Learn About Sweet Marjoram Essential Oil

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Do you enjoy incorporating Sweet Marjoram herb into your cooking? Do you know it’s related to Oregano and just as powerful in its own right? I like to think of Sweet Marjoram as the yin to Oregano’s yang. Read more to learn about Sweet Marjoram: this aromatic plant profile takes you from the gentle sun loving plant to its softly powerful essential oil including therapeutic applications, blending notes and making your own aromatherapy products.

A close of of Sweet Marjoram.

The Sun Loving but Tender Sweet Marjoram

Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is classified in the Lamiaceae family and a close relative to Oregano and cousin to the likes of Rosemary and Lavender. It is a hardy perennial sub-shrub that adores the sun and thrives in hot and dry climates such as Egypt. Yet, it is also called Origanum hortensis as it is a tender annual in temperate climates (e.g., France, Germany)—where one must be a horticulturalist of sorts to help it survive the colder weather. Historically, some of the finest Marjoram essential oil is thought to originate from Germany. Regardless, Sweet Marjoram prefers rocky, higher altitudes and calcareous soil as it is native to the Mediterranean and Eurasia. Its common name, “knotted marjoram,” nods to the unopened buds, which when opened show off diminutive flowers ranging from white to pink.

What’s In a Name: Which Marjoram is Sweet?

Following are a few notes on nomenclature regarding our herbaceous friend as it may be readily confused with other Origanums. Notably, Sweeet Marjoram should not be confused with Spanish Marjoram which is from Thymus mastichina. Pot marjoram (Origanum onites) is cultivated in cooler areas as true O. majorana can’t cut the cold and “wild marjoram” is really true oregano (Origanum vulgare). Marjoram may also go by different Latin binomials where O. marjorana references the French influence on the alternate Latin binomial of O. maiorana. According to Mailhebiau, “maiorana” is from the French “Marion,” a derivative of Mary—which may allude to the plants grace and power. Origanum—referencing both Sweet Marjoram and Oreganois derived from the Greek “oros” (mountains) and “ganos” (radiance) which nods to how the wild plants adorn rocky mountain sides with their delicate aromatic flowers and leaves.

Impressions of Marjoram Essential Oil

Obtaining Marjoram Essential Oil

Sweet marjoram essential oil is distilled from the dried flowering tops of the graceful Origanum majorana; the essence is abundant in its leaves. It is commonly grown and distilled for its fresh and comforting essence in Egypt, France, and Germany with oil yield averaging around 1%.

Overall Personality of Marjoram Essential Oil

Origanum majorana‘s soft, sweet aroma gently covers you with a warm but oddly cooling (relaxing) mist conducive for tempering hyper-tense qualities. Sweet Marjoram invites a quiet stillness to settle upon you, which may blossom into wonderment—the kind reminiscent of a childhood spent ambling barefoot across meadows, beaches and mountains as the sun beams down upon an unencumbered soul filled with carefree joy. Marjoram helps you go inward, relax and access your inner child, softening the sharp edges of a tight, overthinking mind.

Sweet marjoram was associated with Osiris, the archetype of continual death and rebirth and embodiment of the cycle of life. Marjoram may support rejuvenation by assisting us in slowly releasing misguided patterns and emotions by thoroughly relaxing. O. majorana gently fortifies the nerves and opens blocked channels allowing for the parasympathetic relaxation needed to accept, process and eventually transition to the next possibility-all of this by inducing a “heady”, dreamy restfulness.  

Join Me in the Garden: Plant Talk Video Featuring Sweet Marjoram.

Physical Impressions of Marjoram Essential Oil

Sweet Marjoram essential oil supports a quick transition from the thinking mind into easeful breathing into the boundaries of the root and sacral areas and daydream time. It supports child-like qualities of openness that may be expressed if one feels safe and supported in life. Its overall dreamy, hazy, lazy end-of summer care-free playfulness is immediate. Every encounter has a sacral/pelvic relaxation combined with dreaminess in the head. The breath is predictably easeful with Sweet Marjoram (a classic para-sympathetic supporter), but focus is not on the breath. It is on an overall sense of secure calmness that eventually leads to a sense of stupefaction, even dullness of the mind. I feel it may be interesting to support lucid dreaming.

Its initial warming qualities bring a simmer of peripheral pulsating action where tension lies (jaw & neck in my case) that is then expelled so a cooling sense of relaxation sets into the body (there’s a sense of radiating tension-heat outward). On the body-mind it is relaxed, dazed and sleepy but uplifted; rather like a cat curled up on a warm rock under the mid-morning or late-day sun. Marjoram is not high-noon activity like Oregano, it is closer to 10am or 5pm in the late summer. I In summary, its personality-chemistry fosters naptime, daydream time with a soft headiness that is hard to resist. Sweet Marjoram is a true supporter of parasympathetic relaxation.

