The leaves of a perennial Eurasian herb of the mint family, having aromatic leaves. The dried leaves are used as seasoning are pleasantly pungent or tart in taste – kind of spicy flavor. The flavor makes it a perfect addition to traditional Italian and Mexican cuisines. Unlike some herbs, whose fresh characteristics mellow upon drying, oregano’s flavor and aroma intensify—the dried form is actually preferred to fresh in many dishes. Oregano and basil are natural complements, and combined, they are indispensable in pizzas, pastas and other Italian dishes.
Botanically speaking oregano refers to the Origanum vulgare, which is known as wild marjoram in Europe owing to its close resemblance to the herb that is known as sweet marjoram. It is a small shrub with multi-branched stems covered with small grayish-green oval leaves and small white or pink flowers. In Mediterranean climates oregano grows as a perennial plant, but in the harsher climates of North America, they grow as annuals. The English used oregano as an ingredient in snuff and as a perfume in sachets.
The English word oregano derives from the Latin origanus/origanum which in turn originated in the Greek oreiganon. The Greek word was probably a corroboration of two words oros + ganos i.e. “mountain” + “brightness, ornament”, probably alluding to the plants’ bright beauty in its hillside habitat.
Folklore and Legend
Legend has it, the Greek goddess Aphrodite created aromatic oregano as a symbol of joy and grew it in her garden on Mount Olympus. Perhaps we should not be surprised that oregano was believed to bring happiness. After all, it seems to cure almost everything. (One of the ancient Greek names for oregano was panakes or “all heal”.)
In addition to oregano’s association with Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and beauty, the herb is linked to the goddess Artemis, protector of childbirth. Artemis often was depicted wearing a crown of dittany of Crete (Origanum dictamnus) and ancient Greek women also wore the wreaths during labor.
The blooming of the beautiful purplish flowers of the Oregano plant on the mountains had a symbolic and spiritual meaning for the ancient Greeks, the herb springing up on the graves of the dead signified that the happiness of the deceased person in the afterlife. Oregano floral wreaths were very commonly worn by couples at both Greek and Roman marriages, this floral wreaths of the herb was taken to symbolize the joyfulness of the wedding and the happiness of the couple.
But the plant’s medicinal value is more than an ancient fable. Oregano helps to settle flatulence and stimulates the flow of bile. Strongly antiseptic, may be taken to treat respiratory conditions such as coughs, tonsillitis, bronchitis and asthma. It is also considered to be a useful promote of menstruation. The diluted oil can be applied externally to toothache or painful joints.
“Egyptians valued Oregano for its ability to disinfect wounds and speed the healing process…. After Aristotle observed that tortoises ate snakes and then ate Oregano to avoid dying, he recommended it as an antidote for poisoning….” Aromatherapy PA by Roberta Wilson.
Oregano Oil is one of the strongest antiseptic and antiviral essential oils. It boosts immunity and is especially effective against allergies, Candidiasis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fungal infections. It stimulates sluggish lymphatic circulation. During convalescence or in states of general weakness, the body can be strengthened and energized by Oregano. Its antibacterial action makes Oregano ideal for spraying in a sickroom to cleanse or sterilize it and to prevent the spread of infection.
Respiratory ailments as asthma, bronchitis, colds, flu, sore throat, and even whooping cough respond well to Oregano Oil’s ability to fight bacterial and viral infections, relieve congestion, loosen and release phlegm, and soothe coughs, while it eases aches and pains and reduces muscle spasms. Oregano alleviates the pain and inflammation of joint and spinal problems such as arthritis, backache, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, rheumatism, and sciatica. It is often used in a pack or poultice to treat sprains, swelling, and stiffness Oregano is helpful for all digestive disorders, particularly those resulting from nervousness. It eases indigestion that results from eating too rapidly. It calms the stomach, can stimulate appetite, relieves diarrhea, and can even cure hiccups. Oregano can soothe headaches, migraines, and nervous tension. Its antiseptic abilities help to fight infection of earaches. Some people report success in preventing or minimizing motion sickness by drinking Oregano herb tea. Others recommend chewing fresh Oregano leaves to provide temporary relief from painful toothache.
The anti-inflammatory action of Oregano Oil helps to heal wounds and skin infections, as well as to relieve skin disorders such as dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and seborrhea. Because it has strong antifungal and antiseptic properties, it can fight fungal infections of the skin such as athlete’s foot and jock itch. Massage diluted Oregano Oil into the fingernails to fight fungal infections there. Applied topically, it helps reduce chronic skin infections. Oregano is a powerful insect repellant; it may help to alleviate skin parasites, such as lice, because of its antiparasitic activity.
Oregano can often stimulate the flow of menstruation when used in a sitz bath or when massaged on the abdomen. It also relieves the pain of menstrual cramps and helps to overcome insomnia.
Oregano can effectively be combined with pickled olives and capers or lovage leaves; other than most Italian herbs, oregano harmonizes even with hot and spicy food, as is popular in Southern Italy. It can be used to flavor any culinary recipe or dishes, such as pizza, pasta, all sorts of tomato based dishes, different Italian sauces. Oregano can be used green in salads, it can be used to flavor shellfish and added to cheese spreads, it can be used in vegetable casseroles and soups, oregano can also be used in meat stews, with poultry, and other meat dishes including pork and beef, lamb and veal dishes. Oregano leaves can be crushed and then added during the last ten minutes of cooking to a dish to bring out the maximum flavor and aroma. The herb should not be excessively used. Fresh sprigs of the Greek oregano can be used to flavor olive oil.
Oregano is an excellent source of vitamin K and a very good source of iron, manganese and dietary fiber. In addition, oregano is a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids.