Common oregano or simply oregano (Origanum vulgare L.) is an aromatic perennial plant widely used as a spice.
Origins and History –
The name oregano derives from the composition of two words of Greek origin: “oros”, which means mountain, and “ganos”, which means splendor, therefore “splendor of the mountain”. In fact, it was born on high ground in the most rocky and inaccessible areas, cheering up the landscape with the bright pink of its flowers.
The ancient Greeks greatly appreciated oregano, in fact they knew it both for its antibacterial action and as a decorative and lucky charm element.
There is a famous legend that tells the origin of this plant.
It is said that a sensitive and kind young man lived by the king of Cyprus, whose name was Amaraco (in Spanish the oregano has this term).
One day he was instructed to bring a precious ampoule containing a fragrant ointment to the table of the king, who intended to marvel his diners. When Amaraco entered the room, he stumbled badly and the ampoule fell from his hand and fell into pieces. So much was his despair that he died of a broken heart.
The gods were moved by so much contrition, and transformed it into the oregano plant, attributing to it the extraordinary fragrance of the ointment that had somehow caused his death.
In ancient Rome, dried oregano was one of the ingredients of the renowned garum. Its use continued also in the following centuries, especially in southern cuisine, confirming it we are mentioned only in Roman and southern recipe books. Its ascent to the north is therefore relatively recent, and in fact coincides with the spread of pizza.
Oregano is a perennial herb plant from the Lamiaceae family.
It is a typical Mediterranean vegetation, also present in Italy as wild oregano and very easy to spread.
The plant grows in tufts that develop starting from a well-rooted underground rhizome, capable of resisting even dryness. It has an erect stem that reaches up to 80 cm in height, oval leaves and flowers that are enclosed at the top of the stems and then give life to capsule fruits.
In appearance, oregano looks a lot like marjoram, with which there is a close relationship, but it is easy to distinguish the essences from the different scent.
Active principles –
The chemical composition of oregano obviously depends on the cultivation conditions, whether it is irrigated or not, the type of soil, exposure, the harvest period, etc.
In more arid conditions it develops some components more, such as aromatic ones which instead can decrease in conditions of greater vegetation of the plant.
On average, the chemical composition per 100 of edible part is:
– Water 81.8 g;
– Protein 2.2 g;
– Total lipids 1.7 g;
– Saturated fatty acids 0.52 g;
– Monounsaturated fatty acids 0.13 g;
– Polyunsaturated fatty acids 1.02 g;
– Cholesterol 0.0 mg;
– Carbohydrates available 9,7g;
– Starch 0.0 g;
– Soluble sugars 9.7 g;
– Total fiber 8.4 g;
– Phytic acid 0.0 g;
– Alcohol 0.0 g;
– Energy 60.5 kcal;
– Sodium 3.0 mg;
– Potassium 330.0 mg;
– Iron 8.6 mg;
– Calcium 310.0 mg;
– Phosphorus 39.0 mg;
– Magnesium 270.0 mg;
– Zinc 0.9 mg;
– Copper 0.630 mg;
– Selenium 4.5 µg;
– Thiamine 0.07 mg;
– Riboflavin 0.32 mg;
– Niacin 6.20 mg;
– Vitamin A retinol eq. 135.0 µg;
– Vitamin C 45.0 mg;
– Vitamin E 1.69 mg.
Properties and Uses –
Oregano, like marjoram, has moderate antibacterial properties.
Whole leaves of oregano are used but – in case of cold, flu and bad digestion – it can be used as an infusion for herbal teas.
In fact, oregano essential oil is considered a powerful antiseptic, suitable for any type of infection of the upper airways and oral cavity. It can also be used as a natural mouthwash to disinfect the mouth and as a teeth whitener.
Oregano essential oil is also a remedy for spasmodic pain and, they say, is useful against fatigue and stress (questionable).
In general, the properties of oregano are attributable to the following activities, widely used, among other things, in folk medicine:
– antirheumatic (relieves pain due to joint inflammation);
– antiseptic (property of preventing or slowing down the development of microbes);
– antispasmodic (reduces muscle spasms, and also relaxes the nervous system);
– carminative (promotes the escape of intestinal gas);
– cholagogue (facilitates biliary secretion towards the intestine);
– diaphoretic (facilitates skin transpiration);
– emmenagogue (regulates menstrual flow);
– expectorant (promotes the expulsion of bronchial secretions);
– odontalgica (reduces pain in the teeth);
– stimulant (invigorates and activates the nervous and vascular system);
– stomachic (facilitates digestive function);
– tonic (strengthens the body in general).
This spice has one of the highest antioxidant power (ORAC), an index approximately 46 times more powerful than an apple, which is known to be considered an excellent antioxidant.
In detail, its main qualities are expressed as follows:
– Anti-inflammatory – oregano is a good anti-inflammatory and this is due to the presence of numerous compounds, which also include vitamins A and C. Its use is helpful in many situations, from simple sore throat to ailments which can affect the stomach. It should be added that beta-caryophyllene is equally important for its anti-inflammatory action against the body.