What does Sweet Marjoram Essential Oil Smell Like?

True to its common name, Sweet Marjoram is indeed sweet but more complex than that. It is hot stones and earth notes of a coastal mountain side during the height of summer when a soft and slightly cool breeze sighs off the sea. Terpenic and spicy herbaceous notes are immediate. Sweet Marjoram further smells of soft-cozy-warmth yet it is cooling on the palate, mind and body. Its initial pungency is offset by a lulling sweetness with hints of fresh-green-delicate florals surrounded by a light-pink haze. It blossoms into demure innocence, the eternal revitalization/rejuvenation of Osiris. Its overall scent profile conjures images of youth, but Marjoram tempers the “idiocy” (i.e., recklessness) of youth—rather invoking innocence and wonder. The dry down continues into soft and soapy smoky-dry paper with a steady whisper of a pink and green perfumed coastal haze.

photo of sea during daytime
Photo by Cemal Taskiran on Pexels.com

Sweet Marjoram Essential Oil Affinities and Usage Applications

Sweet marjoram essential oil is indicated for the following conditions where key words summarizing its therapeutic properties and personality are child-like contentment, relaxation and restoration.

  • Circulatory: warming, hypotensive; indicated for cold extremities and high blood pressure.
    • Blend with Ginger to enhance warming qualities, or Cypress to tone inflamed veins.
  • Digestive: carminative and antispasmodic; indicated for overall easing intestinal cramping and moving things along.
    • Consider blending with Angelica Root or Lemon Balm for further digestive support. A tea of all three herbs after a meal could be most satisfying, especially for nervous indigestion.
  • Musculoskeletal: warming and analgesic; indicated for muscular or joint aches and pains, muscle spasms and cramps.
    • Try blending with another warming aromatic such as Ginger and other analgesic and anti-inflammatory aromatics such as Roman Chamomile, Spike Lavender, Rosemary and Helichrysum.
  • Nervous system: nervine and nerve tonic; indicated for, tachycardia, headaches, insomnia, overall stress, lethargy, nervous exhaustion, agitation, neuralgia.
    • There are so many aromatics that are nervines that several can be considered to blend with for supporting the nervous system, especially as related to stress.
      • Blend Marjoram with some of the classics such as True Lavender and the Chamomiles for calming, Clary Sage for euphoric uplift or Cypress, Rosemary and Bergamot for clarity.
      • Note: it may be stupefying if over-used; as with all essential oils, more isn’t better.
      • Note: See below for a delicious blend with Jasmine and Blue Tansy!
  • Respiratory: antispasmodic, antibacterial, antiviral; wet spasmodic coughs, bronchitis, sinusitis, respiratory viral infections.
    • Consider blending with Rosemary, Myrtle or Cypress for respiratory where wet-sticky mucus is present.
  • Reproductive: indicated for dysmenorrhea, menstrual cramps, herpes simplex; Sweet Marjoram is considered to be an anaphrodisiac (tempers sexual impulse).
    • Try blending with True or Spike Lavender, Helichrysum and/or Roman Chamomile to ease cramping and balance stress.

Blending with Sweet Marjoram Essential Oil

Sweet Marjoram essential oil blends well with: Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), Melissa (Melissa officinalis), Clary sage (Salvia sclarea), Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Helichrysum italicum, Blue Tansy (Tanacetum annuum), Angelica root (Angelica archangelica), Bergamot (Citrus bergamia), Rosemary ct. verbenone (Rosmarinus officinalis ct verbenone), Spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia), Mandarin (Citrus reticulata).

Notes on Sweet Marjoram Essential Oil Chemistry and Safety

Sweet Marjoram is rich in monoterpenes (α-terpinene, y-terpinene and sabinene) and monoterpene alcohols (cis-thujanol, terpinen-4-ol) supported by sesquiterpenes and esters. Of course, the chemistry often varies depending on the terroir of the plant’s home (e.g., soil, terrain and climate). Sweet Marjoram essential oil has no known safety concerns when used prudently.

Making Aromatherapy Products with Marjoram Essential Oil

Roll your cares away with this brightening synergy of essential oils! Simply blend the essential oils listed below into the glass bottle of a 10 ml roller ball applicator. Then add a fixed oil to the glass bottle (Jojoba is my go-to), insert the roller ball apparatus and affix the cap. Be sure to label the bottle.

