Oregano is a popular herb that we generally know for its addition to our Italian savouries like pizza and pasta. It is a dried spice used mainly in Greek and Italian cooking and is closely related to thyme, basil, lavender, and sage. It has a strong flavour and adds warmth to your food, as well as a hint of subtle sweetness. You can consume it fresh, dried, or in the form of oregano oil. However, it is way more than just a herb that adds a distinct fragrance to your food. It has several health benefits, including strengthening the immune system, improving digestion and gut health. Though its typical use is small, this herb is rich in several nutrients. For example, just one teaspoon of dried oregano can provide you with about 8% of your daily vitamin K needs.
Oregano: What is it?
Oregano is a species of flowering plant which belongs to the mint family and is native to the Mediterranean region. However, it is now widely naturalised all over the globe. This herb is composed of fresh or dried leaves of the oregano plant. The plant has tiny leaves that produce an intense aroma but add great flavour to various dishes. Oregano as a herb is a staple in Mediterranean cooking. It is gluten-free, hence, suitable for vegan and paleo diets.
Types of Oregano
Oregano comprises 42 different species widely distributed in North Africa, Eurasia, and Western India. The most common variety used is Oregano Vulgare, commonly called Spanish Thyme. All of these species are available in different forms and which one to use depends on the recipe you are trying to cook.
Some common forms of oregano available are:
Fresh oregano has a strong flavour and a slightly metallic taste with its flat leaves. However, it has excellent antibacterial qualities. In addition, it contains phytonutrients that fight infections. The general use of fresh leaves makes stocks and soups or adds subtle but complex flavour to the fish.
Dried oregano is more common, and people prefer it. It adds a flavour that complements without overpowering the dishes as fresh oregano might. In addition, dried oregano has antiviral properties. Hence, a warm bowl of soup sprinkled with dried oregano can effectively treat cold, cough, and sore throat.
Leaves are air-dried to make oregano essential oil. Once they’re dried, the oil is extracted and concentrated by steam distillation. The oil has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties and contains a higher concentration of beneficial compounds naturally in the plant. You can add a few drops of this essential oil to sauces and dips for flavours and on the skin or nose to treat cold, cough, blemishes, insect bites, or as a cleaning agent.
Different Forms of Oregano Suitable for Use
The most common form of oregano is “Origanum Vulgare”, or “Spanish Thyme”. Other common forms include:
It has a slightly sweeter flavour and is less mild and spicy than Italian oregano. Marjoram can be used in a variety of dishes such as salad dressings, meat sausages, etc. and also has several health benefits.
2. Greek Oregano
Greek Oregano is one of the most famous strands of oregano. It adds aromatic flavour to dozens of tomato based- dishes and recipes. In addition, it is rich in iron, antioxidants, vitamin E, and calcium.
3. Italian Oregano
Italian oregano is used in various dishes, especially while grilling vegetables and meat. It combines the sweet marjoram and the typical Greek oregano strands and resembles both plants with its intense flavour.
4. Syrian Oregano
One of the tallest varieties of oregano, Syrian oregano is a source of vitamin C and fibre. Its leaves are primarily fresh, and the herb goes well in dips, yoghurt, soups, and salads.
5. Mexican Oregano
Mexican Oregano, or Lippia graveolens, is different from the other oregano plants. However, it is prevalent in Mexican dishes and is the strongest-flavoured variety.
6. Golden Oregano
The golden oregano gets its name from its yellow to golden foliage. It has a nice mild flavour and is excellent for culinary use, fresh or dried.
