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"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul."
Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
Sweet marjoram has been used as a folk remedy, culinary herb, fragrance and medicine; today, sweet marjoram essential oil has a number of uses and properties in aromatherapy.

Historical Use of Marjoram

Sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana) is a popular European herb that has been used for centuries; it was common in many 17th century English country gardens and waysides.  The ancient Greeks used marjoram in cosmetics, fragrances and medicines; Greek physicians also used it as an antidote to poison.  In ancient Egypt, marjoram was known for its healing properties and was also used to aid grieving. In 16th century Europe, sweet marjoram was used in bags to scent the bath water and was also used for washing.

Botanical Profile of Sweet Marjoram

Sweet marjoram belongs to the lamiaceae plant family and is a small, perennial plant which grows up to 24 inches in height; sometimes, it is cultivated as an annual in colder climates.  Sweet marjoram has small, gray-white flowers which grow in clusters, dark green oval leaves and a hairy stem; the whole plant has a very strong, aromatic fragrance.

Sweet Marjoram Oil

Sweet marjoram is native to the Mediterranean region, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.  The essential oil of sweet marjoram is obtained by the steam distillation of the dried leaves and flowers of the plant; it has a warm, woody, spicy-camphoraceous aroma with a herbaceous undertone.  The chemical components of marjoram essential oil include pinene, sabinene, camphor, borneol and origanol.

Use of Marjoram Essential Oil in Aromatherapy

Sweet marjoram essential oil is analgesic, calming, expectorant, anti-infectious, antiseptic, anti-viral, digestive, sedative, diuretic, bactericidal and a tonic.  It can be used in the treatment of migraines, arthritis, headaches, respiratory infections, sinusitis, insomnia, anxiety, nervous depression, asthma, bronchitis, colds, constipation, flatulence, grief, menstrual difficulties (including PMT) and stress.

Other Uses of Marjoram Oil

Sweet marjoram oil and oleoresin are used as a fragrance ingredient in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps and detergents; it is also found in meats, sauces and seasonings in the food industry.  Marjoram is present in alcohol and soft drinks too.  It is said to help lower blood pressure and promote long life.

Cautions for Using Marjoram Oil

Sweet marjoram essential oil is non-irritating, non-toxic and non-sensitizing; some sources cite against its use in pregnancy.  However, Shirley and Len Price write in Aromatherapy for Health Professionals that there is no conclusive evidence in French aromatherapy studies that prove sweet marjoram oil is an emmenogogic oil. Sweet marjoram oil is also cautioned against for use with children under twelve years of age.  Due to its sedative properties, marjoram should not be used for a prolonged length of time as it may cause drowsiness.

Sweet marjoram should also not be confused with Spanish marjoram, which is a variety of thyme with different aromatic properties and uses.  As with the use of all essential oils, professional advice should be taken if unfamiliar with the use of essential oils and the practice of aromatherapy.

References:

Davis, Patrica 1999 Aromatherapy An A-Z UK: Vermilion
Lawless, Julia 1995 Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils London, UK: Element
Price, Shirley, Price, Len 2002 Aromatherapy for Health Professionals UK: Churchill Livingstone

This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Marjoram Essential Oil

It is expressively prohibited to copy or use this article in any way unless written permission is given by the author Sharon Falsetto.  If it is discovered that copyright laws have not been complied with, legal action will be pursued by the author Sharon Falsetto.


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