  • 3 drops Basil ct linalool (Ocimum basilicum ct linalol)
  • 5 drops Clary sage (Salvia sclarea)
  • 6 drops Origanum majorana
  • 8 drops Spike lavender (Lavandula spicata)
  • 8 drops Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)

Use daily, at least 2x per day. Roll onto pulse points, behind the ears and even onto the jawline. Then gently massage the oils into your skin and let them do their work. Apply a liberal amount to pain sites (e.g., stiff neck) and massage the oils into your skin for tension related pain. This is why there are a total number of 30 drops of essential oils; there would be fewer drops of synergy if this blend was for supporting emotions.

Aromatherapy Inhaler for Relaxed Breathing

Consider putting the following essential oil blend in an aromatic inhaler to help soothe the histamine response, open airways and relax tense breathing caused by anxiousness.

  • 5 drops Rosemary cineole essential oil (Rosmarinus officinalis ct cineole)
  • 10 drops Origanum majorana essential oil
  • 15 drops Myrtle essential oil (Myrtus communis)
  • Optional: 3-5 drops of Blue Tansy essential oil (Tanacetum annuum) for its antihistamine-like qualities.

Feminine Reproductive Support: Taming Pain and Balancing Mood

Treat yourself to a nourishing, mood-chilling and body soothing butter-balm or salve to help ease menstrual cramping and any associated unease.

To make: Combine the essential oils listed below in a small vial with a cap and let it sit for a few days (this is enough to add to 2 ounces of butter).

  • 30 drops Origanum majorana essential oil
  • 20 drops Sweet fennel essential oil (Foeniculum vulgare var dulce)
  • 10 drops Roman chamomile essential oil (Chamaemelum nobile)

Then whip up a lovely butter-balm and add the essential oil blend to the base. Note: consider the following measurements to make 2 ounces of product: 1 ounce shea butter, 0.5 ounces coconut oil and 0.5 ounces of another fixed oil (e.g., sesame) of your choice. You may, instead, opt to add the essential oils into a simple body/massage oil.

To use: Apply to pain sites and anywhere else on your skin you may enjoy the softening qualities of the butter and the aromas of the essential oils. Use up to 3x per day, 3 to 5 days prior to and during menses.

Lighten Your Mood with This Essential Oil Blend

Bring a sense of playfulness, wonder and uplift with this stock blend of essential oils. Add a few drops to a diffuser, a drop to a cotton pad or smell directly from the bottle.

  • 7 drops Origanum majorana essential oil
  • 5 drops Clary sage (Salvia sclarea) essential oil
  • 1 drop Jasmine (Jasminum sambac) absolute
  • 1 drop Blue Tansy (Tanacetum annuum) essential oil
  • 11 drops of a Fir oil such as Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea)

On a parting note—don’t forget to incorporate fresh or dried Marjoram into your cooking, plant a few plants in a pot and rub your fingers across the leaves to enjoy aromatherapy at your fingertips! Thank you for spending time with Origanum majorana and me.

Learn more about the Lavenders, Chamomiles and How to Make the Perfect Salve

The Enchanting World of Lavenders


Lavender! It is the aromatic plant and its essential oil that started modern aromatherapy. Amy Anthony brings you to her Long Island garden and shares the lavender plants’ history in their natural environment. Beautifully filmed, this video-based class includes a captivating PowerPoint full of colorful graphics and thought-provoking information. Want…

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DIY Series: The Perfect Salve

Pay what you wish! $10.00 is suggested.

What is a salve, and how can you make the perfect salve for yourself? Easy! Learn to use beeswax and candelilla wax in this fascinating and captivating class.  Blending ideas, recipes, and step-by-step instructions are all included and simple to follow. This class walks you through salves’ how and why, including incorporating essential oils into…

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Citations and Resources

Ernest Guenther, P. (1949). The Essential Oils. Malabar: Krieger

Holmes, P. (2016). Aromatica A Clinical Guide to Essential Oil Therapeutics. London: Singing Dragon.

Mailhebiau, P. (1995). Portraits in Oils. Editions Jakin.

Meyers, M. (n.d.). Oregano and Marjoram An Herb Society of America Guide to the Genus Origanum. Retrieved from The Herb Society of America: http://www.herbsociety.org/file_download/inline/b30630e2-d0a9-4632-a7da-14af53a07a67.

Mojay, G. (1997). Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit: Restoring Emotional and Mental Balance with Essential Oils. Rochester: Healing Arts Press.

Picton, M. (2000). The Book of Magical Herbs. London: Barrons.

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