Herb: Sweet Marjoram

Latin name: Origanum majorana

Synonyms: Majorana hortensis, Origanum majoranoides

Family: Labiatae

Medicinal use of Sweet Marjoram:

Sweet marjoram is mainly used as a culinary herb, but is also medicinally valuable due to its stimulant and antispasmodic properties. It is a good general tonic, treating various disorders of the digestive and respiratory systems. It has a stronger affect on the nervous system than the related oregano (O. vulgare) and is also thought to lower the sex drive. Because it can promote menstruation, it should not be used medicinally by pregnant women though small quantities used for culinary purposes are safe. The herb is antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic and mildly tonic. It is taken internally in the treatment of bronchial complaints, tension headaches, insomnia, anxiety, minor digestive upsets and painful menstruation. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women. Externally, it is used to treat muscular pain, bronchial complaints, arthritis, sprains and stiff joints. The plant is harvested as flowering begins and can be used fresh or dried. Marjoram is often used medicinally in the form of the essential oil, about 400 grams being obtained from 70 kilos of the fresh herb. The oil is used as an external application for sprains, bruises etc. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is "Muscle relaxant".

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

June to


Habitat of the herb:

Dry slopes and rocky places, occasionally in partial shade, to 1500 metres in Turkey.

Edible parts of Sweet Marjoram:

Leaves - raw or cooked. Sweet marjoram is widely used as a flavouring for salad dressings, vegetables, legumes and oils. It has a more delicate flavour than the closely related oregano (Origanum vulgare), and is best when used fresh and only added towards the end of cooking. The aromatic seeds are used as a flavouring in sweets, drinks etc. A herb tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves. The flavour resembles a blend of thyme, rosemary and sage.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaves and flowers yield 0.3 - 0.4% essential oil by steam distillation. Called "Oil of Sweet Marjoram", it is used as a food flavouring and in perfumery, soaps, hair products etc. The plant is often used to disinfect bee hives.

Propagation of Sweet Marjoram:

Seed - sow early spring at 10 - 13C and only just cover the seed. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 4 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. The seed can also be sown in situ in April or early May and, although it can be slow to germinate, usually does well. Division in March or October. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer. Basal cuttings of young barren shoots in June. Very easy. Harvest the shoots with plenty of underground stem when they are about 8 - 10cm above the ground. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry slopes and rocky places, occasionally in partial shade, to 1500 metres in Turkey.

Known hazards of Origanum majorana:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.