Oregano - the "Mountain Joy" with powerful properties

Oregano - the "Mountain Joy" with powerful properties

Oregano oil is, it seems, omnipresent. The oil is hyped for its medicinal properties, but the herb itself gets comparatively little attention. Today I want to shed some light on this powerful herb.

The name ‘oregano’ is derived from Greek, combining the words ‘oros’ translating to mountain and ‘ganos’, meaning joy. A very fitting name, as it appears:

Oregano belongs to the mint (Lamiaceae) family (like thyme, marjoram and basil) and grows in mountainous regions that are usually hot, dry and sunny. The herb is common in the South of Europe, in countries such as Greece, Italy and France, but also in Latin American countries.

Both Ancient Greeks and Romans saw oregano as a symbol of happiness. Consequently, bride and groom have traditionally been crowned in wedding ceremonies with laurels of oregano supposedly bringing luck and joy for their marriage. 

Oregano has been used for cooking and healing for thousands of years. (Hippocrates, born 460 BC, the father of modern medicine, already spoke about the medicinal properties of oregano.) Oregano is strongly antimicrobial (due to its volatile oils thymol and carvacrol), making it a herb of choice against infections caused by various viruses, bacteria or fungi. It can help in the treatment of colds, respiratory disorders like coughs and asthma, but also in cases of indigestion, bloating, heartburn and even soothe menstrual pain.

Probably the most outstanding property though is the antioxidant activity of oregano. According to an analysis funded by the US Department of Agriculture, oregano shows the highest antioxidant activity of any food tested (just as a point of reference: its activity appears to be 42 times higher than apples and 4 times higher than blueberries!).

The ancient herb is also nutrient-dense with high amounts of vitamin A, C, E, K, and minerals such as zinc, magnesium and iron. A powerful combination that effectively supports immune function!

So many reasons to include oregano in your dishes more often!

Regarding the herb's flavor profile, the herb common in Mediterranean and Mexican cuisine shows great variability from mild to hot taste. Greek oregano is among the 'spiciest'. Generally speaking, dried leaves are more pungent than fresh ones. Combinations that bring out the most flavor of oregano are basil and tomato or lemon juice and marjoram.
While many know and love oregano in their traditional tomato sauce on pizza, oregano actually goes well with meat and fish, night shades like eggplant or peppers, cheese dishes, chili, garlic and other herbs like mint, sage and rosemary. If you're cooking with oregano, choose to add oregano towards the end of the cooking process to maintain the herb's volatile oils and it's benefits, because heat destroys the delicate flavor and it's aromatic oils easily. Finally, the only dish that you may better enjoy without oregano is your dessert!

 

Sources:

The Alternative Daily, 'This Herb Has 42x More Antioxidant Power Than Apples', https://www.thealternativedaily.com/this-herb-has-42x-more-antioxidant-power-than-apples/

Le Petit Greek, 'Greek Herb of the Month', http://www.lepetitgreek.com/category/greek-herbs/

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