marjoram

What is marjoram

Marjoram (Origanum majorana L.) commonly known as sweet marjoram from the family Lamiaceae, is a perennial herb that is native to Mediterranean region and cultivated in many countries of Asia, North Africa, and Europe, for example, Spain, Hungary, Portugal, Germany, Egypt, Poland, and France 1. Marjoram (Origanum majorana L.) grows up to 30 to 60 cm. Marjoram is a perennial bushy plant. It has oblique rhizome, hairy shrub like stalks, opposite dark green oval leaves and white or red flowers in clustered bracts. The leaves are whole, larger ones being fragmented, oblate to broadly elliptical 2. In some Middle Eastern countries, marjoram is synonymous with oregano, and there the names sweet marjoram and knotted marjoram are used to distinguish it from other plants of the genus Origanum. Marjoram plant is widely used as a garnish and is used for different medicinal purposes in traditional and folklore medicine of different countries. Sweet marjoram has been used for variety of diseases in traditional and folklore medicines, including ocular disorder, nasopharyngeal disorders, asthma, cold, coughs, cramps, depression, dizziness, gastrointestinal disorders, hay fever, headache, toothache, and sinus congestion and as a diuretic and to promote menstruation 3 and for cardiac, rheumatologic, and neurological disorders 1.

Various compounds have been identified in sweet marjoram. Also, different pharmacological activities have been attributed to this plant. Essential oil containing monoterpene hydrocarbons and oxygenated monoterpenes as well as phenolic compounds are chemical constituents isolated and detected in marjoram. Wide range of pharmacological activities including antioxidant, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, anti-platelet, gastroprotective, antibacterial and antifungal, antiprotozoal, antiatherosclerosis, anti-inflammatory, antimetastatic, antitumor, antiulcer, and anticholinesterase inhibitory activities have been reported from this plant in modern medicine 1.

Figure 1. Marjoram (sweet marjoram)

marjoram

Figure 2. Dried marjoram (marjoram herb)

dried marjoramMarjoram uses

Traditional medicine uses

Ethnomedicinal uses of sweet marjoram in different countries are shown in Table 1. The parts of sweet marjoram that are used in folklore medicine are dried leaves, leaves extract, and essential oil. Marjoram leaves have been claimed to have antimicrobial and emmenagogue (a substance that stimulates or increases menstrual blood flow) properties and be useful for treatment of respiratory and gastrointestinal problems 2. Marjoram has been used in Morocco as an antihypertensive plant 4. The marjoram essential oil has been used for pains, gastrointestinal problems, and respiratory tract disorders 4.

Table 1. Traditional medicine uses of marjoram

RegionPlant Part UsedTraditional Uses
Iran 5LeavesAntimicrobial, antiseptic, antidote, carminative, antitussive and used for gastrointestinal disorder, head cool, sniffle, vision performance, otitis, melancholia accompanied by flatulence, unilateral facial paralysis, headache, epilepsy, cataract, weakness of sight, ear pain, dyspnea, cardiac pain, dysrhythmia, cramp, obstruction of large intestine, emmenagogue, strangury, dropsy, spondilolysthesis, groin pain, back pain, fatigue, freckle, migraine
Azerbaijan 6Essential oilFlatulence, nervousness, diuretic, sedative
England 2LeavesCold, bronchial coughs, asthmatic whooping
Egypt 2LeavesCold, chill
India 7Essential oilToothache, soothe joints, muscular pain
Austria 8LeavesGastrointestinal tract diseases, infections
Turkey 9Essential oilAsthma, indigestion, headache, rheumatism
Morocco 10LeavesHypertension
[Source 1]

Phytochemical constituents of marjoram

Table 2. Structure and phytochemical category of compounds isolated from different parts of sweet marjoram.

