Oregano

oregano

Botanical: Origanum vulgare

Family: Lamiaceae

parts used: leaves, oil
energetics: pungent, slightly bitter, aromatic, cooling and warming

actions: anodyne, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxident, anti-parasitic, antiseptic, anti-viral

used for: colds, flus, lung infections, bronchitis, croup, bloating, candida, cancer, osteoporosis, headaches, allergies, earache, fatigue, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, heart conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual cramps, urinary tract infections, muscle pain, acne, dandruff, repels insects, parasites

common names: Wild marjoram, Himalayan Oregano, Mountain Joy, Greek Oregano, Pizza Herb, Mountain Mint, Spanish Thyme, Wintersweet, Yerba Dulce

Oregano is a perennial herb with purple flowers that grow in tall erect spikes. Its leaves are spade-shaped and olive green. Native to northern Europe, oregano is now grown throughout many regions of the world.

Oregano, is an important culinary herb native to Eurasia and the Mediterranean. It plays a major role in the Mediterranean diet. The name oregano for the spice and the botanical genus, Origanum for the plant is derived from the Greek words oros – for mountain and another Greek word – ganos, for joy – thus the herb can be said to be “joy of the mountain”. The ancient herbal records say that oregano is referred to as Wild Marjoram, which can be confused with the herb known today as wild marjoram, Thymus mastichina, which is a wild-growing species of thyme.”

This herb has a long history of supporting wellness as it contains natural oils and chemicals like thymol, pinene, carvacrol, caryophyllene, and others. In addition, it is packed with iron, manganese, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C and K, and fiber.

This amazing herb is a rich source of various minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese and iron. Potassium goes a long way in controlling sodium levels to prevent heart diseases, manganese and copper are integral co-factors used by the body for the antioxidant-enzyme superoxide dismutase. Iron prevents anemia and magnesium and calcium are integral to bone growth and mass build up.

In addition, it has potent antioxidant properties that fight against cancer and heart disease. A report published in the Journal of Nutrition indicates that this herb contains a high concentration of antioxidants. In fact, it has been found that its antioxidant activity is 42 times more than that of apples, 12 times more than that of oranges, and four times more than that of blueberries.

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition and presented at the International Society of Neuroscience conference in New Orleans found that oregano has potential mood enhancing benefits that can be attributed to its active compounds, carvacrol and thymoquinone.

The researchers administered capsules containing different intakes of oregano extract to 20 young healthy men aged 18 to 45. The extract was given two times a day for five days.

This caused a noticeable increase in the alpha-1 and beta-1 brainwaves in the subjects. Alpha-1 brainwaves induce relaxation, reduce anxiety, and improve learning and concentration.

In addition, an increase in beta-1 brainwaves is associated with higher levels of cognitive processing and alertness. The oregano extract also demonstrated to exhibit positive behavioral response in animals, similar to those caused by monoamine-enhancing compounds in humans.

The extract inhibited the reuptake and degradation of monoamine neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline). These monoamine neurotransmitters are responsible for regulation of sleep, appetite, and modulation of mood, anxiety, and cognition.

A study by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece revealed that the antioxidants present in oregano, rosemary or vitamin E offer protection against neuronal damage.

Manganese, in particular, also contributes to the brain benefits of oregano. The deficiency of this essential trace mineral may affect manganese homeostasis in the brain and cause alteration of neural activity.

Plus, omega-3 fatty acids also benefit brain health and help your brain age better. Researchers have found that diets lacking or with reduced intake of this essential fatty acid are associated with higher risk of age-related cognitive decline or dementia. In addition to all this, omega-3 fatty acids can help relieve depression.

Culinary Uses for Oregano

Oregano is actually a particular herb flavor, rather than a particular herb. There are several species in different families that impart this particular flavor and are all known as oregano.

It is difficult to trace oregano’s early culinary history with any certainty because of this herb’s relation-ship to its cultivated cousin marjoram. Both are of the same genus, and their popular and botanical terms have long been confused. It seems clear, however, that oregano was not as widely used in cooking as was marjoram, except along the shores of the Mediterranean. There, in Italy, Greece and other countries, cooks recognized its affinity for tomato-based sauces, lamb, seafood and almost any garlic-flavored dish, and it became a tradition to pick wild oregano and use it in many dishes.

This spice can be used on meat and fish dishes as it resembles thyme in flavor and aroma. Crush leaves and add during the last ten minutes of cooking to a dish to bring out the maximum flavor and aroma. Oregano is also used as a meat preservative.

