Saturday, December 21, 2013
Oregano-Origanum Vulgare, Origanum Heracleoticum, Origanum Majorana, Origanum Syriacum
Also known as: common wild oregano, greek oregano, ezov (Syrian variety), dwarf oregano, sweet marjoram, etc.
Parts used: leaves, flowers
Meridians/Organs affected: respiratory, digestive, skin, nervous system
Properties: digestive, carminative, tonic, stimulant, antispasmodic, antifungal, diuretic, relaxant, antioxidant, antiseptic, anthelmintic, antibacterial, diaphoretic, emmenogogue, rubefacient, expectorant, sudorific
Oregano is a member of the Marjoram family. In fact, the two plants are often mistaken for one another; however, the milder marjoram is used specifically for culinary aspects whereas oregano has many medicinal uses aside from its culinary ones. Origanum Vulgare is considered to be the wild oregano and the most used for medicinal purposes although other oreganos can also be used.
Wild Oregano is native to the Mediterranean, where it is a perennial and quite hardy. It can get up to two feet tall, has dull grayish-green leaves that are ovate shaped. Wild oregano will ALWAYS have white flowers which sets it apart from other varieties whose flowers are often purple or pink. It blooms from July to August.
Oregano comes from the Greek words 'oros' and 'ganos' meaning 'mountain joy' after its most popular habitat. It grows wild all over Europe, especially in Greece and Italy where it is commonly referred to as 'rigani'.
It is believed that the flavor of goat's meat in Greece tastes so good because the goats often forage on oregano growing wild in the mountains. Another belief is that if oregano was found growing on someone's grave that the person buried there was happy. (Don't ask me where they come up with this stuff...LOL).
Oregano actually originated in Spain (oregano is Spanish for marjoram) but it 'escaped' to nearby countries and is now grown all over the world. The Greeks used it originally to improve blood flow and to assist in the digestive processes. It is still used today in Greece as a tea to aid digestion (they call it 'dittany' of oregano) as it helps with colic and to relieve gas. Theophrastus, Hippocrates, Pliny, Aristotle and Dioscorides often used oregano as an antiseptic for burns, wounds, ulcers and for the respiratory system. Dr. Cazin (1837-wrote a treatise on common plants) talked of using oregano oil for aches and pains in a hot bath. Dr. Leclerc said it was an effective stimulant and digestive agent as well as a wonderful plant for the lungs. The Greeks used it as an antidote for convulsions, narcotic poisoning and for dropsy. Culpeper wrote of oregano, "It strengthens the stomach and head much; there is scarcely a better herb growing for relieving a sour stomach, loss of appetite, cough, consumption of the lungs, it cleanses the body of cholera....and helps the bites of venomous beasts. It provoked urine and the terms in women, helps the dropsy, scurvy, scabs, itch, and yellow jaundice. The juice dropped into the ears helps deafness, pain, and noise in them."
As it is both a tonic and a stimulant, oregano also has been found useful for such conditions as asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis. The oils was used for toothaches and the tea was used to bring on a fever to help with measles and nervous headaches.
The flowering tops also produce a dye that turns wool purple and linen a reddish-brown color. The oil is gathered from the flowers which make a dark yellow to pale brown colored oil, and smells spicy and hot.
Oregano is the most important antiseptic oil in aromatherapy. It has the highest amount of phenol of all the aromatic plants known which makes it the strongest antibacterial plant we have. It has proven effective for eczema, psoriasis, mycosis (parasitic fungus), shingles, neuralgia, sciatica, lumbago, rheumatic conditions, stings and bites, abscesses and boils, and a host of other complaints.
As a culinary agent oregano goes well with tomatoes, cheese, vegetables, fish, beans and meat dishes. It has a wonderful flavor but too much can be overwhelming so less is more.
Pregnant women should avoid using oregano as it stimulates the uterus and promotes menstruation.
As is customary with my posts I have included some links below for your benefit. Use them as you see suitable.