Oregano - Spice or Medicine?
edited: Tuesday, April 23, 2002
By Karen Phillips
Posted: Monday, April 22, 2002
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Oregano - Spice or Medicine? Oregano is a tasty addition to meals as well as being strongly antioxidant, packed full of minerals, vitamins, and health benefits.
Medicine Woman Herbals
Oregano – Spice or Medicine?
There is much confusion about Oregano and Marjoram, not only in the labeling at nurseries, but among some experts as well.
The fact is that all Marjorams are Oreganos, since the genus name for both is Origanum. Origanum vulgare is the botanical name for common Oregano. Common Oregano is the species that is used both as a culinary and as a medicinal herb.
Oregano is a member of the Lamiaceae (mint) family. Plants belonging to this family are easily recognized by their square stems and opposing pairs of leaves. They also have whorled flower spikes. Many of the familiar culinary herbs are from this family such as Mint, Basil, Oregano, and Sage.
Oregano has a pungent, spicy flavor that makes it a perfect for tomato based sauces, eggplant, seafood, and grilled meats. Italian dishes are synonymous with Oregano. Could you imagine a pasta sauce or pizza without it? When making pasta sauce, I like to add extra Oregano for a rich, full flavor. Oregano’s rich flavor deepens and melds flavors of soups and sauces without overwhelming the dish. Because it retains its flavor well, Oregano can be used either fresh or dried. If you are using the fresh herb, use twice the amount of it as you would the dried in a recipe. I like to grow extra Oregano in my herb garden so that I may dry some for use during the winter when fresh Oregano is not available.
Despite the heavy association of Oregano with Italy, it is likely that Oregano originated in Greece. Ancient Greeks let their cattle graze in fields of Oregano because they said that it improved the taste of the meat. The name Oregano comes from the Greek meaning “joy of the mountain.”
Many of you may already know that Oregano has been used as a steam inhalant for many years to clear the sinuses and relieve laryngitis. What many of you probably don’t know about are the many other benefits of Oregano. Did you know that it is one of the strongest antioxidants around? This one fact alone will probably prompt you to add Oregano to more of your meals.
Oregano is one of the most diverse health aides available. Unfortunately, however most of the Oregano that consumers are familiar with contains only trace quantities of the actual species of that plant, or in some cases none at all. Be sure that your Oregano products come from a reliable source. There are a few unscrupulous herb companies out there who only care about making a buck. Producing Oregano oil is a time consuming process and within some companies, shortcuts are taken that reduce the quality of the product.
True Oregano oil offers many exciting remedies to a variety of ailments. It has been credited with treating indigestion, diarrhea, nervous tension, insect bites, toothache, earache, rheumatism, and coughs due to whooping cough and bronchitis (because of its antispasmodic properties). It is also used topically to treat many skin disorders such as psoriasis, dandruff, diaper rash and eczema. Due to its antifungal properties, it is also useful against fungal infections such as athletes foot. It also contains antibacterial properties and has shown to inhibit the growth of the majority of bacteria, something that prescription antibiotics fail to accomplish. Oregano oil has also been used in cases of parasites and has had success in neutralizing worms, amoeba and protozoan.
Oregano contains a storehouse of natural minerals and vitamins. It contains a density of minerals that would rival any food. Oregano is rich in calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium, copper, boron, and manganese. It also contains vitamins C and A (beta carotene) and niacin.
Oregano, like Rosemary, is one of nature’s finest preservatives. If used with meat, eggs, milk, or salad, it will substantially halt the growth of microbes and, thus, reduce the risk for food poisoning.
I hope that I have helped to bring to light some of the long-forgotten benefits of this plant. Further questions will be addressed through the Ask an Herbalist link on my web page at http://www.grannyherb.com/. You will also find a complete product line of pure extracts, including the herbs discussed above.
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