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Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Origanum
O. majorana
Binomial name
Origanum majorana
  • Majorana hortensis Moench
Growing tip with flower buds
Dried marjoram herb for flavoring

Marjoram (/ˈmɑːrərəm/,[2] Origanum majorana) is a cold-sensitive perennial herb or undershrub with sweet pine and citrus flavours. In some Middle Eastern countries, marjoram is synonymous with oregano, and there the names sweet marjoram and knotted marjoram are used to distinguish it from other plants of the genus Origanum. It is also called pot marjoram,[3] although this name is also used for other cultivated species of Origanum.


Marjoram is indigenous to Cyprus, the Mediterranean, Turkey, Western Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Levant, and was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as a symbol of happiness.[4] It may have spread to the British Isles during the Middle Ages.[5] Marjoram was not widely used in the United States until after World War II.[5]

The name marjoram (Old French: majorane; Medieval Latin: majorana) does not directly derive from the Latin word maior (major).[6]

Marjoram is related to Samhain, the Celtic pagan holiday that would eventually become Halloween.[7] It has also been used in Sephardi Jewish tradition as a ritual medical practice.[8] Ancient Greeks believed the plant was created by Aphrodite.[9][10] In one myth, the royal perfumer of Cyprus, Amaracus, was transformed into marjoram.[11] To the Romans the herb was known as the herb of happiness, and was believed to increase lifespan. Marjoram is mentioned in De Materia Medica by Pedanius Dioscorides, and was used by Hippocrates as an antiseptic.[12]


Leaves are smooth, simple, petiolated, ovate to oblong-ovate, 0.5–1.5 cm (0.2–0.6 inches) long, 0.2–0.8 cm (0.1–0.3 inches) wide, with obtuse apex, entire margin, symmetrical but tapering base, and reticulate venation. The texture of the leaf is extremely smooth due to the presence of numerous hairs.[13]


Marjoram (Origanum majorana) essential oil

Considered a tender perennial (USDA Zones 7–9),[14] marjoram can sometimes prove hardy even in zone 5. Under proper conditions it spreads prolifically, and so is usually grown in pots to prevent it from taking over a garden.[15]

Marjoram is cultivated for its aromatic leaves, either green or dry, for culinary purposes; the tops are cut as the plants begin to flower and are dried slowly in the shade. It is often used in herb combinations such as herbes de Provence and za'atar. The flowering leaves and tops of marjoram are steam-distilled to produce an essential oil that is yellowish (darkening to brown as it ages). It has many chemical components, some of which are borneol, camphor, and pinene.

Related species[edit]

Oregano (Origanum vulgare), sometimes listed with marjoram as O. majorana, is also called wild marjoram. It is a perennial common in southern Europe and north to Sweden in dry copses and on hedge-banks, with many stout stems 30–80 centimetres (12–31 in) high, bearing short-stalked, somewhat ovate leaves and clusters of purple flowers. It has a stronger flavor than marjoram.

Pot marjoram or Cretan oregano (O. onites) has similar uses to marjoram.

Hardy marjoram or French/​Italian/​Sicilian marjoram (O. × majoricum), a cross of marjoram with oregano, is much more resistant to cold, but is slightly less sweet.[16]

O. × hybridum is known as showy marjoram or showy oregano.


Marjoram is used for seasoning soups, stews, salad dressings, sauces, and herbal teas.[17]

