Marjoram, like many herbs, is packed full of nutrients and antioxidants and is said to provide many health benefits. It’s not as well known or as widely used as other herbs, and while it is used to make herbal teas in other countries, that’s not a practice you’ll see a lot of here in the United Kingdom.
In this guide, we’ll look at the health benefits and other aspects of this herb to see if we’re missing out and if we should be consuming more of this herb.
Health Benefits of Marjoram
Origanum majorana, to give it its generic name, is indigenous to Cyprus and Turkey and used to flavour food and beverages. Only small amounts are used, but even in those doses it could still help in a number of ways, including:
1. It’s Nutrient Dense
A lot of what you hear about certain herbs being “full of vitamins” and minerals is simply not true. They often contain trace amounts at best, with only a few exceptions (including vitamin C–rich rose hips). Culinary herbs are some of the main exceptions, and that is as true of marjoram as it is of thyme.
You will need to consume large amounts of this herb to meet key RDA targets, but small amounts can still provide you with a healthy dose of important vitamins and minerals, which is why liberal use of culinary herbs like this are an important part of a balanced diet.
A 10g serving of dried marjoram contains roughly*:
- 100% iron
- 50% vitamin K
- 27% vitamin A
- 23% manganese
- 20% calcium
- 12% copper
- 10% vitamin B6
- 8% vitamin C
- 8% magnesium
*These amounts can differ based on a person’s needs (which, in turn, can be based on everything from weight to age) as well as the quality of herb used.
2. It Could Help Combat Chronic Disease
Marjoram contains a number of potent antioxidant compounds, all of which could help reduce the risk of chronic disease. We’ve discussed time and time again how a diet rich in antioxidants can help in the fight against cancer, heart disease, and more, and there is no shortage of these compounds in marjoram.
That doesn’t mean that a little marjoram will stop you from getting sick, but extensive research suggests a diet rich in natural antioxidants such as this will reduce your chances of getting life-threatening diseases.
3. It Could Improve Eye Health
Two of the most important antioxidants in marjoram are lutein and zeaxanthin, which are known to contribute to healthy vision and are found in the macula of the eye, the part responsible for colour and clarity. It is believed that these antioxidants can also play a role in limiting the risk of macular degeneration, although further research needs to be conducted before conclusions can be made.
4. It is an Anti-inflammatory
The antioxidant compounds in marjoram may help reduce inflammation in the body, which may lead to a reduced risk of everything from neurological decline to digestive disorders. Chronic inflammation is the cause of many known diseases, and by keeping this to a minimum, you can reduce your risk of developing such conditions.
The studies confirming marjoram’s anti-inflammatory effects are not as diverse or as promising as those looking at the anti-inflammatory effects of Greek mountain tea and nettle leaf, to name just a couple, but as an added bonus for something that adds more flavour to your food, you can’t complain.
5. It is an Antibacterial
As with parsley and other culinary herbs, marjoram contains compounds that have an antibacterial effect in the body, with studies noting that it possesses “considerably inhibitory powers against several [human, animal, and plant] bacteria”. (1)
The bacteria tested included fungi that grows on food, with marjoram showing considerable promise in the treatment of aspergillus niger, a type of black mould that grows on fruit. Whether this can translate into anything positive for the consumer is another story, but it could go some way to explaining its anti-inflammatory effects and the many anecdotal claims that suggest it can also help soothe digestive distress.
What is Marjoram and How to Use It
The UK herb market is said to be worth around £100 million a year and seems to be on the increase. A large percentage of those sales are for coriander, basil, mint, and parsley, as well as sage (which we use to flavour mint and sauces, but is consumed as a tea in many other countries).
Sales of lemongrass are also on the increase and we’re gaining more of an appetite for exotic herbs brought in through Indian, Chinese, and Thai cuisines. But there are a few herbs widely used in many parts of Europe that just aren’t that popular here. Oregano, which is by far the most popular herb in Greece and is also widely used in Italy, is one of them. Marjoram is another, and a large percentage of the UK population simply doesn’t know what this herb is.
Marjoram is actually very similar to oregano. In fact, in some countries, the words are used interchangeably. One variety is even known as French Marjoram, which was created by cross-breeding these two herbs. Flavour wise, these herbs are quite similar but are distinctive enough to warrant keeping them both in your pantry.
Oregano has a deeper, stronger, and more “woody” flavour. Marjoram is subtler and sweeter. They are both used in similar dishes, flavouring everything from roasted meat to stews and pizza, but marjoram tends to be used more in combination with other herbs, bringing out the flavour of herbs like thyme and rosemary.
How to Make Marjoram Tea
Some culinary herbs make for great-tasting herbal teas, and they are as effective at flavouring other herbal teas as they are at flavouring meat and vegetable dishes. If you have some marjoram at home, try brewing a cup of marjoram tea for yourself—it’s easy, quick, and could provide all the health benefits we discussed above.
To make marjoram tea, simply take a quarter teaspoon of the dried herb, allow it to step in boiled water for 5 minutes, and then serve. It can be bitter on its own, but it tastes great with a little honey or sugar. If you prefer your tea a little stronger, simply increase the dose. You can also try experimenting, adding other herbs and spices.
We find that a little heat from fresh and fiery ginger root works really well, but only if you make the tea nice and sweet. You can also add a pinch of the citrus-flavoured lemon balm to introduce a light and fresh fragrance—just like a squeeze of fresh lemon juice but with the benefits of an antioxidant-rich herb grown in the Mediterranean soil.