Oregano for Flavor, Nutrition and Healing

| 12/9/2014 8:27:00 AM

Tags: herbs, essential oils, Massachusetts, Herbal Academy of New England, Marlene Adelmann,

Oil of Oregano is derived from the wild oregano plant (Oreganum vulgare), a member of the mint family (Lamiacae or Labiatae). The name oregano originates from two Greek words: oros (mountain) and ganos (joy). It grows throughout many regions of the world, but is native to northern Europe. This shrub grows to approximately two feet and has multi-branched stems with oval leaves and small white or pink flowers that grow in erect spikes. In warmer climates such as the Mediterranean region, oregano grows as a perennial, while in other colder regions it is grown as an annual.

Oregano for taste, nutrition and healing

Oregano is well known as a culinary herb. The oregano herb has a warming and aromatic flavor which can be bitter due to the volatile oil content, especially when harvested fresh. The leaves of the oregano plant contain vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium, copper, boron, manganese, vitamins A and C, and niacin. Oregano is also important medicinally, with its distilled oil highly regarded for its strong antibacterial properties. 

While oil of oregano has been used throughout history long before any scientific research was available, today we know that the major active chemicals found in oregano oil are phenolic terpenoids (terpenes have potent antibacterial components and give off the scent of pine). The two key terpenes thought to work synergistically in oil of oregano are carvacrol and thymol. PubMed, one of the world’s most reliable resources for medical research, lists many references regarding the healing potential of carvacrol. Studies have shown that carvacrol and thymol have powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial activity, as well as being strong antioxidants that help prevent cell damage from free radicals. Rosmarinic acid, also found in oregano, is also an antioxidant.

Oregano for healing

In numerous clinical trials, oil of oregano has shown great promise in treating many illnesses, including colds, flu, muscle pain, GI problems, respiratory illnesses, skin conditions and urinary tract infections. The constituents found in oil of oregano may even help lower cholesterol, promote cardiovascular health, fight cancer, reduce symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease and serve as a natural antibiotic. This oil has been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria, including Staphyloccus aureus, and may also give the immune system a boost in fighting viruses, fungi, and parasites.

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