Origanum majorana is a member of the Labiatae Family. It is a tender, bushy perennial herb that grows to a height of around 0.6m. Native to the Mediterranean it has been cultivated as an annunal in many parts of the world. A clear to pale yellow essential oil is steam distilled from the dried flowering herb and had a yield of between 0.3 – 0.8%. The oil has a fresh, camphorous, thyme-like aroma with a woody dry down. The major oil producing countries include France, Tunisia, Morocco and Bulgaria. The chemical components found in Sweet Marjoram are around 40% monoterpenes : pinene, terpinenes, p-cymene, myrcene, limonene, ocimene, sabinene; 50% alcohols: linalool, borneol, a-terpineol, terpineol-4-ol; with small amounts of esters, sesquiterpenes and aldehydes.
Sweet marjoram oil has been used as a fragrance component in soaps, detergents, creams, lotions and perfumes. It is also used as a flavor ingredient in most food categories, including alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins, puddings, meat and meat products, condiments and relishes.
The genus name Origanum derives from the Greek words oras, and ganos which roughly translates as Joy of the Mountains. The ancient Greeks believed that if Marjoram grew on one’s grave, the deceased would enjoy eternal peace and happiness. Ancient Romans called marjoram the “herb of happiness”. Both Greek and Roman newlyweds wore garlands of marjoram on their heads to bless them with marital bliss. The Greeks also associated marjoram with Aphrodite, their goddess of love, beauty and fertility who supposedly created marjoram as a gentle symbol of happiness.
In traditional folk medicine, sweet marjoram has been used as a remedy for asthma, indigestion, headache, rheumatism, toothache, earache, flatulence, epilepsy, and to help relieve the pain of childbirth. The oil was used as a liniment for sprains and bruises and to promote perspiration in those suffering from the measles.
Psychologically, Marjoram has analgesic, balancing and calming properties. It can be helpful in easing headaches, hysteria, migraine, stress problems and nervous tension. Marjoram has been used to attract love, happiness, health and wealth. However use with caution as prolonged overuse might deaden the emotions. Marjoram has traditionally been thought to be an anaphrodisiac and maybe beneficial for those going into a period of celibacy.
On the physiological level marjoram’s analgesic and antispasmodic properties are helpful for arthritis, lumbago, muscle aches & stiffness, sprains and spasms and toothache. It has also been used for bruises and healing wounds.
Contraindications: Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Avoid or use with caution during pregnancy. Marjoram can be sedating.
Leung and Foster, Encyclopedia of Natural Common Ingredients
Beverley Hawkins Aromatherapy 101 Course