoram essential oil is very effective at relieving tension, and the anti-inflammatory and calming properties of it can be felt in both body and mind. For relaxation purposes, you can try diffusing it in your home and using it in your homemade massage oil or lotion recipe. Amazing but true, just the inhalation of marjoram essential oil can calm the nervous system and lower blood pressure. (8)
6. Gastric Ulcer Prevention
A 2009 animal study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine evaluated marjoram’s ability to prevent and heal gastric ulcers. The study found that at doses of 250 and 500 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, it significantly decreased the incidence of ulcers, basal gastric secretion and acid output. Additionally, the extract actually replenished the depleted gastric wall mucus, which is key to the healing of ulcer symptoms.
Marjoram not only prevented and healed ulcer, but it was also shown to have a large margin of safety. The aerial (above ground) parts of marjoram were also shown to contain volatile oil, flavonoids, tannins, sterols and/or triterpenes. (9)
Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is a perennial herb that comes from the leaves of the plant that belong to the genus Origanum, which is a member of the mint family.
One tablespoon of dried marjoram contains about: (10)
- 4 calories
- 0.9 gram carbohydrates
- 0.2 gram protein
- 0.1 gram fat
- 0.6 gram fiber
- 9.3 micrograms vitamin K (12 percent DV)
- 1.2 milligrams iron (7 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram manganese (4 percent DV)
- 29.9 milligrams calcium (3 percent DV)
- 121 IU vitamin A (2 percent DV)
Dried marjoram is pretty impressive, but the fresh version typically has even higher levels of vitamins and minerals.
Marjoram vs. Oregano
How to Use & Cook with Marjoram + Recipe
Medicinally speaking, marjoram can be purchased and taken as a supplement in the form of a capsule, liquid tincture or tea.
The flowers and leaves are used fresh and dried in all kinds of culinary delights. Some of the more common foods that it pairs well with include fish, beef, veal, lamb, turkey, chicken, green vegetables, carrots, cauliflower, eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes. This herb also lends a healthy and tasty boost to salad dressings, stews, soups and marinades. It can also be infused into vinegars and oils.
If you’re considering growing the plant yourself, it’s a great idea. Not only is it relatively easy to grow and maintain, but it also attracts honey bees and bee pollen and helps the quality of your garden overall. When the plant is grown near stinging nettle, the essential oil is said to be even stronger. (11)
Want to try a protein-rich breakfast idea that includes this herb? This Turkey Breakfast Sausage Recipe is not just super flavorful and healthy, but it also keeps your energy up until it’s time for lunch. Marjoram is a must for this recipe, not just for the flavor factor, but more importantly for the awesome health benefits.
History of Marjoram
The ancient Greeks called marjoram “joy of the mountain,” and they commonly used it to create wreaths and garlands for both weddings and funerals. In ancient Egypt, it was used medicinally for healing and disinfecting. It was also used for food preservation.
During the Middle Ages, European women used the herb in nosegays (a small flower bouquet, typically given as a gift). Sweet marjoram was also a popular culinary herb in Europe during the Middle Ages when it was used in cakes, puddings and porridge.
In Spain and Italy, its culinary use dates back to the 1300s. During the Renaissance (1300–1600), the herb was typically used to flavor eggs, rice, meat and fish. In the 16th century, it was commonly used fresh as a salad herb.
For centuries, both marjoram and oregano have been used to make teas. Before the introduction of hops, wild marjoram, which is actually oregano, was an ingredient in beers and ales.
This herb is safe in common food amounts and likely safe for the majority of adults when taken by mouth in medicinal amounts for short amounts of time.
When used long term in a medicinal fashion, marjoram is possibly unsafe. There is some evidence that it could cause cancer if used for too long. Applying fresh marjoram to your skin or eye is not recommended since it may cause irritation.
If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, then it’s best to stick to marjoram in food amounts. Children should also only have it in food amounts. If you have an allergy to oregano, basil, lavender, mint or any other member of the Lamiacea plant family, then you might also be allergic to marjoram.
If you have any ongoing health concerns, including but not limited to the following, then you should check with your doctor before using medicinal amounts of this herb:
- Bleeding disorders
- Gastrointestinal or urinary tract obstructions
- Lung conditions such as asthma
- Slow heart rate (bradycardia)
You should also stop using it medicinally at least two weeks prior to any type of surgery.
- Marjoram is a Mediterranean herb that can be used in place of or in similar fashion to oregano.
- Like oregano, it adds a great deal of health benefits in addition to flavor when used in cooking.
- It can be purchased and used as a dry or fresh herb. Both have medicinal benefits.
- This herb can be taken medicinally as a tea or supplement.
- Studies have shown that marjoram can provide health benefits for people suffering from hormonal imbalances, diabetes, ulcers and digestive complaints.
- The use of marjoram in aromatherapy has shown that it’s beneficial to the nervous system as well as the cardiovascular system, making it great natural remedy for stress, pain, nervous tension, anxiety, muscle strain, high blood pressure as well as heart issues.
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