'Mountain Joy' is what the Latin name translates as and a joy it is indeed, when one comes across this lovely herb on a walk in the mountains. Their crowns of pink-purplish flowers are a playground for butterflies. Marjoram is such a common kitchen herb, so ubiquitous to our cuisines that its healing virtues have long been forgotten. In Greek mythology it was sacred to the God Hymen, son of Aphrodite, a God of marital union. Wreaths of Marjoram were worn by the young couple on their wedding day. Strangely though, some writers associate Marjoram with celibacy and claim that it acts as an anaphrodisiac, while others make allegations to the opposite effect. Fact is that Marjoram relaxes; so much so that one writer warns of its narcotic properties if used excessively. But it also stimulates the flow of blood if applied topically. In the days when Absinth had cult status and was a legal 'drug', Marjoram was one of the adjunct herbs that went into the mix, and before hops became the chief brewing herb, Marjoram was frequently included in the ale blend, perhaps adding to its mind altering effects. However, the ladies of the day tended to appreciate Marjoram more for its aromatic scent than for its narcotic effect - or perhaps a bit of both. In Elizabethan times it was a popular strewing herb and also often used to stuff herb sachets to perfume the air.
Marjoram strengthens the nerves and relaxes the smooth muscles of the digestive system. Thus, it soothes indigestion, intestinal cramps and eases the passing of wind. Likewise, it also relaxes the smooth muscles of the womb providing relief for PMT related discomforts. Marjoram tea is helpful for cramps and also acts expectorant. It is a good inner cleanser for stomach and lungs. It stimulates the circulation, which results in an overall warming effect. It relaxing quality helps in cases of insomnia, especially when due to stress and worries or to emotional upset. Marjoram helps at times of grieving and loss. The essential oil is has been used medicinally since the days of antiquity. Although food doses are acceptable; avoid in larger therapeutic doses in pregnancy.
The ancients planted Marjoram on graves to obtain an indication of how the soul fared in the world beyond. It was also used in marriage ceremonies as it is sacred to Venus, her son Hymen and even more anciently, to the Earth Goddess Ge (Gaia) herself. The modern practitioner may use Marjoram to connect with the spirits of the ancestors or to communicate with a departed loved one. It is also a suitable herb for hand fasting rites. Marjoram was considered a 'lucky plant' - protective, spreading joy and bringing good fortune.
Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.