You can store fresh oregano in the refrigerator for up to three days. Make sure you keep it in a plastic bag. Dried oregano should be stored in a cool, dark place.

oregano leaves

Cosmetic Uses for Oregano

Oregano is a rich source of beta carotenes which actively fight against acne and promotes healthy and smooth skin.

A rich source of vitamin C and E along with beta carotenes, these antioxidant properties in oregano scavenges free radicals that damage skin cells and hence prevent early signs of aging.

The antioxidant properties of oregano fight free radicals that cause hair loss to effectively prevent it and promote healthy lustrous hair. It is also known to be effective against dandruff.

Modern research reveals the presence of polyphenols in oregano leaves. In the right doses, these polyphenols can give you dandruff-free hair and scar-free skin. [6]

Using Oregano for Wellness

The leaves of oregano are strong herbal antibacterial agents due to the high thymol content.

Traditional Chinese and European medicine used oregano to heal cough, asthma, diarrhea, stomach ache, and menstrual inflammatory disorders. It is said that the Greeks used oregano creams on sores and aching muscles.

Oregano tea is a strong sedative and traditionally used to treat colds, bronchitis, asthma, fevers, and painful menstruation because of antiseptic action.

Bile flow is stimulated by the oregano, and the herb also aids in alleviating the discomfort of flatulence and excess abdominal gas.

The dried leaves are used in hot fomentation to painful swellings and rheumatism.

Phytonutritional Profile Of Oregano

OREGANO (Dried leaves)
Nutrient Unit 1 tsp, leaves = 1.0g
Proximates
Water g 0.1
Energy kcal 3
Energy kJ 11
Protein g 0.09
Total lipid (fat) g 0.04
Ash g 0.08
Carbohydrate, by difference g 0.69
Fiber, total dietary g 0.4
Sugars, total g 0.04
Sucrose g 0.01
Glucose (dextrose) g 0.02
Fructose g 0.01
Minerals
Calcium, Ca mg 16
Iron, Fe mg 0.37
Magnesium, Mg mg 3
Phosphorus, P mg 1
Potassium, K mg 13
Sodium, Na mg 0
Zinc, Zn mg 0.03
Copper, Cu mg 0.006
Manganese, Mn mg 0.05
Vitamins
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid mg 0
Thiamin mg 0.002
Riboflavin mg 0.005
Niacin mg 0.046
Pantothenic acid mg 0.009
Vitamin B-6 mg 0.01
Folate, total µg 2
Folate, food µg 2
Folate, DFE µg 2
Choline, total mg 0.3
Betaine mg 0.1
Vitamin A, RAE µg 1
Carotene, beta µg 10
Vitamin A, IU IU 17
Lutein + zeaxanthin µg 19
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) mg 0.18
Tocopherol, gamma mg 0.24
Tocopherol, delta mg 0.01
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) µg 6.2
Source: USDA

Different varieties of oregano have different concentrations of phenolic compounds. The commonly found classes are phenolic acids, esters and its glycosides, flavonoids, and steroids [7].

Safety

  • Those who are allergic to basil, mint, sage, lavender, and other plants from the Lamiaceae family may be allergic to oregano, too.

“Dried oregano has thirty times the brain-healing antioxidant power of raw blueberries, forty-six times more than apples, and fifty-six times as much as strawberries, making it one of the most powerful brain cell protectors on the planet.”
– Daniel G. Amen

Resources:

  1. Faleiro, Leonor; et al. (2005). “Antibacterial and Antioxidant Activities of Essential Oils Isolated from Thymbra capitata L. (Cav.) and Origanum vulgare L.”. J. Agric. Food Chem. 53 (21): 8162–8168.” [PMID: 16218659]
  2. Anti-Giardia activity of phenolic-rich essential oils: effects of Thymbra capitata, Origanum virens, Thymus zygis subsp. sylvestris, and Lippia graveolens on trophozoites growth, viability, adherence, and ultrastructure. Machado M, Dinis AM, Salgueiro L, Cavaleiro C, Custódio JB, Sousa MD. Parasitol Res. 2010 Mar 9. [PMID: 20217133]
  3. Inhibition of enteric parasites by emulsified oil of oregano in vivo. Mark Force, William S. Sparks, Robert A. Ronzio. Health Explorations Trust, Scottsdale, AZ, USA (M.F.) and Biotics Research. [PMID: 10815019]
  4. Monoamine reuptake inhibition and mood-enhancing potential of a specified oregano extract [PMID: 21205415]
  5. Protective effects of oregano, rosemary or vitamin E [PMID: 23831191]
  6. Oregano (Origanum vulgare) extract for food preservation and improvement in gastrointestinal health [PMID: 31080888]
  7. Chemical constituents and biological studies of Origanum vulgare Linn. PMID: 21772760

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