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.
“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
"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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman
Oregano Oil protecting against drug-resistant bacteria, Georgetown
Oregano Research update, by ray Sahelian
Wendy Snow and Gretchen Gould in conversation with Taste for Life.