Oregano

Botanical: Origanum vulgare

Family: Lamiaceae

oregano

Oregano, also known as Wild Marjoram or Spanish Thyme, 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."

(Incidentally, to correct any confusion between oregano and thyme, read Lisa Bertolini's excellent article on the subject, Oregano vs. Thyme and Dispelling Some Myths)

Oregano has a long history of supporting health use 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 anaemia and magnesium and calcium are integral to bone growth and mass build up.

In addition, oregano 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 oregano 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

This spice can be used on meat and fish dishes as it resembles thyme in flavor and aroma. Crush Oregano 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.

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.

Using Oregano for Wellness

Oregano oil and leaf are both strong herbal antibacterial agents due to the high thymol content.

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.

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

Clinical Research on Oregano

  • 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].
  • 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].
  • 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].

Works Cited:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21205415
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23831191
  3. Shruti Goenka http://www.stylecraze.com/

"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

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