CompoundChemical CategoryPart/Extract
α-PineneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil11
β-PineneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil11
ρ-CymeneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil12
CampheneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil11
α-PhellandreneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 12
β-PhellandreneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 12
γ-TerpineneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil13
d-LimoneneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 14
α-TerpineneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 13
TerpinoleneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 12
β-MyrceneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 12
2-CareneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
β-OcimeneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
SabineneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 2
α-ThujeneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 12
CarvoneMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 12
CitronellolMonoterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 14
Terpinen-4-olOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 13 / Leaf 16
cis-Sabinene hydrateOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 13
trans-Sabinene hydrateOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 13
LinaloolOxygenated monoterpeneLeaf 16 / Essential oil 14
ThymolOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 17
α-TerpineolOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 13
Linalyl acetateOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 12
CarvacrolOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 14
1,8-CineolOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 15
Fenchyl alcoholOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 15
PiperitolOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 15
trans-CarveolOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 15
cis-CarveolOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 15
AnetholeOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 15
GeraniolOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 14
α-Terpinyl acetateOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 12
Geranyl acetateOxygenated monoterpeneEssential oil 15
α-CubebeneSesquiterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
LongicycleneSesquiterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
CopaeneSesquiterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
β-LongipineneSesquiterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
β-CaryophylleneSesquiterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
AromadendreneSesquiterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
α-HumuleneSesquiterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
β-FarneseneSesquiterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
AlloaromadendreneSesquiterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
α-SelineneSesquiterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
ar-CurcumeneSesquiterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
Germacrene DSesquiterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
ValenceneSesquiterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
α-MuuroleneSesquiterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
α-FarneseneSesquiterpene hydrocarbonEssential oil 15
SpathulenolSesquiterpene alcoholEssential oil 12
Caryophyllene oxideOxygenated sesquiterpeneEssential oil12
Carnosic acidDiterpenoidWater extract 18
CarnosolDiterpenoidWater extract 18
Ursolic acidTriterpenoidWater extract 18
Sinapic acidPhenolic acidEssential oil 2
Vanillic acidPhenolic acidHydroalcoholic extract 19 / Essential oil 2
Ferulic acidPhenolic acidHydroalcoholic extract 19 / Essential oil 2
Caffeic acidPhenolic acidHydroalcoholic extract 19 / Essential oil 2
Syringic acidPhenolic acidHydroalcoholic extract 19 / Essential oil 2
ρ-Hydroxybenzoic acidPhenolic acidHydroalcoholic extract 19 / Essential oil 2
m-Hydroxybenzoic acidPhenolic acidHydroalcoholic extract 19
Coumarinic acidPhenolic acidEssential oil 2
Gallic acidPhenolic acidHydroalcoholic extract 19
Neochlorogenic acidPhenolic acidHydroalcoholic extract 19
Protocatechuic acidPhenolic acidHydroalcoholic extract 19
Caftaric acidPhenolic acidHydroalcoholic extract 19
Rosmarinic acidPhenolic acidEthyl acetate extract 9 / Essential oil 20
Chlorogenic acidPhenolic acidHydroalcoholic extract 19
Cryptochlorogenic acidPhenolic acidHydroalcoholic extract 19
Coumaric acidPhenolic acidHydroalcoholic extract 19
Lithospermic acidPhenolic acidWater extract 21
Methyl rosmarinatePhenolic compoundHydrophilic extract 22
HydroquinonePhenolic compoundEthyl acetate extract 9 / Essential oil 17
ArbutinPhenolic glycosidesEthyl acetate extract 9 / Essential oil 17
Methyl arbutinPhenolic glycosideEssential oil 17
VitexinPhenolic glycosideEssential oil 17
OrientinthymoninPhenolic glycosideEssential oil 17
HesperetinFlavonoidEthyl acetate extract 9
CatechinFlavonoidHydroalcoholic extract 19
QuercetinFlavonoidHydroalcoholic extract 19
KaempferolFlavonoidHydroalcoholic extract 19
NaringenineFlavonoidHydroalcoholic extract 19
EriodictyolFlavonoidHydroalcoholic extract 19
DiosmetinFlavonoidEssential oil 17
LuteolinFlavonoidEssential oil 17
ApigeninFlavonoidEssential oil 17
5,6,3′-Trihydroxy-7,8,4′-trimethoxyflavoneFlavonoidEthyl acetate extract 9
Kaempferol-3-O-glucosideFlavonoid glycosideHydroalcoholic extract 19
Quercetin-3-O-glucosideFlavonoid glycosideHydroalcoholic extract 19
Narigenin-O-hexosideFlavonoid glycosideHydroalcoholic extract 19
Apigenin-glucuronideFlavonoid glycosideWater extract 23
RutinFlavonoid glycosideHydroalcoholic extract 24
Luteolin-7-O-β-glucuronideFlavonoid glycosideHydrophilic extract 22
EugenolPhenyl propeneEssential oil 14
Ethyl cinnamateEsterEssential oil 14
SitosterolPhytosterolEssential oil 17
Oleanolic acidFatty acidEssential oil 17
Vitamin AVitaminEssential oil 2
Vitamin CVitaminEssential oil 2
[Source 1]

