Sunday, 18 April 2010

Sweet Marjoram for aches and pains

This post is part of the UK Herbarium April blog party being hosted by Sarah Head on Tales of a Kitchen Herbwife. Sarah writes:
"A recent posting on the Herb Society Forum started me thinking about all the new aches and pains we gather as we start back working in the garden, or generally exercise more because of the lengthening days and hopefully more clement weather. What are your favourite herbs to use at these times? Is it a salve or oil to massage in to the aching area, or do you opt for a herbal liqueur to savour as you take your ease?"
I've been getting to know Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana), and it was one of the herbs I planted in my mum's new herb garden last year. The name of marjoram, from Greek, means "joy of the mountain". It is related to oregano, but is often preferred for its taste and sweet smell.

It has a long history of use and although best known as a culinary herb, it is also used both internally and externally for its medicinal properties. These uses include aiding digestion, promoting menstrual flow, for coughs and colds (ref. Bartram's Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine). Historically, it was used as a strewing herb to help scent rooms, and was also used in marital wreaths as its sweet smell was thought to bring happiness.

A few quotes about sweet marjoram for external use:
  • "The oil is warm and comforting to the joints that are stiff" ~ Culpeper
  • "Externally, it is used to treat muscular pain, bronchial complaints, arthritis, sprains and stiff joints" ~ Plants for a Future
  • "An ointment made with marjoram eases aching and stiff muscles" ~ Marjoram Fact Sheet, Herb Society
My first stop if I'm feeling achey is a nice long bath, and I love using marjoram essential oil (5-6 drops in a little milk) mixed in. It has a lovely subtle, calming scent and blends well with vetiver, chamomile or lavender, to mention a few. I also recently used it in a herbal bath bag, using both dried marjoram and the essential oil, along with some other herbs and epsom salts. This was a real favourite! Another option is to make a strong infusion of marjoram and add this to the bath.

The essential oil of marjoram is recommended to ease aches, soothe headaches, aid menstrual flow, and calm the mind. I used it as a key ingredient in the Ultra Heal and Deep Relax massage oils that I make for Amiya Natural Beauty:
  • In Ultra Heal, I blend it with lavender, thyme and chamomile essential oils (on a base of jojoba and olive oils, with added macerated comfrey and arnica oils). Some very special herbal ingredients, and lovely after a sweet marjoram bath.
  • In Deep Relax, I blend it with vetiver, patchouli, and a little bit of orange. The marjoram soothes, while the vetiver and patchouli ground and balance.
As I've been writing this post, I have a blend of sweet marjoram, lavender and a little ylang ylang in my oil burner... ah, lovely! :-)
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  1. Lovely post Elizabeth :) I've just got a new marjoram plant for the garden, I was intending to use it for cooking but you've made me rethink that idea now! I need to do some research re the properties of Wild Marjoram as opposed to sweet marjoram.

  2. i love this post, thanks so much for the information. as i continue to learn how to cook, i know that marjoram is one of my favorite herbs to cook with. :)

  3. Look forward to hearing about your marjoram research Debs - I think wild marjoram is more medicinally potent, but the sweet one is, well... sweeter smelling and tasting (while still being medicinal).

  4. Thank you for the marjoram inspiration Elizabeth!
    I love the idea of a marjoram herbal bath bag, it must smell wonderful. I always find marjoram essential oil great for lulling me off to sleep so this would make a great evening bath for me :)
    Your massage oils sound beautiful, I wouldn't have thought to blend marjoram with vetivert, wow!
    I'll be sure to add some to my strewing powder too :)