Oregano is one of the oldest herbs in history and the oil that its leaves produce has been used as a natural treatment for a variety of ailments. It was most commonly used as an antiseptic and to treat respiratory tract infections. Today the oil can be found in medicine cabinets of those who are looking for a more natural approach to treating fungal infections, stomach discomfort or dental health. Here are some of the more interesting facts related to the oregano plant, oregano leaves and the essential oil that they produce.
About The Oregano Plant
Oregano is a bushy, hardy plant that can grow over two feet tall. It is a member of the mint family and is related to thyme, rosemary and mint. The plants prefer sunny locations and warm temperatures, similar to their Mediterranean origins. It is usually a perennial plant but can be grown as an annual in colder climates where it can’t survive the winter.
The plant sprouts shiny green leaves and purple flowers. The leaves contain the precious oil that can be extracted and bottled to use for culinary and medicinal purposes. The leaves are best if harvested in the morning hours after the morning dew has evaporated. While fresh leaves are preferred for making oil, dried leaves should be used if cooking with the herb. Oregano plants are easy to grow at home, either in a vegetable garden or in a pot on the kitchen windowsill, making it easy to either make your own oil or cook with your own leaves after leaving them out to dry.
Today, Turkey, Greece and Portugal grow the most of the world’s oregano. If purchasing oregano essential oil, look for Turkish supplied oregano, as it is often the best quality for making oil.
Oregano In History
Oregano’s can be first traced to the Assyrians in 3000 BC but it was first seriously used by the Greeks, who used the herb to treat headaches, respiratory conditions, sooth insect bites and even as an antidote for snake bites. As the Romans grew their empire and eventually overturned the Greeks, they took note of their use of the herb and are responsible for spreading the plant throughout Europe and Northern Africa. As the herb became more well known and accessible, its uses grew and it became one of the most popular flavorings of the middle ages. It also took on more symbolic meaning and was used in weddings, funerals and as a good luck charm. Oregano was not common in the United States until after the first World War, when soldiers were introduced to the flavorful and robust herb overseas. It is now one of the most common herbs in spice racks in kitchens today.
- The Ancient Greeks believed that the meat from cows would be tastier if they grazed in fields full of oregano. They also believed that if you anointed yourself with oregano before retiring for the evening, you would dream of your future spouse.
- While most varieties of oregano bloom purple flowers, pink are not unheard of. The plants bloom during the summer and autumn months. Unlike some other plants, when making oregano oil the flowers can be used as well. The flowers are also edible.
- One of the main ingredients of oregano oil, thymol, is often an ingredient in over the counter cough remedies, including Vicks Menthol Cough Drops and Vicks VapoRub. Oregano oil is a great expectorant.
- Oregano was first a medicine then an herb, not the other way around. The Romans were the first to realize that the herb could be used to improve the flavor of food and preserve it. It became one of the most common herbs during Medieval times. It pairs nicely with salty dishes with vegetables and meat. Of course, it also goes great in pasta sauces and on pizza, earning it the nickname “the pizza herb”.
- One of the best signs of a high quality essential oil is that each batch smells a little different, which means that there is not any use of synthetic fragrances. Oregano oil will differ between different habitats, climates and the type of soil that the plant was grown in. Oregano oil from different parts of the world will have a different aroma.
- Instead of using harsh chemicals and pesticides to keep your garden bug free, consider planting a few oregano plants. They are a natural bug repellent and work especially well next to broccoli. Oregano can either be planted by seeds or by dividing an existing plant.
- There are many man made species of oregano but there are three main types of oregano, including Wild Mediterranean, Spanish and Mexican. Only the Wild Mediterranean type demonstrates antibiotic and anti-fungal properties.
Oregano and Oregano Oil Today
Oregano started as a medicinal herb but as it become more popular in the kitchen, many forgot about its amazing healing properties. As more people look for natural treatments that are free of harsh side effects and large price tags, oregano has come back into the spotlight. Oregano oil has incredible antioxidant, immune-boosting and respiratory supportive properties that make it a great oil to keep in the home at all times. It can be topically applied to fungal infections and help with acne and hair health or diffused throughout the room to eliminate airborne bacteria. This method may also help with mild depression and anxiety. It can also be ingested to help prevent digestive issues and keep the body free of inflammation.
As with any medicine, oregano oil should be used with caution. It should be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women and by children under the age of six. It is a very potent oil and should always be diluted before topically applying. If there are any signs of an allergic reaction, stop using the oil and contact a doctor if needed. Always discuss using oregano oil with your doctor before administering treatment to make sure there is no risk of interactions with other prescribed medications.