Aromatherapy: The Magic of Marjoram

There are two types of marjoram essential oil. The one most commonly used in aromatherapy, Origanum marjorana, better known as 'sweet' marjoram, is the oil referred to throughout this website. The other essential oil, Origanum vulgare, is more closely related to thyme and oregano, and although sometimes used for aromatherapy, this has different properties and is only use in certain circumstances, when its Latin name is specified.


botanical marjoram

Two of marjoram's most valuable uses are as a muscle relaxant and as an anti-spasmodic oil. Added to bath water, applied in massage or on a warm compress, it can help alleviate backache, indigestion, abdominal pains and menstrual problems.

The warm and penetrating aroma of marjoram is both relaxing and restorative. It's peppery and spicy fragrance has camphorous undertones that evaporate to leave a soft, sweet scent. This garden herb can also be used for a wide range of healing therapies.

A massage with marjoram is also wonderfully soothing for muscles that are tight and sore, for example, after exercise, gardening or from excess tension. Marjoram has analgesic properties too, which also help to relieve general aches, pains and stiffness. Because of its warming and pain-relieving properties, marjoram can ease stiff joints and help mobilise them, relieve rheumatic pain and warm legs that feel cold and heavy.

Nicholas Culpepper

In the 17th century, the herbalist Nicholas Culpeper claimed that marjoram 'helpeth all diseases of the chest which hinder the freeness of breathing'. Used in an inhalation, marjoram helps to clear mucus from the chest and relieves colds and respiratory infections.

Stress Anitdote

It's not just marjoram's ability to relax the body that makes it popular. The oil's soothing effect on the mind and emotions makes it a good choice for mental stress, too. It can have a comforting effect on people suffering from loneliness and grief, and can calm the irritability that comes with being in acute or chronic pain. It is also helpful in blends used for the elderly.

Marjoram is recognised as one of the most sedative and calming oils available - relieving stress, anxiety and a hyperactive mind. Ancient Greek women put marjoram on their heads as a nerve relaxant and possibly to relieve migraine, so the herb's benefits have been tried and tested far back in history.

An evening bath or a relaxing back massage with marjoram can help anyone who is feeling overstressed and finds it difficult to relax or to switch off from work. It can help encourage a good night's sleep too. Used as a room fragrancer, a few drops in a burner can calm frayed nerves.

Marjoram can also relieve certain types of headaches and migraine, and can be particularly useful for dealing with the irritability and anxiety of PMS.

Aphrodite's Oil

Like lavender, marjoram is another essential oil with a distinguished history. The goddess Aphrodite is reputed to have regarded it as a symbol of happiness. The ancient Greeks called it 'joy of the mountain' an crowned newly married couples with garlands of the herb to bring them good fortune. On a more practical level they used it both to relax muscles spasms and as an antidote to poisons.


When it arrived in Britain in the Middle Ages, people used marjoram in even more varied ways. For example, they planted it on graves to bring peace to the departed, and monks grew it in gardens as its sedative properties can dampen sexual desire.

Active Ingredients of Marjoram Oil

The chemical constituents of marjoram are as follows:


The herb is rich in these alcohols, including borneol and terpinol. Monoterpenols contribute to marjoram oil's warming action. They are also effective agents against infection and have an uplifting and balancing action on the body.


These active ingredients have analgesic, expectorant and calming properties.


These components have the same action as monoterpenes.


Traces of certain ketones give marjoram its camphorous undertones. It has calming, warming properties, and its low concentration means the diluted oil is safe to use on the skin.