You might not have heard of Sweet Marjoram, but you have probably heard of its cousin wild marjoram or oregano. In fact, Sweet Marjoram is sometimes called “mild oregano”. While they are sometimes used interchangeably in cooking, they have different properties and thereby different applications as essential oils. In this article, we’ll be covering Sweet Marjoram.
We’ll talk about the Sweet Marjoram plant including a brief description and history, then cover how the essential oil is extracted along with its uses and benefits, and we’ll finish up with some high-quality sweet marjoram essential oil options that you can purchase for your essential oil needs!
What is Sweet Marjoram?
Sweet marjoram’s scientific name is Origanum majorana , which as you may have guessed, means that it is a close cousin of oregano! Origanum, oregano, potato, po-tah-to. Well, not quite. As we teased in the intro, although these two plants are similar the essential oils they produce along with the benefits of these oils are not one in the same. They do both belong to the Lamicae plant family, which includes a lot of the herbs we know and love such as mint, basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and more. So let’s dive in and learn more about this wonderful plant and the healing essential oil that it produces.
The University of Illinois’s agricultural extension offers a wonderful guide to sweet marjoram. We won’t go into too much detail, but there are some features of this plant that we will acknowledge. Sweet marjoram is an annual and typically remains low to the soil and spreads out horizontally as it grows, unlike its cousin rosemary which explodes into a bush! There are some varieties of sweet marjoram that can grow upwards, but most will stay low to the ground . Its leaves are gray-green and feel velvety soft to the touch. These leaves and the flowers that it can produce are where the precious essential oils are found in the highest concentration, so these are the components of the plant that are used when extracting the essential oils . It is easily grown from cuttings and requires a full sun location and well-drained soil in order to grow properly. If you want to try your hand at growing sweet marjoram indoors, the extension mentions that this is a very easy plant to have as part of your indoor medicinal garden !
History and Origin
Marjoram is thought to be native to the Mediterranean area and Eurasia, like many medicinal herbs. In fact, the first part of sweet marjoram’s latin name “origanum” is theorized to have come from the Greek words “oreos” and “ganeos” meaning “mountain” and “joy” respectively. It is sometimes even referred to historically as “joy of the mountains” for this reason and because it was found in abundance on the mountainsides in its region of origin .
A large part of sweet marjoram’s history is its use as a symbol of love and romance. Most of this shows up in Roman and Greek mythology. According to Roman mythology, Venus, the goddess of love, was responsible for bringing sweet marjoram to earth as a reminder of her beauty for its inhabitants. In Greek mythology, we see marjoram surrounding the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. In both Greek and Roman societies, brides and grooms wore crowns made of marjoram during their wedding ceremony.
An additional reference in Greek mythology comes from the practice of women placing sprigs of marjoram on their pillows before falling asleep to reveal their future husband to them. In another tradition, marjoram was part of a bouquet that was used in a ritual that was said to reveal a future spouse .
Maybe the ancients were onto something and we should all delete the Tinder app and start seeing what marjoram has to offer!
Jokes aside, sweet marjoram has shown up in many ways throughout history. Unsurprisingly, sweet marjoram was also used medicinally by our ancestors. From menstrual irregularity and urinary tract issues to treating toothaches and cold sores, we see sweet marjoram show up throughout history as a medicinal plant . We’ll cover more of those uses for sweet marjoram when we talk about its benefits and uses and let you know which ones are backed by research in modern times.
Sweet Marjoram Essential Oil Extraction
So we’ve talked about the plant, now let’s get into how the oil is extracted. Sweet marjoram essential oil is made primarily from the leaves and flowering parts of the plant, making it perfect for the process of steam distillation. Most marjoram essential oil is produced through steam distillation . During the process of steam distillation, the plant matter is heated in a still with water (akin to the type you might see on the show “Moonshiners”) so that the oil comes out of the plant without it being damaged. You’ve probably done some kind of science experiment in elementary school that involved observing how oil and water separate. The process of steam distillation uses this elementary-school concept in an elevated way to easily skim the essential oil off of the top of the water when the steam process is complete.
The essential oils produced through steam distillation tend to vary based on a variety of factors, but in the case of sweet marjoram the color of the essential oil varies from pale yellow to yellow green . If your essential oil falls into this color range, take it as a sign that you have purchased a quality oil.
