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Health Benefits of Oregano

Oregano, Origanum vulgare, Origanum dictamnus, Wild Marjoram,  Spanish Thyme

Parts Used:  Leaves

oregano plant

Home Grown Oregano Plant

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.

Active Ingredients: 

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.

 

10 Comments

  1. Thomas on December 3, 2012 at 12:53 am

    I love oregano in my spaghetti and other foods. However, I never actually saw an oregano plant. I live in the South East part of the United States, which is a tropical, humid climate year around. So I would think that it would be conducive for me to grow oregano in my back yard. I imagine I’d have to dry the leaves in the sun or oven and then crush them up into a spice.



    • admin on December 3, 2012 at 3:02 am

      Thanks for your comment, Thomas. Yes, where you live you probably could grow oregano year round. I have seen oregano plants for sale at my supermarket!

      You could also use fresh oregano leaves in your cooking as well. You don’t need to dry them, but if you are lucky enough to harvest a lot of them in the autumn, then drying them is a good idea.



  2. Robert Jones on December 3, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Almost everyone likes the taste of Oregano, but I bet hardly any of those persons (including myself) realized that this is a medicinal herb or an antioxidant. The next time I feel a sore throat, I think I will give oregano a try. But is there another form besides the condiment, such as leaves in a package or in a tea bag that one should buy in order to make a tea?



    • admin on December 9, 2012 at 5:02 am

      Yes Robert, you can get oregano tea at many supermarkets in the tea section. However, you can make your own as well with the dried oregano leaves that you buy in the spice section. I would think that would be less expensive too.



  3. Rebecca on December 3, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    There seems to be a lot more to Oregano than I have ever realized. For one thing, Oregano means Joy of The Mountain in Ancient Greek. Ancient Greeks believed that cows that grazed in fields full of oregano had tastier meat. I also did not know that when in bloom they have beautiful purple or pink flowers that are also edible. I guess this is when you can make tea from it.



    • admin on December 4, 2012 at 6:57 pm

      Hey Rebecca, I did not know that either, about the Ancient Greeks. But it is not the flowers one makes tea from; it is the leaves.



  4. Josh Frank on December 4, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    I am glad to see Mustard and Hot Sauce on lists of healthy condiments. These are two of my favorit flavoring agents. I put hot sauce on just about everything. I love hot peppers and garlic flavored hot sauces. But it never occurred to me to check for the sugar and sodium levels on the labels of my favorite hot sauces. Thanks for the advice.



  5. Michael Stapleton on December 5, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    I knew that Italian live long lives even with eating all the carbs they do in pasta. I had heard that garlic is very good for your heart and cholesterol situation but I had no idea that oregano was that good for you too. Thank you for posting this information I am super excited to start flavoring my dishes at home with it.



  6. Jay McComb on December 6, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I am going to start cooking with more spices, I have always been one to flavor my meat and stuff while it is cooking with spices and I have gotten away from that lately because of the diet that I have been on but that diet doesn’t say I can’t have spices so I am going back to that. I have found that meat with just salt and pepper on it is very bland.



  7. Anita Franke on December 7, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Who would have thought that oregano, which tastes so good on so many kinds of foods, could also be so beneficial to our longtime health. I guess this is one of the few times when you can say something that tastes so good is also good for you. I believe there is a medicinal herb for just about any form of sickness, & this is one of those examples.