March seems to be peacefully content to come in like an adored, sunny lamb, at least in Connecticut. With this respite from the increment weather and the happenings of my move behind me, I was contemplating doing another blog on the calming effects of essential oils. However, at risk that I may clobber this subject to a distasteful bore, I began reconsidering another topic for my next blog.
Sidekick time again? Nope it’s time for an addition to the duo concept and the introduction of the three amigos!! Who will join the immune supporting and spicy essential oils of oregano and its thymly sidekick? Well, in case you skipped the title, it’s time to celebrate a little bit of March madness with marjoram! (After all, we have more energy to groove our booties with our shovels put away for a bit.)
Bonus for me!
I learned marjoram can support the immune system, which helps with the negative impacts of stress, right? Hence, the overriding theme connects and continues.
So, read ahead to learn why you may want to start some March madness and make some room for marjoram (Origanum majorana L ), next to oregano and thyme, in your essential oil and spice collection.
Note: This is an overview of the plant marjoram, check the studies for the source and form (extract, herb, essential oil.)
Mad Reason 1: Immune Support- Increasing the Good Guys
In one small human study with eleven subjects, it was demonstrated that there was a relaxing effect of massage with and without essential oils (almond oil, cypress, and marjoram). The study didn’t show a significant difference in depression and anxiety between the groups. (Whoever is sad and anxious after a massage went to the wrong masseuse!) However, the aromatherapy receivers gained some additional positive immunological shifts. This was demonstrated by an increase in white blood cells. For the docs who want the details, here is the chemical soup of cell counts in the abstract:
This preliminary investigation compares peripheral blood cell counts including red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells (WBCs), neutrophils, peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs), CD4+, CD8+ and CD16+ lymphocytes, CD4+/CD8+ ratio, hematocrit, humoral parameters including serum interferon-? and interleukin-6, salivary secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA). Psychological measures including the State–Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) questionnaire and the Self-rating Depression Scale (SDS) between recipients (n = 11) of carrier oil massage and aromatherapy massage, which includes sweet almond oil, lavender oil, cypress oil and sweet marjoram oil. Though both STAI and SDS showed a significant reduction (P < 0.01) after treatment with aromatherapy and carrier massage, no difference between the aromatherapy and control massage was observed for STAI and SDS. Aromatherapy, in contrast to control massage, did not significantly reduce RBC count or hematocrit. However, aromatherapy massage showed a significant (P > 0.05) increase in PBLs, possibly due to an increase in CD8+ and CD16+ lymphocytes, which had significantly increased post-treatment (P < 0.01). Consequently, the CD4+/CD8+ ratio decreased significantly (P < 0.01). The paucity of such differences after carrier oil massage suggests that aromatherapy massage could be beneficial in disease states that require augmentation of CD8+ lymphocytes. While this study identifies the immunological benefits of aromatherapy massage, there is a need to validate the findings prospectively in a larger cohort of patients.(1)
This isn’t the only study that shows immune support with blood cells. In another study with mice, clove and ginger also demonstrated immune support in the immunosuppressed rodents.(2)
Mad Reason 2A:
Immune Support- Inhibiting the Bad Guys
Essential oils have been shown in numerous studies to inhibit unwanted microbes. Here’s one study on marjoram’s effect on seven fungi and six bacteria:
In-vitro microbicidal activity of the methanol extract of Origanum majorana L. was tested against seven fungi (Fusarium solani, Candida albicans, Aspergillus niger, A. parasiticus, Rhizopus oryzae, Rhizoctonia otyzae-sativae and Altemaria brassicicola) and six bacteria (Bacillus subtilis, B. megaterium, Escherichia coil, Proteus vulgaris, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus). The methanol extract of O. majorana can be used as an effective herbal protectant against different pathogenic bacteria and fungi. High toxicity against the growth of Aspergillus niger was diagnosed. (3)
Mad Reason 2B:
Getting Rid Of Unwanted Visitors…
No, this reason isn’t on the subject of in-laws, but it is about critters again. For those struggling with female German cockroaches in their home, marjoram may deter them from taking residence. The following study goes into detail on the active components involved in this and also discusses monoterpenoids and sesquiterpenes, both which are found in marjoram:
The toxicity of marjoram, Origanum majorana L., oil, 41 monoterpenoids, and 2 sesquiterpenoids against adult females of the German cockroach, Blattella germanica L., was examined using direct contact and vapor phase toxicity bioassays and compared with those of deltamethrin, dichlorvos, permethrin, and propoxur, four commonly used insecticides. In a filter-paper contact toxicity bioassay, the adulticidal activities of pulegone (0.06 mg/cm2), (+/-)-camphor (0.07 mg/cm2), and verbenone (0.07 mg/cm2) were comparable to that of permethrin (0.05 mg/cm2) but more pronounced than that of propoxur (0.18 mg/cm2), as judged by the 24-h LC50 values. These compounds were less effective than either deltamethrin (0.013 mg/cm2) or dichlorvos (0.007 mg/cm2). The toxicity of marjoram oil, thymol, alpha-terpineol, (-)-alpha-thujone, linalool, 1,8-cineole, (-)-camphor, and (+)-carvone, ranging from 0.08 to 0.18 mg/cm2, was higher than that of propoxur. In vapor phase toxicity tests, verbenone (11.48 mg/L air) was the most toxic compound followed by (-)-alpha-thujone (18.43 mg/L of air), thymol (18.76 mg/L of air), alpha-terpineol (21.89 mg/L of air), (+/-)-camphor (24.59 mg/L of air), linalool (26.20 mg/L of air), and marjoram oil (38.28 mg/L of air) on the basis of the 24-h LC50 values. Dichlorvos (0.07 mg/L of air) was the most potent fumigant. Structure-activity relationships indicate that structural characteristics, such as degrees of saturation and types of functional groups rather than types of carbon skeleton, and hydrophobicity and vapor pressure parameters appear to play a role in determining the monoterpenoid toxicities to adult B. germanica. Marjoram oil and the monoterpenoids described merit further study as potential fumigants or leads for the control of B. germanica.(4)
Mad Reason 3: Studies Exhibiting An Effect On Blood Sugar
When it comes to maintaining already healthy blood sugar levels, I usually think of cinnamon. (5,6) I was exhilarated to read that other herbs are being investigated for their role on glucose metabolism. As explained by Medical News Today (bold emphasis mine):
Herbs may offer an alternative way to keep glucose in check
Researchers found that certain herbs, such as rosemary, contain compounds that may have the potential to manage type 2 diabetes naturally. The researchers note that recent studies have shown herbs may provide an alternative, natural way to keep glucose in check, so they decided to take a closer look.
In their paper, they describe how they investigated the properties of Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare), marjoram (Origanum majorana), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens).They prepared extracts of these plants obtained from greenhouse-grown and commercially purchased dried forms and examined their ability to inhibit two enzymes – one called DPP-IV (also calld DPP-4) that plays a role in insulin secretion, and another called PTP1B that is involved in insulin signaling.
These enzymes have been identified as targets of drugs for managing diabetes. For example, the drugs sitagliptin and metformin are medications in the DPP-4 inhibitor family. However, searching for inhibitors of PTP1B is proving more challenging.
Prof. de Mejia and colleagues found that the greenhouse-grown herbs contained more polyphenols and flavonoids than the commercial, dried versions. (7)
The original abstract reported, “that hispidulin, carnosol, and eriodictyol would have the best binding affinities for DPP-IV. Biochemically, the best inhibitors of DPP-IV were cirsimaritin (IC50=0.43±0.07 uM), hispidulin (IC50=0.49±0.06 uM), and naringenin (IC50=2.5±0.29 uM). Overall, herbs contain several flavonoids that inhibit DPP-IV and should be investigated further regarding their potential in diabetes management.” (8)
In a 2003 study with rats, a methanol extract of marjoram showed inhibition of alpha-glucosidase, which according to the authors, has a “physiologically important role in the digestion of dietary carbohydrates. Hence, suppression of the activity of the enzymes decreases glucose absorption and thus reduces the postprandial blood glucose concentration.” The abstract reads:
A methanol extract of marjoram leaves strongly inhibited rat intestinal alpha-glucosidase. Five 6-hydroxyflavonoids, 6-hydroxyapigenin (scutellarein; IC50 for sucrose hydrolysis by rat intestinal alpha-glucosidase, 12 microM), 6-hydroxyapigenin-7-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside (> 500 microM), 6-hydroxyluteolin-7-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside (300 microM), 6-hydroxyapigenin-7-O-(6-O-feruloyl)-beta-D-glucopyranoside (>500 microM), and 6-hydroxyluteolin-7-O-(6-O-feruloyl)-beta-D-glucopyranoside (> 500 microM), were isolated as active principles and related compounds. The two feruloylglucosides are novel compounds. (9)
Mad Reason 4: Human Trial With PCOS
In keeping with the theme that marjoram may affect blood sugar levels, a human study showed benefits with the use of marjoram tea on the hormonal profiles of women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). (Imagine what would happen with the oil!)
PCOS is correlated to imbalanced insulin levels and androgen hormones, and this study demonstrated beneficial effects specifically on insulin and DHEA-S:
The effect of marjoram (Origanum majorana) tea on the hormonal profile of women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomised controlled pilot study.
BACKGROUND: In traditional medicine, marjoram herb (Origanum majorana) is locally reputed for its ability to restore hormonal balance and to regulate the menstrual cycle. Therefore, this pilot study aimed to investigate the effects of marjoram tea on the hormonal profile of women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
METHODS: Twenty-five patients were assigned to receive marjoram tea or a placebo tea twice daily for 1 month (intervention group: n = 14; placebo group: n = 11). The hormonal and metabolic parameters measured at baseline, as well as after the intervention, were: follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinising hormone, progesterone, oestradiol, total testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulphate (DHEA-S), fasting insulin and glucose, homeostasis model assessment for insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) and glucose to insulin ratio.
RESULTS: Marjoram tea significantly reduced DHEA-S and fasting insulin levels (P < 0.05) by a mean (SD) of 1.4 (0.5) umol L-1 and 1.9 (0.8) uU mL-1 , respectively. In comparison to the placebo group, the change was only significant for DHEA-S (P = 0.05) but not for insulin (P = 0.08). HOMA-IR was not reduced significantly in the intervention group (P = 0.06), although the change was significant compared to the placebo group (P < 0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: The results obtained in the present study show the beneficial effects of marjoram tea on the hormonal profile of PCOS women because it was found to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the levels of adrenal androgens. Further research is needed to confirm these results and to investigate the active components and mechanisms contributing to such potential beneficial effects of marjoram herb.(10)
Mad Reason 5: Protecting Rats Livers, Brains, and Fertility
In vivo protection from the negative impact of ethanol toxicity on male fertility, liver, and brain tissues in rats was demonstrated in this study, which tested marjoram and grape seed extract (bold emphasis mine):
Natural dietary antioxidants are extensively studied for their ability to protect cells from miscellaneous damages. Marjoram volatile oil (Origanum majorana L., Lamiaceae) and grape seed extract (Vitis vinifera L., Vitaceae) are potent antioxidants. Effects of administration of marjoram volatile oil or grape seed extract on oral administration of ethanol, simultaneously, daily for 10 weeks were studied through determining epididymal spermatozoal analysis, serum testosterone level, weight and histopathological examination of testis, liver and brain. Glutathione level and lipid peroxidation content as malondialdehyde in the testis, liver and brain were measured. The repeated intake of a great amount of ethanol (10 ml/kg body weight, 25% v/v) was followed by fertility disturbances with low sperm count, impaired sperm motility and decrease in serum testosterone level. Moreover, ethanol toxicity induced significant alterations in the histological structures of the testis, liver and brain. The results revealed a significant increase in lipid peroxidation and decrease in the level of glutathione in the testis, liver and brain in the ethanol-treated group. However, co-administration of the extracts of protective plants resulted in minimizing the hazard effects of ethanol toxicity on male fertility, liver and brain tissues. It may be concluded that marjoram volatile oil and grape seed extract are useful herbal remedies, especially for controlling oxidative damages. (11)
Mad Reason 6: May Help With Heart Health
This study demonstrated in vivo protection against induced heart attacks in rats:
We made an attempt to evaluate/compare the cardioprotective activity of two different doses (50 and 100 mg/kg body weight, given orally for 30 consecutive days) of Egyptian sweet marjoram leaf powder (MLP) and marjoram leaf aqueous extract (MLE) against isoproterenol (ISO)-induced myocardial infarcted rats (150 mg/kg body weight, twice at an interval of 24 h on days 29 and 30). The present study showed (probably for the first time) that both MLP and MLE (especially the high dose) significantly alleviated (P < 0.05-0.001) erythrocytosis, granulocytosis, thrombocytosis, shortened clotting time, the increase in relative heart weight, myocardial oxidative stress and the leakage of heart enzymes (creatine phosphokinase (CPK), CPK-MB isoenzyme, lactate dehydrogenase and aminotransferase) in ISO-treated rats through reactivating non-enzymic (reduced glutathione) and enzymic (catalase, glutathione peroxidase, glutathione S-transferase, superoxide dismutase) antioxidant defence system and inhibiting the production of nitric oxide and lipid peroxidation in heart tissues. The modulatory effects of marjoram leaves shown in the present study were dose-dependent in most cases and much higher in MLE (4.3-20.3 % for all parameters taken together). In addition, the doses used in the present study were considered safe. In conclusion, this study may have a significant impact on myocardial infarcted patients.(12)
Mad Reason 7: Belly Protector in Rats
This study discussed how marjoram may protect against stomach ulcers. The researchers thought this may be due to its “volatile oil, flavonoids, tannins, sterols, and/or triterpenes”:
‘Marjoram,’ Origanum majorana L., a culinary aromatic medicinal herb is known to possess various therapeutic properties. We evaluated the antiulcerogenic activity of the ethanol extract in hypothermic restraint stress-, indomethacin-, necrotizing agents- (80% ethanol, 25% NaCl and 0.2 M NaOH) induced ulcers and basal gastric acid secretion using pylorus ligated Shay rat-model. Marjoram at doses of 250 and 500 mg/kg of body weight, significantly decreased the incidence of ulcers, basal gastric secretion and acid output. Furthermore, the extract replenished the ethanol-induced depleted gastric wall mucus and nonprotein sulfhydryls (NP-SH) contents and significantly lowered the increase in the concentration of malondialdehyde (MDA). Ulcer preventing potential was further confirmed by histopathological assessment. An acute toxicity test showed a large margin of safety of the extract in mice. The phytochemical screening of aerial parts of marjoram revealed the presence of volatile oil, flavonoids, tannins, sterols and/or triterpenes. (13)
Marjoram is quite a welcome addition to the former duo of oregano and thyme! I have used marjoram in cooking (1 toothpick amount will due in a whole pot/pan) and taken 2-3 drops internally for keeping my immune system strong with stress. Make sure you read here if you are new to using genuine essential oils for other safe applications.
