The marjoram plant (Origanum marjorana) is an aromatic herb known for its aromatherapeutic and culinary uses. Its botanical name means "joy of the mountain" in Greek, and was actually first used to make wreaths for use as wedding flowers.
This was because Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, was believed to wear wreaths made from marjoram.1
Marjoram is classified as a perennial, and can grow up to a height of 10 to 12 inches. They have woody square stems, an upright appearance and opposing pairs of leaves.2 It's closely related to (and often confused with) oregano, because both have similar appearances.3
To make things even more confusing, their botanical names defy logic. Origanum vulgare, which is commonly known as the common oregano, is also known as wild marjoram. It can be very tricky, so thorough research must be done first before you purchase either of these plants.4
The Health Benefits of Marjoram You Should Know About
Marjoram can be used in cooking or in aromatherapy, in its essential oil form. That being said, depending on how it's used, marjoram is known to provide the following health benefits:5
• Improved Digestive Function
When used to make tea, marjoram can help improve your digestion by improving your appetite and increasing the production of digestive enzymes that help break down food. In addition, marjoram tea can help alleviate common digestive disorders such as flatulence, constipation, diarrhea and stomach cramps.
• Protection Against Common Illnesses
Marjoram contains various compounds that have effective antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. As such, it can help reduce your risk of diseases such as the common cold, measles, mumps, influenza, food poisoning and various staph infections.
• Improved Heart Health
Marjoram can help improve your overall cardiovascular health by maintaining normal blood pressure levels, which lowers your risk of hypertension. It's also known for helping reduce the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries, which can prevent heart disease.
• Anti-Inflammatory Effects
When added to your food, marjoram can help reduce your risk of developing inflammatory reactions. It can help with conditions such as asthma, fever, muscle aches, sinus headaches and migraines.
• Therapeutic Benefits
Marjoram, in its essential oil form, can help uplift your mood and improve your psychological well-being. It can be used to help relieve insomnia and reduce stress and anxiety.
The Various Uses of Marjoram
The beauty of marjoram is that it can be added to various dishes that use different cooking methods, such as:
- Soups: It gives vegetable soups more flavor.6
- Roasted meats: Marjoram can add an herbal aroma to roasted meats, such as chicken.7
- Sautéed vegetables: Side dishes such as sautéed vegetables become more flavorful with a dash of marjoram.8
- Marinades: Upgrade the taste of your marinated meat and fish dishes by adding marjoram to the marinade.9
Adding marjoram to your garden can reap benefits as well. Not only does it create a beautiful atmosphere, but it also helps attract butterflies and other insects that feed on pests and decomposing matter, and can even pollinate plants.10,11
Oregano can be used as a substitute for marjoram if you don't have it in storage at the moment. But remember that although these two plants are very similar in appearance, they do have slight differences in flavor. Oregano has a stronger pine taste, while marjoram is sweeter and milder. If you want to use oregano in place of marjoram, only use small amounts to mellow out its strong taste.12
Growing Marjoram in Your Home
Marjoram is quite easy to grow in the comfort of your own home. It can be placed in an indoor container, window box or outdoors in your garden.You'll also be happy to know that marjoram can grow in almost any type of soil. But for best results, it's recommended that you use sandy and fast-draining soil, because the plant only requires minimal watering. If the soil is too watery, the quality of the plant will suffer.13
Plant marjoram seeds during the late winter or early spring, because the extremely cold temperatures will damage the plants and may even cause seedlings to die out.14 If you're just starting out, plant indoors first and when the snow has melted, you can transfer your site outdoors. Make sure that the location has plenty of sunlight, and the soil follows the appropriate conditions.15
Start planting seeds by placing them just beneath the surface of the soil. As the seedlings grow, remember to clear up space by placing each of them 10 inches apart in all directions. The plants are ready for harvesting once they reach a height of 3 inches. To get the best flavor, pick them before the flowers start to open.
Once picked, dry them to seal in their taste and aroma. Simply group plants in small bundles and hang them upside down in a dark room with good ventilation. Afterwards, remove the stems, then crush or grind before using.16
Try This Healthy Recipe: Spicy Roast Chicken With Tomatoes and Marjoram
This recipe from Bon Appétit uses marjoram to provide the chicken with a wonderful aroma and flavor once it's roasted. With the addition of tomatoes and red pepper, this dish is not only delicious, but warm and inviting as well.
Spicy Roast Chicken With Tomatoes and Marjoram
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Toss the tomatoes, coconut oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and 1 tablespoon of marjoram in a large bowl.
- Place the chicken slices on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Pour the mixture over the chickens, while arranging the tomatoes in a single layer on a sheet around the chickens.
- Sprinkle the chicken slices generously with salt and pepper.
- Roast until the chicken slices are cooked through and the tomatoes are blistered, for about 35 minutes.
- Transfer the chickens to plates.
- Spoon the tomatoes and juices over.
- Sprinkle the plates with the remaining 1 tablespoon of marjoram and serve.
Marjoram Essential Oil Has Unique Benefits, Too
Marjoram oil happens to be popular among aromatherapy enthusiasts, and is known for providing a warm, spicy, woody and camphoraceous scent that can provide a vast array of benefits, such as:17
- Analgesic: Helps alleviate pain related to colds, fevers, inflammation and headache.
- Antiseptic: Applying marjoram essential oil on wounds can help prevent them from becoming infected and developing tetanus.
- Antibacterial: Helps kill bacteria that may cause various skin and digestive infections.
- Carminative: Can help solve digestive problems such as flatulence by relaxing the muscles in the abdominal region.
- Diuretic: Can help increase your frequency and quantity of urination, thereby helping improve your ability to eject excess water and harmful toxins from your body.
How to Make Marjoram Essential Oil
Making marjoram oil is a pretty simple process. In Southern France, harvesters allow the plants to fully bloom before they are collected, which is usually done between the months of August and September. Once gathered, the plants are dried for a few days, and then the stems are removed. The flowering tops are then run through a machinery that steam distills them until the essential oil is extracted and packaged.
Using Marjoram Essential Oil Properly
Before using marjoram essential oil (or any essential oil), you need to be aware of any potential allergic reactions. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are pregnant, it's important to visit your doctor first and let them know of your intention to use marjoram essential oil.
Once you've gotten permission from your doctor, do a skin patch test on your arm. Place a drop of the oil and check for any allergic reaction or irritation. Should something occur, stop using the oil immediately.