– Antioxidant – this aromatic plant is appreciated for various factors. For example, its antioxidant properties stand out. This makes it an important ally against free radicals, i.e. the molecules that damage the whole organism. Cellular aging is referred to as heart disease or degenerative in nature. It should be remembered that doctors and nutritionists for many years have affirmed that damage can be prevented and reduced with a healthy diet and not a sedentary life. The merit is of omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A and C.
– Pain reliever – for official medicine it is not yet clear and therefore provable that the plant is a pain reliever. If, on the other hand, we speak of “folk medicine”, oregano has interesting uses linked precisely to its pain-relieving action. Since ancient times it has been used against headache, toothache, muscle pain and more. The iron contained inside it, for example, keeps inflammatory states at bay. Vitamin C and omega 3 also reduce pain.
– Antiseptic – the chemical composition of Oregano is rich as well as variable based on when it is harvested, however this only applies to the active ingredients of the plant. The other substances (such as minerals and vitamins) remain unchanged. What seems to make it a good antiseptic are thymol and carvacrol, two elements (phenols) that exert an antiseptic action and that make up its essential oil.
– Immunostimulant – makes the metabolism more active and therefore functional, an effect that is able to provide protection to the body against infections and other ailments. The useful substances in this area are more than one, however vitamin C together with A are among the best known to experts. It should be added that as a spice the dosages must be reduced and therefore as a source of vitamins it can be a little scarce, unlike when you consume a good portion of fruit such as oranges for example.
– Digestive – it is famous for facilitating digestion. In this regard, it is better to take the infusion, rather than taking the spice through food. Useful in this context thanks to its essential oil which contains thymol and carvacrol.
– Asthma – oregano is considered a panacea for the respiratory tract. The carvacrol and flavonoids found inside it seem that they can help prevent asthma attacks. The most common use to obtain this benefit is herbal tea.
The oregano plant is used in the kitchen to flavor first and second courses as well as vegetable side dishes. It is also common to use for the production of therapeutic drinks, such as decoctions and infusions.
Equally useful are the oregano-based suffixes. Obviously there is also the essential oil on which you can rely, we will spend a subparagraph at the end of the uses of oregano.
Oregano has long been one of the essential ingredients and additions used for pizza seasoning. The pizza chefs added it to the tomato, this is because it is very aromatic and manages to flavor foods as well as sauces a lot. Oregano is perfect with fish (including baked sea bream) and meat. Even in various vegetables the combination marries flawlessly. We remember the vegetables au gratin baked with oregano and another real food delight, the pizzaiola meat.
It should be noted, however, that oregano essential oil is a product to be used with attention and moderation as regards the dosages. It boasts many beneficial properties, the ones that stand out most are the antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. It also seems to be a good ally against asthma.
Oregano is not a plant to be used without any risk. It can in fact give rise to intolerances or allergies, due to some active ingredients present in its chemical composition. You must not use it if you suffer from gastro-oesophageal reflux. Even if you are taking certain medications it may not be recommended, ask your doctor.
As far as atyiene is concerned with essential oil, as mentioned, there is a little more attention to have especially for those who have children. This is because it is contraindicated for children and only a doctor can suggest when it is useful to the case. Even breastfeeding women and future mothers must refrain from using oregano essence. Finally keep in mind that in significant quantities, the essence is irritating to the skin as well as very toxic. As with all essential oils, a dilution is needed.
Finally a curiosity: ants, as is well known, are attracted to almost anything. Among the foods they don’t like, we find oregano. It is no coincidence that it also proves to be a natural ant repellent.
Oregano is an important plant in the Italian (as in pizza) and Greek culinary tradition; it is generally used as an aromatic plant in the kitchen. The edible part is the leaves. The subspecies that provides the best seasoning in the kitchen is Origanum vulgare subsp. viridulum.
Oregano is consumed dried because its aroma tends to become more intense. However, the freshly picked flowers – especially those of pink or violet varieties – can be added to salads and canapes as an aromatic and decorative element.
From a therapeutic point of view, different preparations can be used with oregano:
– Gargle – by using the oregano infusion you can obtain excellent benefits in terms of your oral hygiene. This DIY remedy is also known against bad breath. Its beneficial action purifies the oral apparatus. Do not forget to use oregano flowers for the preparation of the decoction.
– Suffumigi – to free the nose from the presence of mucus and to dissolve the phlegm, the suffumigi are a natural remedy useful to the case as well as without contraindications. All you have to do is inhale the fumes that come out of the pot of water that you have half filled. Cover your head with a towel, so you can successfully perform the remedy here. In the water you can add the flowers of the plant, however to improve the effect it is suggested to use essential oil in a relatively low quantity.
– In the bathtub – also in this case you have two options for the remedy in question, which provides a relaxing and invigorating bath. In both cases obviously you have to open the tap and fill the tub with hot water. Then pour or a few drops of oregano essence or alternatively, a decoction made previously.
Warning: The information shown is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.