Figure 3. Marjoram active compounds

Marjoram active compounds Marjoram active compounds
[Source 1]

Marjoram phenolic compounds

Vanillic acid, gallic acid, ferulic acid, caffeic acid, syringic acid, p- and m-Hydroxybenzoic acid, coumaric acid, neochlorogenic acid, protocatechuic acid, chlorogenic acid, cryptochlorogenic acid, caftaric acid are phenolic acids that have been detected in hydroalcoholic extract of leaves of sweet marjoram 25. Rosmarinic acid, sinapic acid, vanillic acid, ferulic acid, caffeic acid, syringic acid, p- and m-hydroxybenzoic acid, and coumarinic acid have been identified in essential oil of sweet marjoram 2. Arbutin, methyl arbutin, vitexin, and orientinthymonin have been reported to be the most predominant phenolic glycosides in essential oil of sweet marjoram.10 Hesperetin, catechin, quercetin, kaempferol, naringenine, eriodictyol, diosmetin, luteolin, and apigenin are the most abundant flavonoids detected in sweet marjoram10,21 and kaempferol-3-O-glucoside, quercetin-3-O-glucoside, narigenin-O-hexoside, and rutin are flavonoid glycosides identified in sweet marjoram 25.

Antioxidant properties of marjoram

It has been suggested that phenolic compounds from marjoram, such as flavonoids and phenolic acids, might exert anti-inflammatory properties (Table 3) 26. In this regard, Mueller et al. 27 evaluated the anti-inflammatory activity of marjoram hydrophilic extracts on lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophage cells. Pre-treatment of the cells with with the extracts from marjoram at 500 μg/mL and 200 μg/mL the levels of IL-6 were reduced 20% and 17%, respectively, while the iNOS expression was diminished 66%. Even though Mueller et al. 27 did not identify the compounds in the marjoram extracts, they mention that diosmetin, apigenin, luteolin and rosmarinic acid are the compounds to most likely be present in the hydrophilic extracts, so these molecules might be responsible for the activity of marjoram extracts.

Table 3. Summary of the antioxidant capacity of flavonoids and phenolic acids of Marjoram

ExtractCompoundsPlant PartAntioxidant AssayReference
Methanol microwave-assistedRosmarinic and caffeic acid, apigenin, rutinAerial partsTPC, DPPH, CUPRAC28
Aqueous, methanolRosmarinic and caffeic acidsLeavesTPC, DPPH, β-carotene bleaching29
MethanolRosmarinic acid, eriodictyol, naringenin, hispidulin, cirsimaritinLeaves, commercial herbsTPC, ORAC30
MethanolRosmarinic acid, epigallocatechin, quercetin, apigeninNot specifiedDPPH, FRAP31
EthanolChlorogenic, ferulic, p-coumaric, p-hydroxybenzoic, protocatechuic, rosmarinic and syringic acids, quercetinNot specifiedTPC, DPPH, ABTS32
[Source 33]