Disclaimer: This information about essential oils applicable ONLY for therapeutic, Grade A essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been AFNOR and ISO standardized or tested for purity. There is no quality control in the United States and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. Please check the study source for company and source of the herb, extract, or essential oil.
This information is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness
(1) Kuriyama H, Watanabe S, Nakaya T, et al. Immunological and Psychological Benefits of Aromatherapy Massage. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2005;2(2):179-184. doi:10.1093/ecam/neh087.
(2) Carrasco FR1, Schmidt G, Romero AL, Sartoretto JL, Caparroz-Assef SM, Bersani-Amado CA, Cuman RK. Immunomodulatory activity of Zingiber officinale Roscoe, Salvia officinalis L. and Syzygium aromaticum L. essential oils: evidence for humor- and cell-mediated responses. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2009 Jul;61(7):961-7. doi: 10.1211/jpp/61.07.0017.
(3) Leeja L, Thoppil JE. Antimicrobial activity of methanol extract of Origanum majorana L. (Sweet marjoram). J Environ Biol. 2007 Jan;28(1):145-6.
(4) Jang YS1, Yang YC, Choi DS, Ahn YJ. Vapor phase toxicity of marjoram oil compounds and their related monoterpenoids to Blattella germanica (Orthoptera: Blattellidae). J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Oct 5;53(20):7892-8.
(5) Crawford P. Effectiveness of cinnamon for lowering hemoglobin A1C in patients with type 2 diabetes: A randomized, controlled trial. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 2009;22:507.
(6) Vafa M, et al. Effects of cinnamon consumption on glycemic status, lipid profile and body composition in type 2 diabetic patients. International Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2012;3:531.
(7) Diabetes-fighting potential spotted in culinary herbs. Medical News Today. Updated July 24, 2014. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/280063.php
(8) Bower AM1, Real Hernandez LM, Berhow MA, de Mejia EGBioactive compounds from culinary herbs inhibit a molecular target for type 2 diabetes management, dipeptidyl peptidase IV. J Agric Food Chem. 2014 Jul 2;62(26):6147-58. doi: 10.1021/jf500639f. Epub 2014 Jun 13.
(9) Kawabata J, Mizuhata K, Sato E, Nishioka T, Aoyama Y, Kasai T. 6-hydroxyflavonoids as alpha-glucosidase inhibitors from marjoram (Origanum majorana) leaves. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2003 Feb;67(2):445-7. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/bbb/67/2/67_2_445/_pdf
(10) Haj-Husein I, Tukan S, Alkazaleh F. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2015 Feb 9. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12290. [Epub ahead of print]
(11) El-Ashmawy IM, Saleh A, Salama OM. Effects of marjoram volatile oil and grape seed extract on ethanol toxicity in male rats. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2007 Nov;101(5):320-7.
(12) Ramadan G, El-Beih NM, Arafa NM, Zahra MM. Preventive effects of Egyptian sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana L.) leaves on haematological changes and cardiotoxicity in isoproterenol-treated albino rats. Cardiovasc Toxicol. 2013 Jun;13(2):100-9. doi: 10.1007/s12012-012-9189-4.
(13) Al-Howiriny T1 Alsheikh A, Alqasoumi S, Al-Yahya M, ElTahir K, Rafatullah S. Protective Effect of Origanum majorana L. ‘Marjoram’ on various models of gastric mucosal injury in rats. Am J Chin Med. 2009;37(3):531-45
images courtesy istockphoto.com and Anna (5 years old)