Oregano is a staple herb that is used in various cuisines worldwide. The botanical name of Oregano is Origanum vulgare which is also called origanum or wild marjoram. It is an aromatic perennial flowering herb that comes under the mint family Lamiaceae is known for its intense flavor leaves with a slight sweetness and flowering tops. It gives a different kind of flavor to the dishes and it is available in fresh, dried, or oil, which is said to have significant health benefits. It suits well with tomato, pizzas, and pasta sauces.
The Oregano is widely distributed or grown in the hilly region of the Mediterranean countries, western Asia, and in some parts of Mexico and the United States. This herb is used as an essential ingredient in the Mediterranean cooking style and also used in season foods. Apart from giving flavor, it has been used to treat health issues for thousands of years.
Greeks and Romans people compare the word Oregano with joy and happiness. This name comes from the Greek words ‘oros’ – which means mountain, and ‘ganos’ – joy. Greek or Italian Oregano will have a powerful aroma and pungent taste, but the dull flavor Oregano is cultivated for Ornamental purposes, which is not suitable for cooking. Ornamental Oregano can be grown in the garden for decoration purposes.
Common Names of Oregano
- Gujarati Name: અજમો Ajamo, જંગલી મરવો Jungli marvo
- Hindi Name: बनतुलसी Ban tulsi, सथ्रा sathra, मिरज़ानजोश Mirzanjosh
- Kannada Name: ಮರುಗ Maruga
- Kashmiri Name: مرزن جوش Marzan-josh
- Konkani Name: ओवे Ovey
- Malayalam Name: കാട്ടുമറുവ Kattumaruva
- Marathi Name: जंगली मरुआ Jangali maruaa, ओवा Ova
- Nepali Name: रामतुलसि Raamtulasi, सजीवन Sajeevan, सथ्रा Sathra
- Odia Name: ସପ୍ତଳା Saptala, ସାରା Sara
- Sanskrit Name: मरुवक Maruvaka
- Telugu Name: మృదు మరువం Mridumaruvamu
- Urdu Name: زعتر Zatar, صعتر Satar
Oregano – Plant Description
Oregano is grown as a small evergreen perennial herb in mild climates, and grows from 8 inch to 32 inches in height. Oregano has 1–4 cm oval-shaped leaves which are arranged oppositely, and covered with glandular trichomes, i.e., plant hairs. The stems are soft, square, and hairy and they become woody when they’re older. The flowers are tiny, purple, 3–4 mm long, and are formed in clusters. All the varieties contain essential oil and the principal components of them are thymol and carvacrol.
There are various types of Oregano available. The common type is Oregano Vulgare which is also known as Spanish thyme and wild marjoram. Another species is Origanum majorana called sweet marjoram, which is similar to wild marjoram.
The antioxidants such as thymol, terpinene, carvacrol, limonene, ocimene, and caryophyllene are found in this plant to give flavor. These antioxidants are also the main factor for its health benefits.
History of Oregano
Originally, oregano was grown in Greece. Greek people believed that oregano was created by the Goddess Aphrodite (Goddess of Love). According to the Greek text, Aphrodite wants it to be a symbol of joy in her garden. Secondly, Romans used oregano for their taste, and it is easy to cultivate. Then, due to its unique flavor, this herb got spread throughout Europe and Northern Africa.
In the middle ages period, oregano leaves are used to treat various medical conditions such as indigestion, rheumatism, toothache, and cough. Oregano has also gone to China in the middle age, and it is used in Anhui, Yunnan, Hubei, Gansu, Sichuan, Jiangxi, and Fujian Provinces of China. Chinese people used it for treating fever, vomiting, and stomach upset. It is also believed that wearing this herb will give good dreams.
In the Elizabethan era, oregano was used to cheer good luck, happiness, peace, health, protection, and welcoming or thanking loved ones. US people did not know about it until World War II. US Soldiers found oregano during the Italian Campaign and brought it to the US.
Compounds in Oregano
The chemical compounds which possess various health benefits are carvacrol, thymol, ocimene, limonene, pinene, and caryophyllene. These are the compounds that give unique flavor to the oregano. Oregano has polyphenols, including various flavones. Over 60 different chemical compounds have been identified in the oregano, but carvacrol and thymol constitute over 80% of chemicals.