Marjoram essential oil uses & benefits
Now we’re getting to the good stuff- all of the benefits of sweet marjoram essential oil and some of the major ways in which you can use this essential oil in your daily life.
May Improve Digestion
Historical evidence tells us that the scent alone of marjoram essential oil may be enough to help improve digestion. One source states that the scent of marjoram essential oil makes individuals salivate more readily and argues that this helps with digestion .
You can reap this benefit by including one or two drops of marjoram essential oil in tea or diffusing it prior to eating to enhance your appetite. Just make sure that if you are planning on consuming marjoram essential oil internally that it is a high quality oil. We’ll suggest a few below.
May Assist in Balancing Hormones
This benefit or marjoram comes from traditional medicine, but there is not a lot of modern research to back it up yet. In traditional medicine, marjoram was used to regulate menstrual cycles. If you are a subscriber of traditional medicine, you might try a drop or two or marjoram essential oil in tea to regulate your menstrual cycle .
There is scientific evidence for marjoram essential oil being able to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce levels of adrenal androgens in women with PCOS. PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) is characterized by irregular menstrual cycles, so the scientists’ aim was to begin research on marjoram to see if its traditional medicine usage for this purpose had any quantifiable validity. Since they did yield results, the scientists recommend that Sweet Marjoram be used for this purpose .
May Assist in Managing Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is an illness that is totally preventable with healthy diet and lifestyle. Some individuals are at a higher risk, so along with a healthy diet and lifestyle, individuals can consider adding marjoram into their routine.
Specifically, it’s been shown that commercial dried varieties of sweet marjoram, along with Mexican oregano and rosemary, and, can act as an extremely effective inhibitor of the enzyme known as protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B). Additionally, greenhouse-grown marjoram, Mexican oregano and rosemary extracts were the best inhibitors of dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP-IV). What this means to those of us who don’t speak fluent biochemistry is that the reduction or elimination of PTP1B and DPP-IV helps improve insulin signaling and tolerance. This means that fresh and dried marjoram can help improve the body’s ability to manage blood sugar . Although the essential oil directly has not be researched for this benefit, we can certainly still consume it in a tea or capsule.
May Promote Cardiovascular Health
Marjoram might be a helpful natural remedy for people at high risk for or currently dealing with high blood pressure symptoms and/or heart problems. Sweet marjoram is naturally high in antioxidants, which are excellent for the cardiovascular system as well as the whole body. This essential oil is also an effective vasodilator, which means that it can help widen and relax the blood vessels. Vasodilation can help reduce blood pressure .
Scientific research supports that the inhalation of marjoram essential oil lowers sympathetic nervous system activity and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn vasodilates. This helps both calm the body and relax the smooth muscles, which is also why sweet marjoram is said to be good for digestion .
Another study observed the effects of essential oil inhalation on blood pressure and salivary cortisol levels in hypertensive and prehypertensive subjects.
One group inhaled a placebo, while the other group inhaled a combination of ylang-ylang, marjoram, neroli, and lavender essential oils. It turned out that the subjects who inhaled the essential oil blend showed a significant decrease in both blood pressure and concentration of salivary cortisol . Although this isn’t direct proof that marjoram can promote cardiovascular health, it is certainly worth a mention.
May Help Relieve Pain
Marjoram essential oil can help reduce the pain that can come with muscle tightness and massage therapists frequently include the essential oil in their massage oil or lotion for this very reason. The usage of marjoram essential oil for this purpose is based on traditional usage, but it is still important to note that this can be a benefit.
There is one study that offers promising evidence of marjoram as a pain reliever in conjunction with other herbs. In this study, one group of individuals inhaled a synthetic fragrance, while another group inhaled a mixture of lavender, clary sage, and marjoram. The results showed that those who inhaled the true essential oils experienced a significant decrease in pain compared to the synthetic group and the control group .
To use this oil to relax, you can try diffusing it in your home and using it in your homemade massage oil or lotion recipe. In fact, research shows that just the inhalation of marjoram essential oil can calm the nervous system and lower blood pressure . You can also use sweet marjoram essential oil to relieve sore muscles. Add a few drops of marjoram essential oil to your favorite carrier oil and massage it onto sore areas. You can also add it to a bath for relief and relaxation. For a headache, you can mix a drop into your favorite carrier oil and massage onto your temples.
