Oregano marjoram or simply marjoram (Origanum majorana L., 1753) is an aromatic perennial herbaceous species used both in cooking and for therapeutic purposes.

Origins and History –
Oregano marjoram is a plant native to the Middle East and grows spontaneously and easily in loose and calcareous soils, preferably well exposed to the sun. It is also called by the name of persia or persia grass by the Ligurians, probably to underline, besides its origin, the loss of the plant every time it is left without care.
Marjoram is a plant known since classical times; it was considered one of the symbols of happiness, and we find it widely used in the kitchen both by the Romans and in the following centuries.
An ancient treatise thus speaks to us: “It is perhaps because of the pleasantness of its smell that marjoram is a plant so grateful to women, that there is hardly any that does not plant and care for it diligently in vegetable gardens or in pots … distilled marjoram juice, introduced into the ear in small quantities, eliminates pain and annoying wheezing and helps with deafness; sucked by the nose, it removes phlegmatic humor from the head, purifies and comforts the brain “.
In the food sector, marjoram is one of the most used aromatic herbs in all of Europe. It is suitable for all those dishes where a strong and at the same time rather sweet aroma must be obtained. However, its scent is affected by heat, therefore it must be added raw or cooked. It is the ideal condiment for pizzas, mixed salads, raw sauces, vinegars and aromatic oils.

Description –
Marjoram is a perennial herbaceous lignified plant in the basal portion, very aromatic.
It has an erect, widely branched stem, up to 50 cm tall, with a square section, initially tomentose and ash green, then glabrous, with oblique rhizome.
The leaves are opposite, with obtuse or rounded base, from oval to oblong (generally 5-10 x 8-20 mm), they shrink at the base in the short petiole and have a rounded apex; the margin is whole, the surface of the younger leaves is whitish due to the presence of a thick hair.
The flowers are sessile, have a tubular and bilabiate corolla (whole or almost upper lip, the lower one divided into three acute lobes), with white-pink or sometimes purplish petals, are gathered in dense glomeruli forming racemes at the top, characterized by round bracts , tomentose and glandular, stamens with divergent filaments and often anthers protruding on the sides; chalice with 5 teeth, faintly cheekbone tubular (cone-shaped open on one side).
The fruit is a microbasial (tetrachenium enclosed in the bottom of the persistent calyx), with 0.9-1.3 x 0.7-0.8 mm mericarps, ellipsoids, with acute apex, first yellow then dark brown in color.

Active principles –
To have a greater quantity of the active ingredients and its aroma, the marjoram is harvested in early summer just before flowering and can be used both fresh and dried, fresh it maintains its particular aroma unaltered while dried it loses a little of its aromatic properties.
As for its chemical composition, per 100 gr of dried marjoram seeds there are:
– Water 7.64 g;
– Protein 12.66 g;
– Fat g 7.04;
– Carbohydrates 60.56 g;
– Fibers 40.3 g;
– Sugars 4.09 g.
As for minerals we have:
– Calcium mg 1990;
– Iron 82.71 mg;
– 346 mg magnesium;
– Phosphorus 306 mg;
– Potassium 1522 mg;
– Sodium mg 77:
– Zinc mg 3.60.
In the vitamin field we have:
– Vitamin A IU 8068;
– B1 mg 0.289;
– B2 mg 0.316;
– B3 mg 4.120;
– B6 mg 1.190;
– Vitamin C 51.4 mg;
– Vitamin E 1.69 mg;
– Vitamin K mcg 621.7;
– Vitamin J mcg 43.6;
– Beta Carotene mcg 4806;
– Lutein Zeaxantina mcg 1895;
– Folate mcg 274.
In addition, an essential oil is extracted from marjoram, rich in tannins, flavonoids and terpenes. Its main components are: sabinene, terpinene, alpha-terpinene, gamma-terpinene, terpinolene, terpineol and linalyl acetate.
Finally, for every 100 grams of dried marjoram there is a caloric yield of 271 kcal.