Other 20% include p-cymene, γ-terpinene, germacrene-D, caryophyllene, spathulenol, β-fenchyl alcohol, δ-terpineol, vitamins, and minerals. Oregano has vitamins A, C, E, and K and minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium. This antioxidant-rich food has antioxidants such as tryptophan, lysine, valine, arginine, and tocopherol. The essential oregano oil is composed of monoterpenoids and monoterpenes.
Medicinal Properties of Oregano
Ayurvedic Property of Oregano
- Taste (Rasa): Bitter (Tikta), Astringent (Kashaya)
- Property (Guna): Light (Laghu), Dry (Ruksha), Sharp (Tikshna)
- Potency (Veerya): Hot (Ushna)
- Property after digestion (Vipaka): Pungent (Katu)
- Pacifies Kapha and Vata dosha
PROVEN HEALTH BENEFITS OF OREGANO
Oregano possesses various health benefits, from fighting against bacteria to preventing deadly diseases. People who live in the Mediterranean areas have used oregano for decades as a herbal medicine to treat many issues. Some of the main health benefits are explained below.
Rich in Antioxidants
Oregano is enriched with antioxidant compounds that aids in fighting against the harmful free radicals which cause damage to the body cells at the molecular level. This cell damage will lead to the death of individual cells, and if more cells have died, then it will cause tissue or organ failure. The accumulation of free radicals increases the risk of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Oregano has a high level of carvacrol and thymol, which are antioxidants that aids in blocking damages to the cells due to free radicals. While consuming oregano with other antioxidant-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, it will act as a healthy dose of antioxidants that enhance your body health.
Some test-tube studies said that oregano and oregano essential oil are an enriched source of antioxidants. Research is done to compare the antioxidant properties of Mediterranean spices and common additives. Here, the extract prepared from oregano is more potent than butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene in preventing lipid peroxidation. Lipid peroxidation is a process in which the oxidative degradation of lipids happens. Here the free radicals take or steal electrons from the lipids in the cell and thus resulting in cell damage.
The use of artificial antioxidants to inhibit free radical damage can lead to toxic side effects. But natural antioxidants found in the herb decrease the oxidative damage and help in deterring mutagenesis, oncogenesis, and aging process. The blocking of free radical activities has been useful in reducing the risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative disorders.
Fight Against Bacteria
The main active components in the Oregano are carvacrol and thymol that is meant for its potent antibacterial properties. High carvacrol level makes Oregano fight against certain types of bacteria.
For example, Staphylococcus is a common bacteria that causes staph (bacterial) infection in the skin or nose. In this case, some strains can occur in the body, but it leads to irritating symptoms when the bacteria proliferate.
In a test-tube study, carvacrol present in oregano extract is used to block the growth of two strains of bacteria, namely Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is the main reason for infection. Further, Another test-tube study shows that Oregano was powerful against 23 species of bacteria.
Furthermore, test-tube research compares the antimicrobial activity of Oregano, sage, and thyme extract (oil). In comparison, Oregano was the more efficient essential oil against bacteria.
A recent laboratory study shows that carvacrol and thymol inhibits various strains of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria growth in meat and dairy products. It helps to control bacterial growth in foods.
How to use:
Take an essential oregano oil, rub it on the skin surface to treat bacterial infection with its antibacterial effects.
Oregano is rich in antioxidants which helps in the prevention of cancer cells by neutralizing free radical damage. Carvacrol, the main active compound of oregano that possess cancer-fighting properties. The extract from oregano inhibits the growth of lung cancer and prostate cancer cells.
Various studies have been made in finding the benefits of oregano against human skin cancer, breast, liver, and colon. One study has reported that the anti-cancer activities of oregano oil fights against stomach cancer. It shows that the use of oregano triggers apoptosis by increasing BAX and preventing fatty acid pathways in stomach cancer.
Apoptosis is a programmed cell death that breaks unwanted cells into apoptotic bodies. It is further eliminated from the cells by the phagocytosis process without any inflammation. Therefore, Oregano aids in treating life-threatening diseases like cancer.
One test-tube study says that oregano has treated colon cancer cells by stopping and killing the cancer cells. Another test-tube study found that carvacrol in oregano aids in suppressing the development of colon cancer cells.