Marjoram has long been used as a medicinal herb. Marjoram or marjoram oil has been used to treat cancer, colds, coughs, cramps, depression, as a diuretic, ear infections, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and paralysis, as well as arthritis, chest congestion, and muscle aches. It has also been used as an aphrodisiac, mouthwash, tea, and in poultices, tinctures, and infusions.[18][failed verification][19][20][21] Though not all of its historic uses are scientifically backed, the plant has verifiable medical use. For example, it contains the phenol carvacrol, which is antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial.[19][22] Ethanol extract is cytotoxic against fibrosarcoma cell lines, ethyl acetate extract has antiproliferative properties against PER.C6 and HeLa cells, as have hesperetin and hydroquinone, which can be isolated from marjoram extract.[23] Cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, antiulcerogenetic, anticholinesterase, anti-polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and anti-inflammatory effects were also found in dried marjoram, marjoram tea, or in compounds extracted from marjoram.[23] Marjoram is generally not toxic, but should not be used by pregnant or lactating women.[23] However, it is always important to be cautious and consult a doctor when using medical herbs.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Origanum majorana". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2008-03-08.
  2. ^ "marjoram". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). HarperCollins. 2022.
  3. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  4. ^ Barr, Catherine (2 July 2013). "In the Bins: Marjoram is the happiness herb". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  5. ^ a b Sanderson, Helen; Renfrew, Jane M. (2005). Prance, Ghillean; Nesbitt, Mark (eds.). The Cultural History of Plants. Routledge. p. 111. ISBN 0415927463.
  6. ^ Harper, Douglas (2001). "marjoram (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2023-02-07.[better source needed]
  7. ^ Benveniste, Daniel (September 1990). "Tantric Art and the Primal Scene". The San Francisco Jung Institute Library Journal (book review of Kali: The Feminine Force. Ajit Mookerjee. Rochester, VT, Destiny Books (Inner Traditions International), 1988). 9 (4): 39–55. doi:10.1525/jung.1.1990.9.4.39. ISSN 0270-6210.
  8. ^ Lévy, Isaac Jack; Lévy Zumwalt, Rosemary (2002). Ritual Medical Lore of Sephardic Women: Sweetening the spirits, healing the sick. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-02697-7. OCLC 1170078028.
  9. ^ Adams, Sue (2017). "Herb Folklore" (PDF). Adams Fairacre Farms Grocery Store.
  10. ^ Rosemary M. Wright. "A Dictionary of Classical Mythology: Summary of Transformations". mythandreligion.upatras.gr. University of Patras. Retrieved January 3, 2023.
  11. ^ Caruso, Carlo (2013). Adonis: The Myth of the Dying God in the Italian Renaissance. Bloomsbury. p. 116. ISBN 978-1-4725-3882-6.
  12. ^ EU Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (20 September 2016). "Assessment report on Origanum majorana L., herba" (PDF). European Medicines Agency.
  13. ^ BP Pimple; AN Patel; PV Kadam; MJ Patil (2012). "Microscopic evaluation and physicochemical analysis of Origanum majorana Linn leaves". Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease. 2 (Supplement 2): S897–S903. doi:10.1016/S2222-1808(12)60288-6.
  14. ^ "Learn 2 Grow: Origanum majorana". Archived from the original on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 2011-11-05.
  15. ^ "Oregano and Marjoram". FoodPrint. Retrieved 2022-06-01.
  16. ^ "Origanum majoricum Cambess". www.gbif.org.
  17. ^ "Marjoram, Herb". Food Reference. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  18. ^ Krikorian, A. D. (December 1996). "Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. Albert Y. Leung, Steven Foster". The Quarterly Review of Biology. 71 (4): 609. doi:10.1086/419639. ISSN 0033-5770.
  19. ^ a b Gruenwald, Joerg, Thomas Brendler and Christof Jaenicke, eds. 2000. PDR for herbal medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics.
  20. ^ Bown, Deni. 2001. The Herb Society of America new encyclopedia of herbs & their uses. New York: DK.
  21. ^ Duke, James A. (2002). Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. CRC Press. ISBN 0-8493-1284-1. OCLC 899024950. [page needed]
  22. ^ Tucker, Arthur O. and Thomas DeBaggio. 2000. The big book of herbs: a comprehensive illustrated reference to herbs of flavor and fragrance. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press.
  23. ^ a b c Bina, Fatemeh; Rahimi, Roja (January 2017). "Sweet Marjoram: A Review of Ethnopharmacology, Phytochemistry, and Biological Activities". Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine. 22 (1): 175–185. doi:10.1177/2156587216650793. ISSN 2156-5899. PMC 5871212. PMID 27231340.
  24. ^ Zehr, Vernon (2014). "Herbal medicines: Consult with your doctor before use". ConsumerMedSafety.org. Archived from the original on 2022-05-18. Retrieved 2022-06-01.

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