Properties and Uses –
Oregano marjoram is a plant whose drug is made up of flowering tops, harvested from July to September, cut to 10-15 cm. from the ground, avoiding the lignified basal portion. They gather in bunches and hang in a ventilated place in the shade for drying. They are kept in glass or porcelain containers.
The plant not only proves useful in the kitchen but is also in possession of therapeutic properties which, in some aspects, are able to bring benefits to our health.
In general, marjoram performs some main activities that we can summarize as follows: for the antiseptic activity of essential oil and the presence of tannins it has an aromatic, eupeptic and antispasmodic action of the gastro-enteric tube; stops fermentations of the intestinal tract, counteracting meteorism and painful contractions. It has a tonic action which, combined with antispasmodic and digestive properties, is useful in the treatment of depressive and anxious states, migraine and headache of nervous origin. It has a balsamic and expectorant action on the respiratory system. It also has a mild diuretic action.
In detail, the plant can be a valuable aid for people suffering from hypertension and heart problems. A 2012 study shows that the mere inhalation of its essential oil causes vasodilation which thus reduces cardiac effort and blood pressure.
By simply inhaling the vapors of essential oil, the activity of the sympathetic nervous system is lowered and that of the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated. The result is a decrease in pressure on the entire cardiovascular system.
A 2009 animal study examined the effects of marjoram on gastric ulcer. At the end of the tests, it was found that the extract of the plant is capable of both preventing and healing the gastric ulcer. In addition to this, the spice has shown a large safety margin which bodes well for its future application for the treatment of this pathology.
Marjoram also has calming and sedative properties, it is indicated to combat states of anxiety, migraine and insomnia. In case of excessive nervousness caused by stress, a teaspoon of dried leaves left to infuse in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes, proves to be an excellent remedy. Often the masseurs add its oil to creams and other oils precisely for this analgesic property.
The effectiveness of its use in aromatherapy is documented by a 2016 study according to which the inhalation of its vapors has relaxing and beneficial effects on the whole body.
A few drops of essential oil placed in the tub before the bath is able to relax the nerves and promote sleep.
In case of headache and insomnia four drops of essential oil with a teaspoon of sugar show their benefits.
The marjoram tea during the studies showed the inhibitory activity against the steroid hormone dehydroepiandrosterone-S. Tea has also proven useful in polycystic ovary syndrome.
In the form of an infusion it favors the production of gastric juices and is therefore used to promote the digestive process. Its scent can stimulate the salivary glands, this property promotes the primary digestion of food that takes place in the mouth.
Its intake, according to medicine, stimulates bowel movement and promotes evacuation.
Marjoram, due to the antiseptic properties of essential oil, is useful in case of meteorism and flatulence. For the treatment of these ailments it is recommended to drink one or two cups a day of marjoram tea.
Both the leaves and the essential oil in the studies have shown antimicrobial activity. In particular, essential oil has shown inhibitory properties against various pathogenic bacteria and fungi. Among these we mention: Beneckea natriegens, Erwinia carotovera, Moraxella, Aspergillus, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, Bacillus cereus, B subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella poona and Escherichia coli.
Furthermore, the presence of Vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and carotenes, which are flavonoids with powerful antioxidant properties, acts as scavengers against harmful substances released by free radicals and play a crucial role in aging and in disease prevention.
In addition, vitamin A is known for its antioxidant properties and is essential for the health of the eyes and therefore of vision. At the same time, this vitamin plays an important role for the health of the mucous membranes and skin. Zeaxanthin performs filtering functions of UVA rays and prevents macular degeneration, a pathology typical of old age.
Marjoram is one of the richest herbs in vitamin K, scientific research has attributed this plant a positive role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s as it appears to be able to limit neuronal damage in the brain.
According to the latest statistics, type 2 diabetes is a pathology in continuous growth, especially in industrialized countries around the world. The good news is that a healthy and balanced diet is one of the best ways to prevent and even manage type 2 diabetes.
Scientific research has shown that this plant has useful and effective properties to fight diabetes 2. In particular, a 2014 study shows that this spice, together with oregano and rosemary, acts positively against diabetes 2. More specifically the compounds of the marjoram act as inhibitors of the protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B.
In addition, this essence has proved to be an excellent inhibitor of dipeptidyl peptidase IV. This property helps improve insulin tolerance with consequent beneficial effects on blood sugar management.
Furthermore, marjoram increases the frequency of urination and the amount of urine thus promoting the elimination of excess fluids in the body. This virtue of the plant contributes to lowering blood pressure and cleaning the kidneys.
The plant is used in homeopathy to treat problems concerning the nervous system.
For external use it is used for frictions and massages in case of muscle and rheumatic pain. For massages, you can dissolve 15/20 drops of essential oil in a glass with a finger of alcohol and proceed with the massage of the painful parts.
Always 15 drops added to the bath water bring benefits in case of muscle contractures.
Contraindications include that marjoram is considered safe when taken orally in medicinal quantities and for short periods of time. If taken for a long time it can become dangerous to health as it is suspected that it could cause cancer. Its essential oil use should not be used in pregnancy and breastfeeding.
The application of fresh leaves on the skin is not recommended as it could cause irritation. It is also not recommended to use it (consult a doctor) in the presence of the following pathologies: slow heart rate, asthma, hemorrhages and convulsions.

Preparations –
Dried marjoram maintains its aromatic properties for a period that can reach two years if well preserved.
Marjoram can be used in fresh or dried cuisine. Its aroma goes perfectly with soft cheeses and those with an intense flavor: try it for example on ricotta or with gorgonzola. Other successful combinations are with dishes that have among the ingredients nuts, asparagus and mushrooms, or based on meat and fish. So do not hesitate to use it for marinating, but it is also perfect for flavoring roasts and stews. Your salads and soups will have an extra touch thanks to this spice and it is also excellent for legumes and vegetables, especially baked potatoes, or to flavor pasta and first courses. One of the most common and successful uses is that which sees it among the ingredients of tasty omelettes and can be an original alternative to oregano on pizza.
Marjoram is also used for the preparation of herbal liqueurs and the most famous Vermouth.
As for therapeutic uses we list some of them:
– In case of a blocked nose with a cold it is possible to breathe for about 20 minutes the vapors produced by an infusion of boiling marjoram.
– With this plant you can prepare a wine with digestive properties; 20 grams of dried marjoram, macerated in a liter of dry white wine for two weeks, give rise to a good digestive.
– For internal use: the infusion is indicated in difficult digestion, abdominal pain, neuralgia, cough and cold. The use as spices in the kitchen, in addition to bringing a more delicate aroma than oregano, contributes to promoting digestive processes.
– It is also possible to use the infusion for frictions in case of neuralgia and rheumatic pain.
Among the curiosities, it should be remembered that the infusion sweetened with honey falls, according to Valnet, in the arsenal of remedies for singers useful for preserving the voice. Marjoram is used in the preparation of liqueurs, in the canning and food industry, as well as in cosmetics as a fragrance in soaps, detergents, creams, lotions and perfumes.
Finally, among the popular uses, it should be remembered that it is widely used as a condiment in coastal and Mediterranean cuisine; in some regions the leaves are put in bags to perfume the linen.

Guido Bissanti

Warning: The information shown is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.

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