May Help with Gastric Ulcer Prevention
A study conducted on animals in 2009 helped toevaluate sweet marjoram’s potential ability to prevent and heal gastric ulcers. In this study, it was found that at doses of 250 and 500 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, sweet marjoram significantly decreased the incidence of ulcers, basal gastric secretion and acid output.
Even further, the study showed that the sweet marjoram essential oil replenished the depleted gastric wall mucus. If you’ve experienced gastric ulcers, you know that this is a big part of the healing process.
In this study, marjoram healed and prevented gastric ulcers but it was also proven to be generally safe for use. This is important, as many ulcer treatments can have unpleasant side effects 
May Help Maintain Healthy Respiratory Function
This use of sweet marjoram essential oil is not backed by a lot of research, but had a presence in traditional medicine so it is certainly worth a shot if you are dealing with respiratory issues or bronchial congestion . This oil had a traditional usage as an expectorant, which means that it may help expel excess phlegm and mucus from the respiratory tract.
To use sweet marjoram essential oil for this purpose, you can diffuse marjoram essential oil throughout the home. You can also add a few drops to a bowl of steaming water, then inhale the vapors. If you’d prefer to use this essential oil topically, you can make a sweet marjoram vapor rub by adding a few drops to a carrier oil and massaging the solution onto the chest and neck.
May Prevent Infections
The antiseptic and antiviral properties in marjoram essential oil are also derived from evidence of use in traditional medicine, so proceed with caution. If you do choose to use it you can use it for treating minor wounds like cuts, scrapes, bites, or burns. If you do choose to use sweet marjoram for this purpose, wash in cold water, pat dry with a clean cloth, and then use a mixture of marjoram essential oil and a carrier oil over the affected area.
May Promote Better Sleep
We mentioned above that marjoram essential oil can help us relax, but it is also known to have some sedative properties that can help us fall asleep and stay asleep. This is another usage that comes from traditional medicine.
To calm the mind and help you fall asleep, diffuse marjoram essential oil throughout the room approximately 20 minutes before bedtime. You can add lavender essential oil into the mix for an extra kick of relaxation. You can also mix a few drops of this essential oil in a spray bottle with water and spray it on your sheets and pillowcases.
Our Picks for Sweet Marjoram Essential Oil
Your body readily absorbs essential oils, so it is important to make sure that you are putting the good stuff onto and/or into your body. There are many brands to choose from when it comes to essential oils, but these are a few options that we like because they hit several high-quality checkboxes for us.
We like Plant Therapy because their oils are priced fairly, they come with batch-specific GC/MS results, and their oils consistently get rave reviews from their customers. Sweet marjoram is generally an inexpensive essential oil, but you can get a 10ml bottle from Plant Therapy for $10.95 that is USDA certified Organic as well. Here’s what one reviewer had to say on their website:
“I love the sweet aroma of this oil! I can actually smell the sweetness, unlike others I have tried for much more money.I can’t use Lavender and I read that Marjoram helps with insomnia so I added it to my sleep blend and I now fall asleep faster, sleep deeper, and longer! And of course, I love that it’s organic! Sleeping like a baby now! Thankful!”
Rocky Mountain Oils is another wonderful option for essential oils that doesn’t come with the MLM commitments or price tag like Young Living or DoTerra. Their smallest option is 15ml and is slightly more expensive than Plant Therapy at $29.95. They do also offer quality testing results, but the sweet marjoram that is linked is not certified organic. Here’s what one rave reviewer had to say:
“I ordered this oil to diffuse. Upon receiving it, I opened the bottle and put a drop in my hand. I put hand up to my nose and inhaled. I could not believe how uplifted I felt. I love Rosemary and diffuse it every night when I go to bed. I decided to add the Sweet Marjoram and Lavender H to the diffuser. It was heavenly. I put a few drops in my body lotion; very refreshing. I am sold.”
Although they do not provide GC/MS test results, this company has a strong reputation for offering pure and clean essential oils that are all USDA Certified Organic. Their prices are affordable as well due to their zero-waste focused business model. You can feel good about purchasing from a company like Mountain Rose Herbs as they truly represent their mission statement: “People and the Planet before Profit”. You can grab a whopping 1/2 ounce bottle of organic sweet marjoram from them for only $15.