Oregano, Origanum vulgare, Origanum dictamnus, Wild Marjoram, Spanish Thyme
Parts Used: Leaves
Oregano is a herb in the mint family that is native to the warmer climates of the Mediterranean and Southern Eurasia regions. A perennial, it is sometimes grown as an annual in cooler climates and can also be grown successfully indoors in flower pots as long as the Oregano plant can get enough light from sunshine or florescent lighting.
It has long been used as a flavoring addition to food recipes in many countries such as Greece and Italy. Indeed, oregano seems almost ubiquitous in Italian cooking, and the spice was likely brought to North America after World War II after many soldiers experienced the flavor of oregano while stationed in Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Greece. It is also the flavoring ingredient of an important Moroccan pantry item, aged butter, called “Essmen” or “Smen.”
The leaves of the plants can be used both fresh or dried. When dried, the leaves have a more intense flavor than when they are fresh, so a smaller amount is needed of dried oregano than fresh when being used in recipes.
Rosmarinic acid, linalool, thymol, carvacrol, tannins, flavonoids, triterpenes
How Oregano Is Used
The leaves of the oregano plant are what have been traditionally used as a herb in a variety of foods. They are either used fresh or dried. In addition, the leaves have also been used in medicine since at least the days of Hippocrates of Ancient Greece (460 BC to 370 BC). Hippocrates used oregano as a remedy for stomach illnesses and breathing problems. Today in Greece, if you have a sore throat, it is likely you will be given a cup of oregano tea which many swear will cure and relieve the symptoms of a sore throat.
An oil can also be pressed from the leaves which has a very strong hot taste and many claim that a few drops of oregano oil every day will prevent colds and influenza viruses from taking hold, as well as help to speed up the healing if one does have a cold or the flu.
Healing Benefits of Oregano
Oregano is known to be both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and shows promise as an antibiotic. In a study in the October 2012 issue of the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine peer reviewed journal, oregano was found to have the ability to inhibit the growth of of E. Coli and other harmful bacteria (study here).
Another study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food showed that a compound in oregano, carvacrol, was useful in the treatment of gastric ulcers.
Oregano and Cancer
Many naturopaths and those interested in natural healing have long believed that nature holds the key to a considerable number of cures for diseases that mankind suffers from. Cancer is no exception and oregano has shown some promise in this area as well. A study conducted at the University of Jordan’s Faculty of Pharmacy and published in the April 2010 issue of Nutrition Research showed that the oil of oregano (as well as the oils from other herbs) showed promise against breast cancer cells.
In addition, an article published in Cancer Letters and authored by J. J. Johnson of the University of Illinois at Chicago states:
One study in particular observed an inverse relationship between consumption of Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary, sage, parsley, and oregano with lung cancer. In light of these findings there is a need to explore and identify the anti-cancer properties of these medicinal herbs and to identify the phytochemicals therein. One agent in particular, carnosol, has been evaluated for anti-cancer property in prostate, breast, skin, leukemia, and colon cancer with promising results.
Other Health Benefits
In addition to the active ingredients listed above, oregano leaves are also rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Omega 3 fatty acids, Manganese, Potassium and Iron. These nutrients are helpful in maintaining a strong immune system.
Women who suffer with menstrual pains often claim relief when they chew several leaves each day.
Skin conditions including acne and eczema can also be treated with the oil of oregano by applying directly to the skin surface and by taking internally. However, caution should be used in ensuring it is only a very small amount as oil of oregano can also burn. You may want to blend oregano oil with another oil such as olive or grapeseed before applying to your skin.
Oregano is known to be effective in the treatment of yeast infections and other fungus related conditions.
Individuals with gum infections have reported success by using a drop or two of oregano oil on their tooth brush before applying toothpaste.
Some doctors, such as Dr. Cass Ingram claim that oregano oil can cure herpes with it is massaged into the spinal column.
How To Make Oregano Tea
In addition to the benefits from eating both the dried and fresh leaves or using the oil of oregano, you can obtain benefits by consuming oregano tea. It is very easy to make:
Boil one cup of water.
Add 1 teaspoon of dried oregano leaves or 3 Tablespoons of fresh leaves.
Add the oregano leaves to the water, and allow to simmer for about ten minutes. Strain the tea, and sweeten with honey to taste.