Oregano is one of the most famous herbs in the world. It’s used regularly in Mediterranean cuisine, is easy to grow in your own garden, and is packed with vitamins and minerals.
But, while most people are familiar with the scent and taste of the wonderful herb, many things remain unknown about it.
Below, we’ll take an in-depth look at oregano. We’ll explore its benefits and talk about the plethora of ways in which it can be used.
We’ll also look at the history of oregano, find out where it came from and how it climbed the culinary ladder to be such a popular herb.
The Origin of Oregano
Let’s start at the very beginning. Oregano is a plant that is native to Europe and, over time, has started spreading throughout the Middle East.
It’s believed to have first been discovered in the mountains of Greece, and it got its name from the green word “orgiganon”.
This is a combination of two words; “Oros” (“Mountain”) and “Ganos” (“Bright”). Put together, you have “Bright Mountain”, which is an appropriately romanticized name for oregano.
The first thing you need to know about the history of oregano is that this is an ancient herb. Its first recorded use goes as far back as 3000 BC where it was presented to Assyrians who documented its medicinal properties.
Its ancient heritage is further proven by its pseudonym of “Bible Hyssop”. This gives us an indication that it may have been used in a variety of ways since the time of Abraham or earlier.
It is believed that there are two main reasons that oregano was used in ancient times. Its first use was as a culinary herb, which is its main use these days.
Its second use was as a medicine, where it was blended with other ingredients to help fight certain diseases and infections.
This practice was most common in Greece and it soon became an essential ingredient amongst Greek healers.
These healers prescribed oregano mostly to help soothe abdominal pain and to treat poisoning. It was also turned into oils that were used as a remedy for lung diseases.
Of course, as modern medicine developed this practice fell out of fashion. But, for the ancients, it seemed to do the trick!
Another interesting piece of oregano’s history is that it was used as a symbol of joy and happiness. For this reason, it was often made into a crown along with laurel leaves and given to brides and grooms to wear on their wedding day.
Oregano is a perennial herb. This means that the leaves and stems die back during the winter, but the roots remain alive underneath the soil. Come spring, new shoots start emerging and by summer the entire plant is full and healthy again.
This aromatic herb thrives best in limestone soil, but it’s equally as happy being planted into a gritty compost mix. It needs as much direct sunlight as possible throughout the day as this helps to mimic its native growing conditions.
Oregano stems can grow up to 80cm tall, and the leaves range in size from 1cm-4cm depending on the variety.
As well as providing an abundance of edible leaves throughout the summer, this amazing herb becomes covered in white-purple-colored flowers from June to August.
The Health Benefits of Oregano
Oregano isn’t only delicious. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals that can help support our immune system and keep us fighting fit. These include Vitamins A, C, E, and K, manganese, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, and more.
It’s also an excellent source of fiber, which is potentially one of the reasons why Ancient Greek healers used it to treat abdominal pain.
To show you just how many vitamins and minerals oregano contains, take a look at the charts below. These figures are based on the consumption of 100g of dried oregano.
As you can see, there’s no denying that oregano isn’t only one of the healthiest herbs, but it’s one of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet.
Uses for Oregano
Oregano is one of the most versatile herbs out there. It’s most commonly used in the kitchen and is regularly called for in Mediterranean cuisine. It can be used fresh or dried, and each has a certain unique flavor.
When used fresh, it’s less intense. When dried, you only need to use a small amount to get that aromatic kick that it’s famous for.
Outside of the kitchen, oregano has been used for centuries to treat certain conditions and it’s still used to this day in homeopathic remedies. It doesn’t necessarily need to be made into medicine, though.
As you can see from the list of nutrients it contains above, oregano can help keep you healthy even when it’s eaten as part of a balanced diet.
Below, you’ll find a list of some of the things oregano is used for.
1. Fighting Free-Radicals
As oregano is so rich in antioxidants, it’s believed that it can help fight free radicals and stop them from building up inside your body. In turn, this reduces the risk of developing certain diseases including cancer and heart disease.
It’s especially high in both carvacrol and thymol. These are the two antioxidants that are most powerful against free radicals.
2. Regulating the Menstrual Cycle
When made into an essential oil, oregano is an emmenagogue. This means that it is capable of helping to regulate your menstrual cycle and increase the flow of blood.
Since it’s so high in antioxidants and other vitamins, it’s also great for easing some of the symptoms associated with PMS. This includes headaches, abdominal cramps, nausea, dizziness, and even vomiting.
3. Treating Acne
Oregano essential oil is antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-parasitic. This makes it a powerful tool for soothing existing acne and preventing any further blemishes from occurring.
You’ll still need to use a cleanser, of course, but it’s a great final treatment as part of your daily beauty regime.
