Oregano is a popular culinary herb used in many dishes, especially in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. This spice can be found in every home, usually in the form of dry leaves, but not many people know that oregano, which is easy to plant and grow in the garden or in a pot, also has several significant medicinal properties.
Oregano leaves can be used fresh or dried, and also in the form of oil. Fresh leaves have a stronger aroma and many people prefer dried, ground oregano that can be sprinkled over food.
This perennial plant, scientifically called Origanum vulgare, which belongs to the family Lamiaceae, is native to Europe and Asia, especially the Mediterranean region. It is rich in essential oils, whose intensity and aroma depend on the variety of the plant. The leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, copper, magnesium, calcium, niacin and thiamine.
Oregano has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. It can be used as a spice, a tea or as a paste made from ground leaves with some hot water. It can also be added to bath water for a relaxing and soothing effect.
Medicinal uses of oregano
Ever since ancient times, oregano leaves have been used to treat a number of ailments and illnesses. Today, medical research has found that this herb is rich in antioxidants and anti-bacterial and anti-parasitical compounds. There are several ongoing studies that are investigating the ability of oregano to help cure cancer, cardiovascular diseases and muscle degeneration.
A tablespoon of fresh oregano leaves offers the same amount of antioxidants as a medium-sized apple. The antioxidant properties in this herb are owed to the presence of thymol and rosmainic acid.
Carvacrol in oregano inhibits bacteria and thus helps with infections, especially with giardia. Oregano is also used to treat fungal infections, both internal and external.
Oregano can help with digestive problems, especially bloating, flatulence and cramps. It increases the amount of saliva and thus improves digestion. It relieves problems related to the menstrual cycle like cramps and heavy flow.
Tea made of oregano can be used to treat headache, urinary tract problems, lung disorders, nausea, diarrhea and jaundice. It is often used as a mouthwash, to prevent tooth and gum infections and to heal a sore throat.
If applied externally, oregano can help with insect bites, skin blemishes, wounds, cuts and scrapes, and it helps with arthritis pain as well.
The water used for boiling oregano leaves even makes for an effective shampoo against head lice.