Pharmacological Activities of Marjoram

Table 4. Pharmacological properties of marjoram in detail

harmacological ActivityPlant part / ExtractMethodResultActive Constituent
Antioxidant 18Ethanol, n-hexane, supercritical CO2 and water extract of herbDPPH method and chemiluminometric methodAntioxidant activities of all extractsUrsolic acid, carnosic acid, carnosol
Antioxidant 34Essential oilDPPH reduction testLow antioxidant activity with EC50 values >250μg/mL
Antioxidant 35Essential oil(1) DPPH assay (2) Percent inhibition in linoleic acid system (3) Bleaching of β-carotene1)IC50 of 89.2 µg/ml 2) 72.8% inhibition of linoleic acid oxidation 3)showed slow rate of color depletion
Antioxidant 9Ethyl acetate extract and isolated compoundsDPPHSignificant antioxidant activities from extract and isolated compounds with IC50 of 2.77 and 1.92 µg/mL, respectivelyHydroquinone
Antioxidant 36Essential oil / Water extractABTS + reducing power were examined for their effect against lipid oxidation in comparison to a tea water extract by measurement of the oil stability indexRemarkable capacity in retarding lipid oxidation with oil stability index 13.9 hoursBound forms of phenolic compounds such as hydroxycinnamic acid and flavonoids
Antioxidant 19Hydroalcoholic extractABTS + radical decolorization and DPPH assaySignificant antioxidant capacity with 0.84 and 0.33 mmol TE/g DW, respectivelyPolyphenolic compounds
Antioxidant 37Essential oilGlutathione level and lipid peroxidation content as malondialdehyde in the testis, liver and brain in ethanol treatment male albino rat (ethanol induced reproductive disturbances and oxidative damage in different organs and lipid peroxidation due to the formation of free radicals)Co-administration of the extract resulted in minimizing the hazard effects of ethanol toxicity on male fertility, liver and brain tissues
Antioxidant 38Essential oilDPPH, .OH, H2O2, reducing power and lipid peroxidationIC50 values of 58.67, 67.11, 91.25, 78.67, and 68.75 µg/mL, respectively
Antioxidant 39Water extractDPPHHigh antioxidant capacityPhenolic compounds
Antioxidant 40Isolated metaboliteAmyloid β–induced oxidative injury in PC12 nerve cells by MTT, LDH, and trypan blue assays↓ Amyloid β–induced neurotoxic effectUrsolic acid
Antioxidant 41Plant extractDPPH and ferric ion reducing antioxidant power assaysA direct, positive, and linear relationship between antioxidant activity and total phenolic content of extractRosmarinic acid
Antimicrobial 42Dried whole plant/oil/leaves aqueous extractMICBetter antimicrobial activity of essential oil rather than water extract; inhibition of yeast and lactic acid bacteria by essential oil at a concentration of 5 ppm
Antimicrobial 43Essential oilNDThe most susceptible organisms were Beneckea natriegens, Erwinia carotovora, and Moraxella sp. and Aspergillus niger
Antimicrobial 44n-Hexane extract, aqueous ethanol, ethanolic ammonia extractDisk-diffusion method for bacteria and serial dilution method for protozoan-Hexane extract showed the highest antibacterial activity and the ethanolic ammonia extract reduced the number of viable Pentatrichomonas hominis trophozoites by 50% at 160 µg/ml
Antimicrobial 45Methanol extractFilter paper disk diffusion methodConsiderable activity against Aspergillus niger, Fusarium solani, and Bacillus subtilis with zone of inhibition 40, 28 and 42 mm, respectively
Antimicrobial 35Essential oil(1) Disk diffusion (2) Resazurin microtitre-plate(1) Large zone of inhibition (16.5-27.0 mm) (2) Small MIC against Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, B subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella poona, Escherichia coli (40.9-1250.3 μg/mL)
Antimicrobial 13Essential oilAgar diffusion methodActive against Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Escherichia coli, and Klebsiella pneumoniae with inhibition zone of 16, 12, 15, and 13 mm, respectivelycis-Sabinene hydrate
Antimicrobial 34Essential oilMicrodilutionInhibitory activity against Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes with MICs of 125 and 250 μg/mL, respectively
