Marjoram benefits begin with its joyful qualities, but research even shows that this medicinal herb’s benefits may include reducing pain, and inflammation, improving memory, blood pressure, and more.
A relative of oregano, this potent herb smells sweet, complex, and more subdued than oregano.
In this post, learn about the benefits of marjoram, how to use it, and how to grow marjoram.
Table of Contents
What is Marjoram?
People often compare marjoram herb to oregano because it looks and tastes somewhat similar. While marjoram may look like oregano and has some similar properties, don’t assume that it has the same effect on your health. The delicate marjoram plant is sweet, earthy, bright, and slightly floral in scent. In contrast, oregano has a much more pungent scent.
Origanum majorana is the botanical name of marjoram, and it is also referred to as sweet marjoram. It is a tender perennial plant in the garden that doesn’t tolerate frost.
The history of marjoram includes that it was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a symbol of happiness. Marjoram is also called Joy of the Mountains.
Marjoram Benefits Overview
Like many herbs, marjoram’s health benefits are related to its rich antioxidant compounds.
These include the following antioxidants:
These marjoram and marjoram essential oil compounds have antioxidant activity, pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects. This herb also has beneficial effects on hormones, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), liver, heart, and stomach. Marjoram oil may also have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, nerve benefits, fertility benefits, and anti-platelet effects according to early research.
Marjoram’s benefits for health are many and clinical studies are beginning to prove its effectiveness. Let’s take a look at what the research shows about the benefits of marjoram for overall health.
Marjoram Benefits: May Help Reduce Diabetes Risk
Diabetes is an ever-growing health problem with modern lifestyles. While nutrition intake is key, herbs like marjoram are possibly used to help with this debilitating disease.
For example, marjoram essential oil use was able to help a protein involved in insulin production in a cell study. New classes of expensive drugs also have this action to help treat diabetes and reduce blood sugar. You may have heard of these drugs; they are very expensive. They include Januvia (Sitagliptin), Galvus (Vildagliptin), Onglyza (Saxagliptin), and Tradjenta (Linagliptin).
Interestingly, marjoram also acts to slow down carbohydrate absorption, which may further help reduce glucose spikes. While marjoram essential oil use is looking promising for diabetes because it has similar actions as medications, it hasn’t been studied in combination with these medications at this time. Still, marjoram is a safe culinary herb to add to your foods and it definitely won’t hurt to try it.
A small study even suggests that marjoram for weight loss is beneficial, but more research is needed.
Marjoram Benefits for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Insulin resistance is the root cause of many issues including both diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Marjoram tea benefits some aspects of hormone health. For example, when consumed twice daily, marjoram was able to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the levels of adrenal androgens in women with PCOS. Improved insulin sensitivity from marjoram is often helpful for weight management as well. Another of the marjoram benefits for people with PCOS is that it reduces DHEA-S levels which is a hormone that rises too high in people with PCOS.
Early research even shows that marjoram may help with male fertility as well, although more work is needed in this area.
Marjoram Benefits for Blood Pressure
Like other medicinal herbs, marjoram oil aromatherapy helps reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension and prehypertension. It helps lower blood pressure because it is able to lower sympathetic nervous system activity and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. This results in vasodilation, which in turn may reduce cardiac strain and decrease blood pressure. Chronic stress increases the flight or fight response and cortisol levels. Using marjoram oil can decrease your stress response and increase your relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system).
Marjoram Aromatherapy Reduces Pain
In a collective study of over 10,000 hospital admissions, marjoram aromatherapy as an essential oil reduced pain the most of any essential oils and also significantly reduced anxiety. Marjoram may be especially helpful for menstrual pain. A topical blend of diluted essential oils including marjoram was able to reduce menstrual pain and reduce the need for pain medications. In a nursing home setting, the use of a topical blend of essential oils, including marjoram, dramatically reduced pain and symptoms of depression in people with arthritis.
Marjoram Benefits: Helps Digestion
Many culinary herbs have digestive benefits. They have been used for thousands of years to help aid digestion and provide digestive comfort and marjoram is at the top of the list for its digestive uses. One of the uses of marjoram for stomach health is that helps increase gastric secretions, which may promote healthy digestion. While research remains preliminary, marjoram use for stomach health is promising. In an animal study, marjoram oil helped heal gastric ulcers safely. It may even be useful for helping to treat small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Marjoram May Help With Cancer Treatment
All research using marjoram in cancer research should be considered preliminary at this point, but it looks promising as an add-on for helping the body. For example, marjoram reduced the spread of liver cancer in a cell culture study.
