Sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana, Majorana hortensis)
DRUGS AND SUPPLEMENTS

Sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana, Majorana hortensis)

March 22, 2017

../../images/ss_sweetmarjoram.jpg

Sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana, Majorana hortensis)

Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Alanya kekigi (Turkish), alpha-pinene, alpha-terpinene, alpha-terpineol, apigenin-7-glucoside, arbutin, beyaz keki (Turkish), Blattmajoran (German), caffeic acid, carnosic acid, carnosol, carotenoids, carvacrol, chlorophylls, cinaroside, cis-sabinene hydrate, cis-sabinene hydrate acetate, coumaric acid, diosmetin, eugenol, ferulic acid, flavonoids, Französischer Majoran (German), gamma-terpinene, garden marjoram, Gartenmajoran (German), havemerian (Danish), herbes de Provence, hydroxyapigenin, hydroxybenzoates, hydroxybenzoic acid, hydroxycinnamic acids, hydroxyflavonoids, hydroxyluteolin, hydroxyquinone, Labiatae (family), Lamiaceae (family), linalool, luteolin-7-glucoside, maajoramu (Japanese), maggiorana coltivata (Italian), măghiran (Romanian), maioran sadovyi (Russian), majoram, Majoran (German), majorana (Medieval Latin), Majorana aetheroleum oil, Majorana herb, Majorana hortensis, majorane (Old French), manjerona (Portuguese), mantzourana (Greek), marduix (Catalan), marjolaine (French), marjolaine cultivée (French), marjolein (Dutch), marjoram oleoresin, marubaka (Sanskrit), maruva (Sanskrit), matzourana (Greek), maustemeirami (Finnish), mažuran (Croatian), meirami (Finnish), mejorana (Spanish), mejram (Swedish), merian (Danish), monoterpenes, murwa (Hindi), mycotoxins, orientin, origan d'Espagne (French), Origanum majorana, p-cymene, phenolic compounds, phenolic glycosides, pot marjoram, sabinene hydrate, sinapic acid, sterigmatocystin, syringic acid, terpinen-4-ol, terpineol-4, terpinolene, thymol, topoisomerase II, ursolic acid, vanillic acid, vitexin, Wurstkraut (German), yon-be (Burmese), za'atar (Arabic).

  • Combination product examples: Prolong P (rosemary, thyme, marjoram mixture).

Background

  • Sweet marjoram is a perennial herb used around the world medicinally and is also grown for its aromatic leaves, which are used in herbal culinary mixtures, such as herbes de Provence and za'atar. The essential oil is noted as having a sweet and spicy aroma.

  • Sweet marjoram has traditionally been used to relieve muscle spasms, insomnia (inability to sleep), nausea, and headaches. In aromatherapy, marjoram is used to purportedly help calm individuals who have feelings of emotional instability or who are prone to hysteria or irritability. In early research, sweet marjoram has been studied for its effects in relieving symptoms of asthma, eczema, and skin irritation.

Scientific Evidence

Uses

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Grade*

Asthma

In early study, two drops of marjoram oil taken daily increased the maximum voluntary ventilation in asthmatic subjects. Further study is required before conclusions may be drawn.

C

Atopic eczema

Essential oils, as a form of aromatherapy, may be effective in alleviating symptoms associated with atopic eczema. Limited available human study showed that massage with essential oils, including marjoram, was not more effective in alleviating childhood atopic eczema than massage without essential oils. More high-quality prolonged studies with sweet marjoram alone are needed.

C

Skin irritation

Based on the use of a topical combination product containing marjoram, marjoram oil may be effective in reducing redness of the skin. Further study is required before conclusions can be drawn.

C

*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).

Tradition/Theory

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Acaricidal, Alzheimer's disease, anorexia, antidote to poisons, antifungal, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antiviral, aromatherapy, arthritis, bleeding (urogenital), blood circulation, blood cleanser, cancer, cancer preventative, clear sinuses, colds, colic, decongestant, depression, diabetes, digestion, diuretic, dizziness, emotional distress, emotional instability, flavoring, flu, fumigant, gallstones, gas, gastrointestinal disorders, growth, headache, heart disease, high blood pressure, hysteria, inflammation (ear), insecticide, insomnia, irritability, kidney disease prevention, laryngitis, laxative, liver disease, liver protection, loneliness, lower back pain, menstrual disorders, menstrual flow stimulant, migraines, muscle relaxant, muscle spasms, nasal inflammation, nausea, neurasthenia, painful menstruation, paralysis, protection against alcohol toxicity, rheumatism, rhinitis, sedative, sneezing, stiff joints, thrombosis, tonic (nerve, heart, and circulatory system), ulcer, vaginal discharge, voice strain.

Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (18 years and older)

  • There is currently no known safe or effective dose for sweet marjoram. For asthma, two drops of marjoram oil (from the seeds) daily for three months has been used along with proper medical treatment. Sweet marjoram has also been used as a poultice on the skin or as a mouthwash.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is currently no known safe or effective dose for sweet marjoram in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to marjoram, its constituents, or to members of the Lamiaceae family. Possible allergic contact dermatitis in children with pre-existing childhood atopic eczema may occur.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Marjoram may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar levels. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.

  • Marjoram may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or in those taking agents that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.

  • Use cautiously in patients using diuretics or cholinesterase inhibitors.

  • Use the flower, leaf, or oil cautiously long-term, because marjoram contains hydroxyquinone, a substance that may cause cancer.

  • Use fresh marjoram cautiously when applied to the skin, because it may cause eye and skin inflammation or may lighten skin color (hypopigmentation).

  • Use amounts higher than found in the diet cautiously in pregnant women and children.

  • Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to marjoram, its constituents, or to members of the Lamiaceae family. Allergic contact dermatitis (skin rash) has been reported. Dermatitis around the mouth has also been reported.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women, due to lack of available evidence.

Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

  • Marjoram may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar levels. Patients taking insulin or drugs for diabetes by mouth should be monitored closely by their qualified healthcare professionals, including pharmacists. Medication adjustments may be necessary.

  • Marjoram may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).

  • Sweet marjoram may also interact with alcohol, antibiotics, anticholinergics, antifungals, anti-cancer drugs, antiprotozoals, antiulcer drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs, cholinesterase inhibitors, and diuretics.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Marjoram may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar levels. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.

  • Marjoram may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto.

  • Sweet marjoram may also interact with Ambrosia maritime, antibacterials, anticholinergics, antifungals, anticancer herbs and supplements, antioxidants, antiparasitics, antiulcer herbs and supplements, cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, and diuretics.

Author Information

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Anderson, C, Lis-Balchin, M, and Kirk-Smith, M. Evaluation of massage with essential oils on childhood atopic eczema. Phytother Res 2000;14(6):452-456. View Abstract

  2. Benito, M, Jorro, G, Morales, C, et al. Labiatae allergy: systemic reactions due to ingestion of oregano and thyme. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 1996;76(5):416-418. View Abstract

  3. Campanella, L, Bonanni, A, Favero, G, et al. Determination of antioxidant properties of aromatic herbs, olives and fresh fruit using an enzymatic sensor. Anal Bioanal Chem 2003;375(8):1011-1016. View Abstract

  4. Dorman, HJ, Bachmayer, O, Kosar, M, et al. Antioxidant properties of aqueous extracts from selected lamiaceae species grown in Turkey. J Agric Food Chem 2-25-2004;52(4):762-770. View Abstract

  5. Esiyok, D, Otles, S, and Akcicek, E. Herbs as a food source in Turkey. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev 2004;5(3):334-339. View Abstract

  6. Farkas, J. Perioral dermatitis from marjoram, bay leaf and cinnamon. Contact Dermatitis 1981;7(2):121. View Abstract

  7. Gutierrez, J, Barry-Ryan, C, and Bourke, P. Antimicrobial activity of plant essential oils using food model media: efficacy, synergistic potential and interactions with food components. Food Microbiol 2009;26(2):142-150. View Abstract

  8. Kim, MJ, Nam, ES, and Paik, SI. [The effects of aromatherapy on pain, depression, and life satisfaction of arthritis patients]. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi 2005;35(1):186-194. View Abstract

  9. Kuriyama, H, Watanabe, S, Nakaya, T, et al. Immunological and Psychological Benefits of Aromatherapy Massage. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2005;2(2):179-184. View Abstract

  10. Leeja, L and Thoppil, JE. Antimicrobial activity of methanol extract of Origanum majorana L. (Sweet marjoram). J Environ.Biol 2007;28(1):145-146. View Abstract

  11. Misharina, TA, Polshkov, AN, Ruchkina, EL, et al. [Changes in the composition of the essential oil in stored marjoram]. Prikl Biokhim Mikrobiol 2003;39(3):353-358. View Abstract

  12. Ninfali, P, Mea, G, Giorgini, S, et al. Antioxidant capacity of vegetables, spices and dressings relevant to nutrition. Br J Nutr 2005;93(2):257-266. View Abstract

  13. Tahraoui, A, El Hilaly, J, Israili, ZH, et al. Ethnopharmacological survey of plants used in the traditional treatment of hypertension and diabetes in south-eastern Morocco (Errachidia province). J Ethnopharmacol 3-1-2007;110(1):105-117. View Abstract

  14. Triantaphyllou, K, Blekas, G, and Boskou, D. Antioxidative properties of water extracts obtained from herbs of the species Lamiaceae. Int J Food Sci Nutr 2001;52(4):313-317. View Abstract

  15. Yang, YC, Lee, HS, Clark, JM, and Ahn, YJ. Insecticidal activity of plant essential oils against Pediculus humanus capitis (Anoplura: Pediculidae). J Med Entomol 2004;41(4):699-704. View Abstract

Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

Updated:  

March 22, 2017