Oregano (Origanum vulgare ) is an aromatic plant originating from the Mediterranean Peninsula and Western Asia. Its application for medical purposes dates back to ancient Greece where it was applied to treat stomach problems, constipation, slow bowel motility, and other problems with the digestive tract. It belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae) and, except for its medicinal properties, is often used in cooking because of its recognizable aroma. Oregano essential oil possesses healing properties and strong antibacterial activity, it is both used in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industry.
The main characteristics of oregano are:
• A high content of antioxidants
• Antifungal activity
• Antiviral properties
• Analgesic properties
• Diuretic activity
• Antiseptic activity
• Relieves digestive problems
• Antibacterial properties
Health benefits of oregano
Oregano is used in the diet in relatively small amounts, therefore as most other spices cannot exhibit its maximal healing potential. But the continual application of oregano in small amounts allows the intake of sufficient amounts of compounds with antioxidant activity, plenty of minerals and vitamins and phytonutrients. Oregano is a tonic and carminative. It stimulates bowel motility, but in large quantities, it can accelerate heart rate. In traditional medicine, it is often used as an infusion or essential oil. It possesses analgesic properties which means that it can effectively reduce the pain. Oregano also possesses antibacterial and antiseptic properties.
With its antioxidant activity, it prevents the damage of internal organs caused by the action of free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive compounds with an unwanted electron. They react with a large number of endogenous molecules and thus participate in the development of many diseases of the modern age, including cardiovascular diseases, central nervous system diseases, and other age-related diseases.
In addition to that, oregano also has anti-inflammatory activity, thereby reducing acute or chronic inflammation of breathing pathways. As an infusion or as an inhaler, oregano leaves increase the air flow through the airways and relieve respiration and symptoms of colds or flu.
Oregano relieves digestion problems, facilitates the passage of food through the intestines, and stimulates the formation of digestive juices, thus enables the decomposition of food and complete digestion and absorption. It reduces the production of gases and prevents the formation of constipation.
Oregano is a good source of vitamin E, one of the compounds with the strongest antioxidant activity. This vitamin is lipophilic and it prevents the damage to the cell membrane, especially in red blood cells – erythrocytes and white blood cells – leukocytes (immune system cells).
This medicinal plant also contains a lot of calcium, the most present mineral in our body. Calcium salts make up the bulk of bone mass. In this way, oregano increases the strength and formation of bones, protects teeth and prevents their damage. Also, calcium participates in the process of blood clotting, it affects the regulation of blood pressure and muscle contractility (including the heart).
Potential side effects of oregano
Oregano contains vitamin K in large quantities. This vitamin participates in the process of blood coagulation, except that it can be ingested with food, it can be synthesized by bacteria in the intestines. Vitamin K participates in the process of protein synthesis that plays a key role in coagulation (they have a stimulating and inhibitory role in the coagulation process). People who use warfarin or other anticoagulants in their therapy should be careful when adding oregano to their diet. Various nutrition is recommended to everyone and the intake of moderate amounts of oregano and other green vegetables and fruits do not have to be a problem.
History of oregano as a spice
Oregano has a specific aroma and slightly bitter taste due to the phenolic compounds in its composition. Depending on the variety of oregano, its taste and aroma can vary considerably, from mild aromas to very strong ones. Oregano has been used mostly in Italian and Greek cuisine since ancient times. Today, because of its characteristics, it is also used in a large number of other cuisines. It is used as a supplement to various sauces, salads, fish, pork, and it is unavoidable addition to pizza and pasta. What you need to know is that its aroma is significantly reduced at high temperatures, as the additive is applied exclusively in dry form, because the fresh form loses its healing and aromatic properties and should be added after baking.
In ancient Greece and the Roman empire, oregano was a symbol of joy. It was used at various ceremonies and it was believed to bring peace, happiness, and prosperity. The name oregano was given in the thirteenth century, translated from Latin means “mountain joy”.