A researcher found that oregano extract helps in preventing DNA damage that is caused due to oxidative stress and mitogens – a protein that causes unwanted cell division (which is a primary reason for the growth of cancer cells).
Scientists have also found that carvacrol and thymol compounds prevent melanoma cells and thus stop skin cancer from spreading.
May Help Reduce Viral Infection
Oregano plants possess antiviral properties. Researchers found evidence that this antiviral activity is due to the presence of Carvacrol, which is the main compound in oregano oil. Since Carvacrol was more powerful against particular viruses, oregano extract is used in the treatment of respiratory viruses, such as flu.
One test-tube study claimed that both oregano oil and isolated carvacrol has the potential to minimize the activity of murine norovirus within a few minutes. Within one hour of Oregano intake, Carvacrol inactivates norovirus that may cause diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain. Apart from reducing the activity of viruses, it also protects humans against some viruses.
Thymol is also the main active compound in Oregano which has antiviral properties. The study says that thymol and Carvacrol stops 90% of the herpes simplex virus within one hour.
Could Decrease Inflammation
Inflammation is caused due to injuries on the skin surface or illness in the body parts. It is a normal immune response of your immunity system to prevent infection due to invaders or microbes. But, prolonged inflammation causes the risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions.
Already, we have seen that Oregano has a high amount of antioxidants, which aids in neutralizing free radicals and decreasing inflammation. Oregano contains compounds like Carvacrol that possess anti-inflammatory properties. Based on one text, thymol and rosmarinic acid compounds present in the Oregano have anti-inflammatory properties.
Animal studies have found that Carvacrol minimizes swelling in the mice paws up to 57%. And a mixture of thyme and oregano oil lowers the number of inflammatory markers in mice with an inflamed colon. But, these studies are done with highly concentrated amounts of Oregano. So Studies are required to find how a usual dosage would reduce inflammation. In animal studies, oregano extract minimizes inflammation, autoimmune arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and allergic asthma.
The compound found in the oregano may aid you in controlling type 2 diabetes. A study done in 2016 claimed that Oregano extract helps in improving insulin resistance, maintains the gene expression that affects fat and carbohydrate metabolism, and also helps in restoring tissues of damaged liver and kidney. Here, the authors find that a few people have already used oregano to regulate blood glucose levels.
In 2015, researchers said that an oregano extract enhances type 1 diabetes (an autoimmune disease) in mice. This kind of diabetics is due to oxidative stress. And here, oregano’s antioxidant properties prevent β cell death.
Promotes Digestive Health
Oregano is a beneficial herb in promoting the health of the gut. Digestive problems such as diarrhea, pain, and bloating (gas buildup) are the common issues caused by parasites, and oregano treats these issues. It is also helpful in protecting the gut problem called a leaky gut. In this condition, the gut wall gets damaged and so the bacteria and toxins easily enter the bloodstream.
Oregano essential oil has carminative properties that aid in enhancing the pitta flow and provide quicker digestion. In an Earlier study, 14 people with gut issues were offered 600 mg of oregano oil. After treatment for six weeks, all people have experienced a decrease in parasites.
Studies on pigs have claimed that oregano oil decreases the E. coli bacteria in the gut, protects the intestinal wall from damage, and prevents it from leakage.
How to use:
- Massaging your tummy with 2 to 3 drops of Oregano oil (with sesame oil) helps you in the digestion process due to over mucous deposits in the stomach.
- Add a few drops of Oregano oil in a hot compress and wipe out throughout the stomach area to get relief from stomach upsets and gas. It also helps in improving the food movement.
Cures Respiratory Problems
Oregano essential oil has warming properties, and so it is helpful in treating problems like cold, cough, sinusitis, headache, mucous congestion, pneumonia, and other respiratory issues. It is the best oil for clearing blocked sinus passages. According to the “Ayurveda and Aromatherapy” book, Oregano oil removes surface toxins, enhances blood circulation, and relieves headaches due to cold.
How to use:
- Add a few drops of Oregano oil in steamed water and then inhale the steam to relieve congestion, blocked nasal passages, and pain due to infection.
- Mix 2 to 3 drops of Oregano essential oil with coconut oil and then massage it on the soles of your feet, chest, and back; or add the mixture to bathing water to get relief from cold and sinus problems.
