Oregano is a wonderful perennial culinary as well as medicinal herb. It has long been recognized as one of the “functional foods” for its nutritional, anti-oxidants and disease preventing properties. The herb, whose name means “delight of the mountains” in Greek, is native to the Mediterranean region.
Botanically, the herb belongs to the mint (Lamiaceae) family, of the genus; Origanum and is known scientifically as Origanum vulgare.
The plant is a small shrub, growing up to 75 cm in height with multi-branched stems covered with small grayish-green oval leaves and small white or pink flowers.
Oregano is particularly used widely in Greek and Italian cuisines. Its leaves have a characteristic aromatic, warm, and slightly bitter taste. The intensity varies; however, good-quality oregano is so strong that it almost numbs the tongue.
It is a perennial that does well in containers- you can even grow it in a small pot on a kitchen windowsill! If kept in the garden, one plant will quickly spread and provide more than enough for one family. If you purchase fresh oregano- keep it wrapped in wet paper towels in the refrigerator or cover it in water and freeze it in ice cube trays. Oregano is more than just a culinary herb- it is a powerful medicinal plant! Oregano is also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. It is high in vitamins A, C, and E complex, as well as zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese and niacin.
Below are the many uses and benefits of oregano. Some of them might surprise you!
Health Benefits and Therapeutic Uses
1. Oregano is anti-parasitic in action. It helps eliminate parasites and helminthes in the digestive tract, thus relieving a variety of digestive disorders. It also helps in retaining the nutritional benefits of food.
2. Consumption of oregano also aids digestion by promoting the secretion of digestive juices. It is also rich in roughage, thus preventing constipation and other bowel disorders.
3. Oregano, being a rich source of Vitamin A and carotene, helps maintain the health of the skin. It also prevents skin problems like acne, pimples, and whiteheads.
4. Oregano is anti-microbial in action and thus prevents and cures a variety of afflictions, including ringworm infections, cholera, and diarrhea, among others.
5. Oregano, being a potent antibacterial and antiviral agent, helps in the functioning of the immune system and serves are a good tonic for the body.
6. Application of oregano oil helps relieve a variety of skin ailments. It also works well on loose and irritated gums. However, when used for topical application, oregano oil must be diluted with carrier oils like coconut or olive oil. If used without dilution, it could lead to skin irritation and even appearance of blisters.
7. Oregano oil also helps relieve congestion. You can mix the dried herb flakes in a glass of juice and consume it every day to relieve congestion.
8. Oregano, being a rich source of antioxidants, helps prevent and combat cancer. It curbs chain reactions that are otherwise initiated due to liberation of free radicals. Also, its rich antioxidant content slows down the process of natural degeneration of cells and tissues.
9. Oregano is also known as a pain reliever and is very effective when suffering from menstrual cramps.
· You can simply chew some fresh oregano leaves three times a day to reduce menstrual pain.
· You can also drink oregano tea for relief in a matter of minutes. To make the tea, mix one-half teaspoon of oregano in one cup of water and bring it to a boil. Strain it, and add sugar to taste. Drink it three or four times a day during your cycle.
Note: This remedy is not for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
10. Oregano serves to stimulate the muscular system on account of its anti-inflammatory properties, thereby preventing various muscle-related problems such as arthritis, swelling, and rheumatic fever.
11. Oregano also helps reduce the intensity of allergic reactions to environmental agents.
12. Oregano is a rich source of potassium, and potassium is very important for the functioning of the body. It helps control heart rate and also maintains blood pressure.
13. Oregano also promotes bone metabolism, attributed to its high content of magnesium and calcium.
14. Oregano also prevents anemia by promoting synthesis of red blood cells, which is attributed to its high content of iron.
Side effects and precautions
Eating oregano can cause stomach upsets in some people. In addition, those who are allergic to plants belonging to the Lamiaceae family (such as including basil, lavender, mint) should be cautious, as they may also develop an allergic reaction to oregano.