Antimicrobial 34Essential oilDiffusion assayGrowth inhibitory activity against dermatophytes
Antimicrobial 46Methanol extract of leavesZone of inhibitionInhibitory activity against Escherichia coli with 16 mm diameter zone of inhibition
Anti-inflammatory 47Essential oilTHP-1 human macrophage cells activated by LPS or human ox-LDL, and the cytokine secretion and gene expression, in vitroSuppression of production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6 and IL-10) and COX-2 and NFκB gene expressionSabinene hydrate, terpineol
Anticancer 35Essential oilMTT assayCytotoxic effect against different cancer cell type, such as MCF-7, LNCaP, NIH-3T3 with IC50 s of 70.0, 85.3, 300.5 µg/ml respectively
Anticancer 48Ethanol, methanol and water extractMTT assay, trypan blue dye exclusion, AO/EB staining and fluorescence microscopical analysis and DNA fragmentation analysisSignificant cytotoxic activity of ethanolic extract on fibrosarcoma cancer cell line HT-1080 and least toxicity on normal human lymphocytes
Anticancer  49Plant extractNonradioactive cytotoxicity assay on human lymphoblastic leukemia cell line Jurkat↓ Viability of cells with increase of concentration of plant extract. Induction of apoptosis through upregulation of p53 protein levels and downregulation of Bcl-2α. Strong radical scavenging activity
Anticancer 50Ethanol extract(1) Matrigel invasion assays (2) Gelatin zymography assay (3) Chick embryo tumor growth assay(1) Significant inhibition of migration and invasion of the MDA-MB-231 cells. Induction of homotypic aggregation of cells associated with an up regulation of E-cadherin protein and decrease the adhesion of cells to HUVECs and inhibition of transendothelial migration of cells through TNF-α-activated HUVECs (2) Suppression of activities of MMP-2 and MMP-9 (3) Inhibition of tumor growth and metastasis
Anticancer 9Ethyl acetate extract and isolated compoundsBrdU cell proliferation enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and xCELLigence assay against C6 and HeLa cell linesStrong antiproliferative activities against C6 and HeLa cellsHesperetin, Hydroquinone
Antiplatelet 51Methanol extract of leavesAdhesion, aggregation and protein secretion of the activated platelet to laminin-coated plates40% inhibition of platelet adhesion to laminin-coated wells by ethanol extract at concentration of 200 µg/mL
Antiplatelet 52Methanol extractPlatelet aggregation induced by collagen; ADP, arachidonic acid and thrombinStrong inhibition of platelet aggregation induced by ADP, arachidonic acid and thrombinArbutin
Antiulcer 53Ethanol extractHypothermic restraint stress-, indomethacin-, and necrotizing agents–induced ulcers and pylorus ligated Shay rat-model↓ Incidence of ulcers, basal gastric secretion and acid output. replenishment of the depleted gastric wall mucus and nonprotein sulfhydryls contents and ↓ malondialdehyde
Gastric secretory activity 54Plant extractAcid and pepsin secretions in normal Wistar rats↑ Basal acid and pepsin secretions
Cardioprotective activity 55Leaves powder and aqueous extractIsoproterenol-induced myocardial infarction in ratsAlleviation of erythrocytosis, granulocytosis, thrombocytosis, ↓ clotting time, ↑ relative heart weight, ↓ myocardial oxidative stress and the leakage of heart enzymes. inhibition of NO production and lipid peroxidation in heart tissues
Hepatoprotective activity 17Essential oilPralletrin-induced oxidative stress in rats (prallethrin caused a significant decrease in the activity of SOD, CAT, and GST in liver of rats)Depletion of serum marker enzymes and replenishment of antioxidative status
Antiacetylcholinesterase activities 56Essential oilNDIC50 value was 36.40 µg/mL
Anticholinesterase activity 57Ethanol extractIn vitroThe Ki value was 6 pM, and IC50 value was 7.5 nMUrsolic acid
Hormonal activity and regulation of menstrual cycle 58Water extract25 patients were received marjoram tea or a placebo tea twice daily for 1 month. Hormonal and metabolic parameters measured, including FSH, LH, progesterone, oestradiol, total testosterone, DHEA-S, fasting insulin and glucose↓ DHEA-S and fasting insulin levels

Abbreviations: ABTS: 2, 2′-azino-bis (3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid); ADP, adenosine diphosphate; CAT, catalase; COX, cyclooxygenase; DHEA-S, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate; DPPH, 1,1-diphenyl-2-picryl-hydrazyl; DW, dry weight; EC, effective concentration; FSH, follicle-stimulating hormone; GSH, glutathione S-transferase; IC, inhibitory concentration; IL, interleukin; LDH, lactate dehydrogenase; LH, luteinizing hormone; MIC, minimum inhibitory concentration; MMP, matrix metalloproteinase; MTT, 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide; ND, not determined; NO, nitric oxide; PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome; SOD, superoxide dismutase; TE, trolox equivalent; TNF, tumor necrosis factor.

[Source 1]

Antimicrobial Activity

Dried whole marjoram plant and its essential oil and water extract of leaves have demonstrated antimicrobial effect and essential oil was more active against lactic acid bacteria and yeasts than water extract 16. Essential oil showed inhibitory activity against various pathogenic bacteria and fungi, including Beneckea natriegens, Erwinia carotovera, Moraxella, Aspergillus, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, Bacillus cereus, B subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella poona, Escherichia coli, and dermatophytes 59. Methanol extract of sweet marjoram exhibited antimicrobial activity against E, Aspergillus niger, Fusarium solani, and Bacillus subtilis 45. The ethanolic ammonia extract reduced the number of viable Pentatrichomonas hominis trophozoites 44. cis-Sabinene hydrate in essential oil of sweet marjoram have been claimed to be responsible for antibacterial effect 13.

Anti-inflammatory Activity

Sabinene hydrate and terpineol in essential oil of sweet marjoram suppressed the production of Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNFα), interleukin 1β (IL-1β), IL-6, and IL-10 inhibited cyclooxygenase 2 (COX2) and NFκB gene expression 60.

Anti-cancer properties of marjoram

Several factors are involved in the onset of cancer such as age, alcohol, cancer-causing substances, diet, hormones, obesity, radiation, tobacco, etc.; and they may play a direct or indirect role in the development and progressions of different types of cancers. The National Cancer Institute 61 states that in test tube and in animal studies have shown that the increased presence of antioxidants prevents free radical damage that has been associated with cancer development. Plant foods are the most significance source of natural antioxidants; from which, flavonoids and phenolic acids have attracted the most attention as potential therapeutic agents against cancer. Shukla and Gupta 62 summarized that the potential anticancer properties of flavonoid and phenolic acid as demonstrated by laboratory studies are due to different mechanisms of action, including antioxidation, induction of detoxification enzymes and inhibition of bioactivation enzymes, estrogenic and anti-estrogenic activity, antiproliferation, cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, promotion of differentiation, regulation of host immune function and inhibition of angiogenesis and metastasis. 5,6,3′-Trihydroxy-7,8,4′-trimethoxyflavone, hesperetin, hydroquinone, arbutin and rosmarinic acid were isolated from the water-soluble ethyl acetate extract of aerial parts of marjoram 63. Hesperetin isolated from Origanum majorana has shown better antiproliferative activity than 5-fluoroacil against Rattus norvegicus brain glioma (C6) and and cervical epithelial carcinoma (HeLa) cell proliferation 63. Ethanol extract of plant have shown significant cytotoxicity against fibrosarcoma cancer cell line, promoting cell cycle arrest and apoptosis of the metastatic breast cell and inhibited the migration and invasion of the MDA-MB-231 cells 64. Hesperetin and hydroquinone isolated from sweet marjoram extract have revealed strong antiproliferative activity 9. The results showed that the marjoram extract and isolated compounds exhibited significant antioxidant activities. Hence marjoram plant has the potential to be a natural antioxidant in the food industry and an anticancer drug 63.