Other Possible Health Benefits of Oregano
Apart from the explained ones, there are also many health benefits believed by people around the world, which are listed below. These benefits do not have any scientific proof.
- Painful menstrual cramps
- Urinary tract infections
- Oral and tooth health
- Heart conditions
- Athlete’s foot
- Insect bites
- Insect repellant
- Muscle and joint pain
- Varicose veins
Why Is Oregano Good for you?
Oregano has some essential nutrients, and when consumed in small quantities, it will give the required nutrients to your body. For example, Just taking-in one teaspoon of powder oregano can provide 8% of your daily vitamin K requirement.
Consuming modern medicine for health issues will cause some side effects that may lead to liver or stomach upset. Here, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and pains can also be treated with a common ingredient available in your home. This little shrub should be in your garden, or you can keep it as dried oregano in the kitchen for its healing power.
There are over 40 varieties of oregano found in the world, but Origanum vulgare (wild marjoram) is the one that possesses various health benefits. You can use fresh leaves, dried leaves, or oregano oil for cooking, seasoning, and medicinal benefits. The strong, spicy-smelling, yellowish-brown Oregano oil can be extracted from the dried oregano leaves using a steam distillation process.
Oregano has vitamins such as
- Vitamin A for the development and maintenance of the immune system
- Vitamin C for the growth and repair of body tissues
- Vitamin K aids the blood to clot quickly.
It also has minerals such as
- Manganese for the regulation of brain and nerve function
- Magnesium and Calcium for the regulation of muscle, heart, and nerve function, and it also maintains your bones strength
- Iron is vital in the production of red blood cells.
Oregano is also rich in dietary fiber, which is essential for a healthy bowel and digestive system.
Nutrient Amount present in 1 gram oregano ( & Daily adult requirement value)
- Energy: 2.7 calories (1,800–3,000 cal)
- Carbohydrate: 0.7 g (130 g)
- Fiber: 0.4 g (25.2–33.6 g)
- Calcium: 16.0 mg (1,000–1,200 mg)
- Phosphorus: 1.5 mg (700 mg)
- Potassium: 12.6 mg (4,700 mg)
- Folate: 2.4 mcg, DFE (400 mcg, DFE)
Possible Side Effects & Warnings
Better seek medical advice before using Oregano.
- Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Oregano is unsafe when consumed during pregnancy. Intaking Oregano in greater amounts than food may cause miscarriage. Since there are no sufficient reliable details about the safety of consuming Oregano during the breastfeeding period. So it is better to stay away from Oregano during pregnancy.
- Diabetes: Oregano will decrease blood glucose levels. So people with diabetes should use the correct amount of Oregano.
- Bleeding Disorders: It may increase the risk of bleeding, so consult your doctor before using. If you have undergone surgery, better avoid Oregano for two weeks.
- Allergies: Oregano may cause allergic reactions in people who are allergic to plants such as basil, lavender, mint, and sage under the Lamiaceae family.
- You should not apply Oregano oil in high concentrations because it may cause irritation.
Interactions with Other Herbs and Supplements
- Copper: Oregano may interfere with copper absorption, and thus consuming Oregano along with copper-rich food will reduce the absorption of copper.
- Iron: Oregano may interfere with Iron absorption, and thus consuming Oregano with iron content food will reduce the absorption of Iron.
- Zinc: Oregano may interfere with Zinc absorption, and thus consuming zinc-rich food with Oregano will reduce the absorption of Zinc.
- In the benefits mentioned above, we have seen that Oregano may decrease the blood sugar level. Therefore consuming Oregano along with supplements that lower blood glucose will reduce blood sugar levels too much. Some supplements that lower blood glucose are alpha-lipoic acid, bitter melon, devil’s claw, fenugreek, garlic, horse chestnut, Panax ginseng, psyllium, Siberian ginseng, etc.
- Intaking Oregano along with some herbs will slow down blood clotting, which may increase the risk of bleeding. Some of the herbs with which you should not consume Oregano are angelica, clove, garlic, ginger, horse chestnut, red clover, turmeric, and many others.
Oregano is a health-beneficial herb that boosts your health. It is packed with powerful antioxidants that fight against microbes, reduce the development of cancer cells and cures inflammation. Oregano is a versatile herb and can be added to your regular diet.