Oregano and Marjoram (Origanum vulgare and Origanum majorana)

Marjoram in flower
Marjoram in flower


This is a good opportunity to show how closely related herbs have been found to have subtle differences in use as remedies.

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) and Marjoram (Origanum majorana) are two, very closely related plants, coming from the same Genus. They’re so close that many people don’t worry about the difference.

Leaves of both Marjoram (left) and Oregano (right). Not much difference. Our Marjoram has smaller leaves than our Oregano this year, maybe it's to do with the crazy weather.
Leaves of both Marjoram (left) and Oregano (right). Not much difference. Our Marjoram has smaller leaves than our Oregano this year, maybe it’s to do with the crazy weather.

Personally, I find Oregano a bit more pungent than Marjoram, but there are many who differ on that.

Both are used herbally for states of sluggishness or inactivity in tissues. Herbalists call that a state of ‘depression’. Their warming and drying properties help tone tissues and restore function. This is where they subtly differ, as the sweeter taste of Marjoram makes it a slightly better tonic and restorative than Oregano.

They are great for respiratory infections such as cold and flus. This is another area of subtle difference, Marjoram is for conditions with wheezing, mucus and irritable cough, whereas Oregano is better for colds marked by chills and shivering.

Both can help settle upset stomachs, I think because thethe oils in the plants work on contact with stomach linings. They are therefore pretty good dyspepsia, gastritis and hiccups and Marjoram has been found to help with the downward movement of materials through the digestive tract.

Both contain potent oils that are used for their antiseptic and antifungal properties. The antiseptic property is why they are also great for bad breath and gum conditions.

People suffering from Athlete’s foot and Candida can benefit from the fresh leaves. Their warming nature can help with rheumatism and strains, with Oregano being slightly superior in these situations, with it having the characteristic of stimulating local blood flow on application (that’s called a ‘rubefacient’).

Now, the biggest difference is that Marjoram has positive effects on some (slightly humorous) mental states.

The one that springs to mind, being an old romantic myself is that it helps with people who are too obsessive with romance, cases of unrequited love where the thinking becomes obsessive. Marjoram is, in fact, quite specific for cases of romantic infatuation that are ‘relieved by jogging’!

Marjoram is also indicated for mental tiredness, for high strung people who can’t relax. Oregano is used more in cases of headaches caused by anxiety or nervousness, though I’ve found that Lemon balm is better and tastes much nicer.

So there you go, two herbs that are very close relatives with some marked differences in use as herbal remedies