Antiplatelet Activity

Methanol extract of sweet marjoram leaves inhibit adhesion of platelet to laminin-coated plate 65 and strongly inhibited platelet aggregation induced by adenosine diphosphate (ADP), arachidonic acid, and thrombin. Arbutin is responsible for this activity 52.

Antiulcerogenetic Effect

Ethanol extract of sweet marjoram significantly decreased the incidence of ulcers, basal gastric secretion, and acid output and replenished the depleted gastric wall mucus 53.

Cardioprotective and Hepatoprotective Activity

Leave powder and extract significantly alleviated erythrocytosis, granulocytosis, thrombocytosis, increase heart weight, and myocardial infarction oxidative stress in isoproterenol treated albino rats 55. Essential oil of sweet marjoram depleted serum marker enzymes and replenished antioxidant status in hepatic of rat 17.

Anticholinesterase inhibitory activity

Essential oil and ethanol extract of sweet marjoram have exhibited acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor activity 38. Ursolic acid (3 beta-Hydroxyurs-12-en-28-oic acid) is responsible for this effect 66. Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors, which enhance cholinergic transmission by reducing the enzymatic degradation of acetylcholine, are the only source of compound currently approved for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease 66. This study 66 demonstrated that the ursolic acid of marjoram appeared to be a potent acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor in Alzheimer’s Disease.

Regulation of menstrual cycle

Sweet marjoram tea significantly reduced dehydroepiandrosterone-sulphate (DHEA-S) and was useful in treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome 67. Twenty-five patients were assigned to receive marjoram tea or a placebo tea twice daily for 1 month (intervention group: n = 14; placebo group: n = 11) 67. The hormonal and metabolic parameters measured at baseline, as well as after the intervention, were: follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinising hormone, progesterone, oestradiol, total testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulphate (DHEA-S), fasting insulin and glucose, homeostasis model assessment for insulin resistance and glucose to insulin ratio. Marjoram tea significantly reduced dehydroepiandrosterone-sulphate (DHEA-S) and fasting insulin levels by a mean of 1.4 (0.5) μmol/L and 1.9 (0.8) μU/mL, respectively. In comparison to the placebo group, the change was only significant for DHEA-S but not for insulin. Homeostasis model assessment for insulin resistance was not reduced significantly in the intervention group, although the change was significant compared to the placebo group. The results obtained in the that study show the beneficial effects of marjoram tea on the hormonal profile of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) women because it was found to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the levels of adrenal androgens. Further research is needed to confirm these results and to investigate the active components and mechanisms contributing to such potential beneficial effects of marjoram herb.

Marjoram essential oil

Monoterpene hydrocarbons, including α and β-pinene, camphene, sabinene, α- and β- phellandrene, ρ-cymene, limonene, β-ocimene, γ-terpinene, terpinolene, α-terpinene, carvone, and citronellol have been detected in marjoram essential oil 14. Terpinene 4-ol and cis-sabinene hydrate are 2 main oxygenated monoterpenes isolated from marjoram 13. Linalool, linalyl acetate, α-terpineol, trans- and cis-carveol, thymol, anethole, geraniol, and carvacrol are other oxygenated compounds identified in essential oil 42 and leaves of marjorama 11.