Nutritional Properties of Oregano
Oregano is full of essential nutrients like vitamins A, C, and K. It is also rich in iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium. In addition, these unassuming looking leaves contain numerous other vital antioxidants. In addition, it’s very low in calories. The nutritional value per 100 grams of dried oregano is:
- Energy: 265 Kcal
- Carbohydrates: 68.9 g
- Protein: 9 g
- Total Fat: 4.2 g
- Dietary Fibre: 42.5 g
Health Benefits of Oregano
From improving digestion to fighting infection, oregano has many research-based benefits:
Antioxidant Properties and Immunity
Research has found that oregano is highly rich in antioxidants. These vital constituents help fight damage caused due to free-radicals in the body. However, free radical build-ups can trigger oxidative stress, leading to various diseases and disorders. These include type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart diseases, chronic inflammation, arthritis, and cancer.
Another study suggests that antioxidants destroy free radicals. In addition, they protect the structural integrity of cells and tissue and strengthen the human immune system.
Bacteria can cause infectious diseases and affect any part of the body. The use of herbal remedies is to treat such bacterial infections throughout history. Oregano is one such herb that has strong antibacterial properties and can be used to treat bacterial infections.
Oregano consists of compounds like carvacrol and thymol, which have antibacterial properties. In a comparative study between sage, thyme, and oregano essential oils, oregano was the most beneficial essential oil at odds with bacteria. The discovery made it effective against a total of 23 different types of harmful bacteria.
Inflammation is an immune response to fight against infections, injuries, and toxins to heal itself. Oregano is rich in antioxidants and contains carvacrol, a compound with anti-inflammatory properties.
In addition to fighting off bacteria, oregano and its components may also protect against viruses.
Study shows that the two compounds in oregano have antiviral properties. They help relieve a runny nose, sore throat and fight against cold and cough. These two compounds also attest to hinder 90% of the herpes simplex virus within just one hour.
Oregano is high in fibre. It is a well-established fact that fibre is an essential component that helps improve our digestive system. Its benefits come from the properties of adding bulk to our stool and stimulating peristaltic motion, efficiently moving food through the digestive tract and excreting it.
You may use oregano oil to treat digestive problems like bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, and abdominal cramps, among others.
May Help Manage Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune inflammatory disorder developed due to the destruction of the pancreatic β-cell, resulting in hyperglycemia.
According to a study, oregano extract may protect from the development of hyperglycaemia. It works by reducing pro-inflammatory macrophage response. Moreover, the fibre in oregano delays digestion. It ensures that the sugar is not metabolised quickly and causes a surge in blood sugar levels.
Improves Gut Health
The physical state and physiologic function of the various parts of the gastrointestinal tract is gut health. Unsanitary conditions, such as contaminated food and water, can lead to parasitic invasion in the gut, resulting in various diseases.
A study on people infected with three parasites that cause digestive issues shows that in most cases, supplementation with oregano oil caused the parasites to disappear entirely and improved the symptoms in the rest.
Best Ways to Use Oregano
There are various ways in which you can use oregano.
- You can use fresh or dried oregano with flavourful pieces of bread to turn any ordinary soup meal into something almost fancy.
- You can also mix oregano with honey for a flavoured addition to sauces, bread, curries, and more.
- Oregano is the perfect herb for tomato sauces, roasted meat, and much more.
- You can also combine olive oil to create Italian vinaigrettes and marinades for chicken, lamb, and beef dishes.
- In addition, you can add fresh oregano leaves to salads.
For Medical Use:
- You can use drops of oregano oil to treat cough, cold and sore throat.
- You may also use vinegar infused with oregano to treat fungal infections.
- Due to its antibacterial and antifungal properties, oregano leaves find use in cleaning tubs, showers, and toilets.
- Its tea can ease menstrual pain, prevent constipation and diarrhoea, soothe muscle aches and treat skin sores.
Oregano: Healthy Recipes
- Serves: 1
- Preparation Time: 10 minutes
- Fresh oregano, fresh: 1 sprig
- Boiling Water: 1-2 cups
- Honey: 1 tsp (optional)
- Collect all ingredients.
- Rinse oregano leaves to remove any dirt and debris.
- Place oregano in boiling water for 3 minutes to steep.
