Benefits of Oregano                                             More Articles

Reprinted from "Taste for Life" magazine

A favorite Mediterranean seasoning for thousands of years, oregano is popular today throughout the world. In fact, it's just been named the official Herb of the Year for 2005.

Easy to grow
“I love oregano,” says herbalist Gretchen Gould of Poughkeepsie, New York. “I first met the plant when I bought my farm, Herb Hill. During my first summer here, I was too busy to pay much attention to the purple flowers that covered the fields in mid-July. I passed them off as some variety of mint, probably not one I would use in my salve making, but they certainly had a potent aroma. By the beginning of August, there were so many purple flowers that the whole hill smelled of their heady perfume. No wonder oregano means ‘joy of the mountain’ in Greek.”

As Gould discovered, oregano spreads and grows wild wherever conditions favor it- on dry, sunny slopes, in woods and fields, along roadsides, in gardens, and in pots or window boxes. Whether grown from organic seed or purchased as a live plant from your favorite natural market, this is a perfect herb for first-time gardeners. Oregano needs little, if any, attention and grows best in soil that hasn’t been fertilized.

Simple to use
The best time to harvest oregano is on a sunny morning, when its concentration of essential oils is strongest. Pick leaves from plants that have a few dozen leaves and have not yet flowered. You can keep the plants from getting rangy or going to seed by pinching flower buds off before they bloom. Young leaves are tender and flavorful, while leaves from blossoming plants may have a bitter taste. To dry oregano for storage, spread leaves or tie bunches in a dry, shady area with good air circulation. Store brittle, dried leaves in airtight glass containers; freeze fresh leaves in zipper storage bags.

"Oregano is a favorite ingredient in rich Italian sauces, dressings, and vinaigrettes, and it delivers many medicinal qualities dressed up in the form of delicious food," says Wendy Snow Fogg, an herbalist in Lee, New Hampshire. "A good, thick Italian pasta sauce seasoned with oregano is rich in lycopene from tomatoes and other antioxidants from oregano. The oregano also gives a warming action to the sauce, helping the body digest it more efficiently. Oregano soothes the entire digestive tract, helps prevent damage from free radicals, acts as an expectorant by releasing mucus from the lungs, and, of course, tastes delicious."

Healing effects
Although best known for its culinary properties, oregano is a medicinal herb. Gretchen Gould recommends oregano tea as an antiseptic gargle for sore throats or mouth inflammation. “A quart of strong oregano tea can be added to a hot bath to produce a claming effect,” she says, “and a poultice of crushed oregano leaves can be applied to bites, stings, and infected wounds or cuts.” Pour 1 cup simmering water of 1 teaspoon dried or 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh oregano for a beverage tea’ double the amount of oregano for a medicinal tea.
Gould takes advantage of oregano’s germ-killing properties by grinding it into antiseptic soap. And because of its anti-inflammatory properties, she includes it in salves and other products for the joints. In aromatherapy circles, oregano’s essential oil has become popular as a treatment for bacterial and fungal infections and for use as an antiseptic. Recommended brands are distilled from properly identified wild-crafted Origanum vulgare.

Carvacrol, a compound of oregano oil, is a potent antiseptic with antifungal activity. Research finds oil of oregano as effective as conventional antibiotics against 25 different bacteria, including E. coli, staphylococcus, listeria, and anthrax, as well as athlete’s foot, candida yeast infections, intestinal parasites, and periodontal disease.

A potential skin irritant, essential oil of oregano should be diluted with a carrier oil (jojoba or almond oil) before topical application. Start with 12 to 15 drops in 1 tablespoon of carrier oil. If your skin is sensitive, do an overnight patch test by placing a drop of the diluted blend inside the knee or elbow. If redness, itching, or irritation develops, discontinue use. For toothache or gum infection, gently rub the diluted oil in the affected area. Apply diluted oil two or three ties daily to areas affected by athlete’s foot, psoriasis, or eczema.

To help treat candida or intestinal parasites, look for enteric-coated capsules containing oil of oregano and follow label directions. Six or more weeks of continuous use may be needed to treat these conditions. Note that oil of oregano may interfere with the absorption of iron from iron supplements, so consult a healthcare provider before taking supplements that contain this oil if you suffer from iron-deficiency anemia.

Selected sources

The cure is in the cupboard: how to use Oregano for better health by Cass Ingram
Inhibition of Enteric Parasites by Emulsified Oil of Oregano by Phytotherapy Research
Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman
Oregano Oil protecting against drug-resistant bacteria, Georgetown University
Oregano Research update, by ray Sahelian
Wendy Snow and Gretchen Gould in conversation with Taste for Life.


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