The analysis of the chemical composition of marjoram essential oil samples obtained from different geographical locations indicates that the biological activity is directly related to the concentration of the marjoram essential oil components, which may vary according to the region 68, 69. Moreover, season, climate, stage of plant development at harvest, and the technique of extraction of the product may influence the quantity of the plant compounds 70.

Fifteen compounds were identified in the marjoram essential oil (Table 5). The most abundant compounds were γ-terpinene (25.73%), α-terpinene (17.35%), terpinen-4-ol (17.24%), and sabinene (10.8%). This chemical profile is in accordance with what is reported in the literature, with some quantitative variations. Rodrigues et al. 71 and Vági et al. 72 also reported the presence of terpenes as the major components of the marjoram essential oil. Usually, terpinen-4-ol and γ-terpinene are described as the most abundant compounds in marjoram essential oil and sabinene and α-terpinene are also observed 73.

Table 5. Chemical composition of Marjoram essential oil

CompoundRIa%
α-Thujene9213.96
α-Pinene9271.24
Sabinene96610.80
Myrcene9862.08
α-Phellandrene10001.70
α-Terpinene101217.35
o-Cymene10192.24
β-Phellandrene10237.05
γ-Terpinene105325.73
Terpinolene10823.76
N.I.b10971.06
Terpinen-4-ol117417.24
Trans-sabinene hydrate acetate12480.13
Linalool acetate12511.38
Terpinenen-4-ol acetate12930.88
(Z)-caryophyllene14042.72
N.I.b14800.67
Total identified98.26

Note: aRelative retention index experimentally determined against n-alkanes on Durabond-DB5 column. bCompound not identified.

[Source 74]

Marjoram essential oil uses

Marjoram essential oil have shown significant results in inhibiting the growth of bacteria and fungi and the synthesis of microbial metabolites 75. Because of its antioxidant effects 76, marjoram essential oil or marjoram extract can be used in the prevention of central nervous system disorders 77. Marjoram essential oil was also able to partially prevent the ethanol-induced decline in sperm quality, testosterone levels, and the weight of reproductive organs in male rats 78. Previous studies have reported the potential use of marjoram ethanolic extract as anticancer agent 79, whereas the marjoram tea extract has been shown to have immunostimulant, antigenotoxic and antimutagenic properties 80. These activities are attributed to the chemical composition, which is characterized as rich in flavonoids and terpenoids – see Tables 2, 3 and 4 above 72.

Marjoram Toxicity

Acute toxicity test has demonstrated a large margin of safety of marjoram extract in mice. Emmenagogue (a substance that stimulates or increases menstrual blood flow) properties of sweet marjoram should be of concerned during pregnancy. Marjoram essential oil must not be used by lactating and pregnant women 81.

Summary

Sweet marjoram is a medicinal plant with various proven pharmacological properties, including antioxidant, antibacterial, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, antiulcer, anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, and antifungal activities. The flowering stems are the medicinal parts. Their constituents include 1% to 2% of an essential oil with a containing terpinenes and terpinols, plus tannins, bitter compounds, carotenes, and vitamin C. These substances give sweet marjoram stomachic, carminative, antispasmodic, and weak sedative properties. Monoterpene hydrocarbons (such as α-pinene, β-pinene, camphene, and γ-terpinene), oxygenated monoterpenes particularly terpinene-4-ol, cis-sabinene hydrate and terpineol, phenolic compounds particularly flavonoids (such as apigenin, hesperetin, quercetin, kaempferol), and phenolic glycosides (such as arbutin) are the active components isolated and detected in marjoram. Figure 3 shows the structure of some main active compounds. Various bioactive compounds have been isolated and identified in O majorana, whereas many active compounds for the traditional medicine uses have not been completely evaluated in clinical trials.

Due to marjoram’s emmenagogue properties, marjoram essential oil must not be used by lactating and pregnant women 81.

References
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