- When the flavour has reached your desired level, remove it.
- Fill a mug halfway and add honey until dissolved. Serve and enjoy.
Oregano, Feta, and Tomato Salad
- Serves: 4
- Preparation Time: 10 minutes
- Fresh oregano leaves: 3 cups
- Tomato: 2-3
- Block Feta Cheese: 7 ounces
- Black Pepper Powder: 1 tsp
- Olive oil: 2-3 tbsp
- Fresh Lemon Juice: ½ cup
- Salt to taste
- Cut tomatoes in thick wedges.
- Cut the feta cheese into thin slices.
- Rinse oregano to remove any dirt and debris.
- Collect all ingredients in a mixing bowl and drizzle some olive oil, lemon, black pepper powder, and salt.
- Serve at room temperature.
Potential Side Effects of Excess Oregano Intake
Oregano or oregano oil is safe for most people when used in regular food doses. However, people allergic to mint or mint families might experience adverse reactions when consuming oregano.
While Using it for Medicinal Purposes
When used for medicinal purposes, oregano is possibly safe when taken by mouth or applied to the skin. However, some people might experience stomach discomfort. It is best to ask your healthcare experts before starting any supplement, especially if you are on other medications or have a medical condition.
You can use oregano oil to remove blemishes or acne. But it may cause skin irritation if applied in concentrations greater than 1%. Please dilute essential oils before using, either with olive oil or different carrier oil. You can add it to water for a steam bath. You should always check how to use each product to prevent toxicity.
Some common symptoms of oregano allergy include rashes, stomach upset, and difficulty in breathing. It’s essential to avoid inhaling oregano oil if you’re allergic to it. It can result in airway inflammation, which can quickly become dangerous. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms after consuming oregano, you should visit your doctor:
- Muscle pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Excessive salivation
Pregnant or breastfeeding women may not experience any side effects while using oregano or oregano oil. But it is always recommended to understand your body and the possible allergies before consuming any product. However, if your body is not allergic to oregano, it has plenty of benefits to offer.
Oregano is a medicinal herb with a long list of health benefits. It has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It also helps in digestion. In addition, it is a versatile herb that can be easily incorporated into your diet and used in various recipes in fresh, dried, or oil form.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Does oregano cure cough?
A. Cough is a common symptom of the upper respiratory tract viral infection, such as in the common cold or the flu. Oregano contains carvacrol and thymol, which have antiviral properties. They help relieve a runny nose, sore throat and fight against cold and cough.
Q. Is oregano oil good for the lungs?
A. Oregano has several antiviral and anti-inflammatory compounds. They help to cleanse the lungs, reduce inflammation and congestion in the lungs. Hence, it helps improve airflow.
Q. Will oregano oil help with Covid?
A. Carvacrol is the most abundant phenol in oregano. It fights different types of bacteria. It also improves immunity which helps fight symptoms of covid.
Q. Can I take oregano every day?
A. It is best to consume oregano in moderation. However, this is because high doses might have detrimental effects. Also, it may be due to thymol, one of the phenols in oregano.
Q. Can I boil fresh oregano leaves?
A. Yes. You can boil oregano leaves in water. Thus, you can make oregano tea or puree to form dips.
Q. Do ginger and oregano go together?
A. Yes. Oregano and ginger make a great combination and provide a fresh aromatic taste to any dish you add. For example, you can add them to pasta sauces or chopped together for salads.
Q. Is oregano tea good for sleeping?
A. Oregano tea contains antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It offers many health benefits. You can use it to cure sore throat, digestive problems, insomnia, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Q. Is oregano good for kidneys?
A. Since ancient times, oregano has been used to treat diseases like kidney stones, diarrhoea, jaundice, spasm, and flatulence. The presence of antioxidants, volatile oils and other health-promoting plant chemicals in oregano is responsible for its medicinal properties. However, more research is needed to prove its effectiveness in aiding kidneys.