The use of marjoram essential oil use also reduced the spread of leukemia cells and caused cell death of leukemia cells in culture studies. The main component of marjoram is called Terpinen-4-ol. Terpinen-4-ol induces a significant growth reduction of:
- Colorectal cancer cells
- Pancreatic cancer cells
- Prostate cancer cells
- Gastric cancer cells in animal models
Further, marjoram worked against cancer cells that were resistant to standard treatment in colorectal cancer. Impressively, Terpinen-4-ol resulted in an 80-90% growth reduction of tumors in cell culture.
Marjoram May Help With Memory
Marjoram use also has the potential to help with memory because it has anticholinesterase activity. You may be familiar with this action because a class of drugs uses this action to help treat Alzheimer’s disease. High in antioxidants, marjoram may also protect the brain and reduce inflammation.
Marjoram May Reduce Inflammation
By now you know that marjoram has strong antioxidant activity. Because of this, marjoram also helps to fight inflammation. For example, marjoram essential oil use is anti-inflammatory in cell culture against reactive compounds called lipopolysaccharides.
Marjoram is Antimicrobial
Like many herbs, marjoram is antimicrobial and even has antifungal effects. For example, marjoram oil reduced candida growth and herpes simplex virus. Compared to synthetic antibiotics, marjoram essential oil use was more effective against E. coli and other infectious bacteria in cell culture. This activity was due to its high antioxidant content. Diluted marjoram essential oil has skin benefits because it can help treat fungal infections like athlete’s foot.
Marjoram Reduces Head Lice and Other Pests
One of the benefits of hair is that it can help eradicate head lice. The use of marjoram essential oil topically was able to kill drug-resistant head lice at a rate of 100% at the highest concentration. Don’t like houseflies? Marjoram essential oil use naturally repels and kills them as well.
Growing Marjoram Plants Indoors
Unless you live in a mild climate, this plant will not make it through the winter frost. To grow marjoram indoors, you need a sunny southern window. Make sure to keep the soil moderately moist and well-drained with a pH of 6.9. If you are planting marjoram from seed, sow uncovered and germinate at about 65-70 F. (18-21 C.). Seeds are slow to germinate. You can also propagate by cuttings or root division. You can buy marjoram plants at your local nursery as well if you want to save some time.
Traditional Marjoram Uses
Fresh marjoram and marjoram essential oil have many traditional uses too, even being used for perfumes, soap, and beer-making. Marjoram uses for medicine traditionally include:
- Reducing flatulence and indigestion
- Diuretic effects
- Bronchial coughs
- Asthmatic symptoms
- Soothe joints
- Muscular pain
- Gastrointestinal tract diseases
How to Use Marjoram
You can add fresh marjoram or dried leaves to just about any savory dish or food. It goes great in dressings, marinades, as a topping for cheese, eggs, and more.
Similar in taste to oregano, but more subtle, this is a very diverse culinary herb. You can also use the dried leaves to make an herbal tea for a calming drink.
Dried marjoram does lose its potency over several months, so it’s best to buy small amounts at a time unless you make tea often with it or use it at least weekly.
Many of the studies that use marjoram provide it as aromatherapy from marjoram essential oil. Simply diffuse the oil in an essential oil diffuser.
Luckily, marjoram and marjoram essential oil are safe, even in larger doses, according to animal studies. However, due to marjoram’s potential effect on hormones, it should be avoided by women who are pregnant.
No known side effects have been found with marjoram use, but the topical essential oil of marjoram is very concentrated and can cause skin irritation if you have sensitive skin.
Using fresh marjoram and dried marjoram in cooking is safe for people. However, if you are wanting to take supplements of marjoram, discuss it with your healthcare provider first. This is especially true if you are taking blood-thinning, diabetes, or blood pressure medications.
Marjoram Benefits Summary
Marjoram is generally safe to be used in foods and medicinally short term. However, always check with your healthcare provider before using any new health regimen. Many studies were performed in culture and are preliminary.
Interestingly, the strongest data about marjoram is for its use in pain and to uplift mood. Marjoram may help many chronic conditions because it has strong antioxidant effects and may reduce inflammation. It also may help protect organs like the heart and the liver.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of the new book Gut Fix and The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. While The Healthy RD’s posts are backed by research, you are unique. So you must seek care from your own dietitian or healthcare provider. This post is not meant to diagnose or treat any conditions. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.