4. Treating Arthritis
You can also use oregano essential oil to help soothe the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis. This is because it contains anti-inflammatory properties as well as carvacrol.
Carvacrol activates the heat-shock proteins in our T cells and kicks their anti-inflammatory fighting game up a gear.
5. Treating Asthma
As well as containing carvacrol and other anti-inflammatory properties, oregano contains flavonoids and terpenes. These are believed to reduce inflammation on the respiratory tract and bronchial tubes, providing relief for anybody that suffers from asthma.
6. Treating Toothache
The anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of oregano also make it a great, natural alternative for providing relief against toothache. It does this by reducing swelling around the gums and, in turn, easing the pain.
7. Treating Head Lice
Oregano contains high levels of phytochemicals, phenols, and flavonoids. These are well known for their anti-parasitic properties and, as such, they make oregano essential oil a good choice for killing head lice.
What’s more, as it’s a natural product, it won’t aggravate the scalp in the same way that over-the-counter, chemical-based products might.
8. Treating Eczema and Psoriasis
One of the main causes of eczema and psoriasis is a microbe called ‘Candida’. Oregano contains both carvacrol and thymol which have been shown to be highly effective in killing candida, making it an excellent choice for treating these painful conditions.
9. Treating Halitosis
The antioxidant properties of oregano oil make it a powerful weapon for fighting halitosis as it boosts the immune system and helps to kill the sulfur-producing bacteria living in the tongue and the throat.
Mix with coconut oil and administer using the ‘pulling’ technique, and you may notice quite a difference in a short amount of time.
10. Treating Bladder Infections and UTIs
The powerful, natural anti-bacterial properties found in oregano also make it a good tool for treating bladder infections and UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections).
This is because it can stop and prevent further growth of E.coli bacteria, which is believed to be the number one cause of these infections.
How to Make Oregano Oil
If you’re suffering from any of the issues listed above and you’d like to use oregano oil as a way of treating them, you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money.
Instead, you can make your own oregano essential oil at home very easily.
Here’s how to make oregano oil:
Ingredients & Equipment:
- 1 large bunch of fresh oregano leaves
- 1 cup of olive oil, almond oil, or grapeseed oil
- 1 saucepan
- 1 jar with a lid
- Start by sanitizing your jar. The easiest way to do this is to run it through the dishwasher. However, if this isn’t an option, you can wash it by hand using hot, soapy water and place it on a clean baking sheet. Put this sheet in the oven on the lowest setting for 15 minutes.
- Fill your saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat.
- Place your fresh oregano leaves in the jar and fill it with your chosen oil before securing the lid.
- Next, carefully place the oil and oregano-filled jar into the saucepan of hot water.
- Leave the jar in the hot water for 15 minutes. This warms up the oil enough to extract the oregano’s natural oil and create an infusion.
- Remove the jar from the saucepan of water and place it in a location that gets lots of sunlight. A kitchen windowsill would be ideal.
- Over the course of the two weeks, give the jar of oil a good shake every day. Once the two weeks have passed, strain the oil into a separate container making sure none of the oregano leaves go with it.
- Add a few drops of grapefruit oil to help preserve the oregano oil for longer, and keep it stored in a cool, dry place.
How to Dry Oregano
While oregano is a fantastic natural remedy for treating certain conditions, let’s not forget that it’s a delicious herb that can be used in lots of different dishes.
As with oregano essential oil, you also don’t have to spend a fortune on dried oregano. It’s very easy to make yourself and you’ll be able to save a lot of money if you’ve got some growing in your garden already.
There are a few methods you can use to dry oregano, but this is the quickest and easiest:
- One large bunch of oregano
- Baking sheet
- Sterilized jar
- Start by preheating your oven to 170ºF.
- Wash your oregano and dry them slightly using a clean cloth or some kitchen towel.
- Lay the oregano across your baking sheet in an even layer. If you have lots of oregano, you may need more than one sheet.
- Place the baking sheet into the oven and prop the door open slightly.
- After 20 minutes, take the oregano out of the oven and turn each stem over. Put the sheet back in the oven.
- Once another 20 minutes have passed, remove the sheet from the oven. Your oregano leaves should be fully dried, but if they aren’t put them back in and check again at five-minute intervals. This process could take up to an hour depending on how many leaves you’re drying.
- When you’re certain that the leaves are dry, crumble them into your jar by rubbing each stem between your thumb and forefinger.
- Pop a label on the jar along with the date you dried the oregano. This should store up to a year in a cool, dry place.
There’s no denying that oregano is one of the best herbs in the world. Not only can it bring scent and flavor to your food, but it can be used to help treat certain ailments.
It’s also incredibly easy to grow in your own backyard and, following the steps listed above, you can even make your own oregano oil and dried oregano with ease.