Oregano: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Explore the health benefits, history, and culinary uses of oregano, a flavorful herb rich in vitamins and antioxidants, and learn how to store and incorporate it into various cuisines.

What Is Oregano?

Oregano, (Origanum vulgare), also called origanum or wild marjoram, is an aromatic perennial herb of the mint family (Lamiaceae) known for its flavorful dried leaves and flowering tops.

Oregano, which has a distinctive aroma and slightly bitter taste from the high concentration of phenolic acids, can vary greatly in potency – some strains are mild while others are stronger.

Is Oregano Good For You?

Oregano is definitely good for you! Oregano contains vitamins and antioxidant qualities.

5 Health Benefits Of Oregano

  1. Oregano Oil has antibacterial qualities
  2. Oregano oil may help lower cholesterol
    1. People with semi-high cholesterol were given diet and lifestyle advice to help lower their cholesterol in a study . Some of the participants were also given oregano oil extract after each meal. After 3 months, the oregano oil group had lower LDL (bad) and higher HDL (good).
  3. Oregano is a strong antioxidant
  4. Oregano may reduce inflammation
    1. Carvacrol , one of the main compounds in oregano oil, has also been shown to possibly reduce inflammation.
  5. Oregano may help with symptoms of upper respiratory infections.

History, Background About General Facts about Oregano

  • Oregano was originally grown in Greece
  • Oregano grows well in rocky terrain which is why it grew/grows so well in Greece
  • The word “ oregano ” comes from the Greek words oros, for “mountain,” and ganos, for “joy” meaning “ joy of the mountains”
  • The Greeks believed oregano was created by the Goddess Aphrodite, because she wanted it to be a symbol of joy growing in her garden
  • Ancient Greeks believed that oregano could also be used as a poison antidote. They used it to treat skin irritations and infections
  • Oregano has been an essential ingredient of Mediterranean cooking and is also used to season many foods in Mediterranean, Italian, and Mexican cuisine
  • In the middle ages oregano was commonly used for medicinal purposes. They would chew the oregano leaves as a cure for many ailments like rheumatism, toothache, indigestion, and coughing fits
  • Chinese people believed oregano helped with fever, vomiting, and upset stomach
  • Oregano wasn’t used in the United States until after World War II. Soldiers brought oregano back with them after tasting pizza in Italy

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Oregano?

  • Italian - pasta and pizza sauces, marinara, and on veg, meat, and fish
  • Mexican - garnish for pozole
  • Mediterranean/Greek - salads and dressings
  • Cuban - mojo (garlic citrus marinade)
  • Tex-Mex - chicken and rice

What Is The Best Way To Store Oregano?

  • Store fresh oregano in a glass of water in the fridge or in a plastic or glass container in the vegetable drawer
  • For dried, store it in a clean, dry, glass container and chuck it after six months
  • For oil like a tincture, store in a cool dry place like a cabinet or pantry away from heat or a stove

What Are The Different Types of Oregano?

  • Common oregano is botanically known asOriganum vulgare, Greek for "joy of the mountains"
  • Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) is considered to be the strongest-flavored variety. Also known as Mexican marjoram or Mexican wild sage
  • Spanish (Origanum vivens) have less flavor
  • Greek (Origanum heraclites) oregano has less flavor
  • Syrian
  • Cuban

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Oregano

Oregano leaf and oregano oil are generally considered safe when taken in amounts commonly found in food. Oregano can cause reactions in people allergic to Lamiaceae family plants, including basil, lavender, marjoram, mint, and sage.

What Is The Best Substitute For Oregano If I Don't Have Any?

If you don't have oregano available or need a substitute for it in a recipe, there are a few alternatives you can consider depending on the flavor profile you're aiming for. Here are some options:

  1. Marjoram: Marjoram is a close relative of oregano and has a similar flavor profile, although it is milder and slightly sweeter. It can be used as a substitute for oregano in most recipes. Use marjoram in the same quantity as oregano, or adjust to taste.

  2. Thyme: Thyme is another herb with a distinct flavor that can work as a substitute for oregano in certain dishes. It has a slightly earthy and aromatic taste. Use thyme in a smaller quantity than the amount of oregano called for in the recipe, as it can be stronger in flavor.

  3. Basil: While basil has a different flavor profile than oregano, it can be used as a substitute in some recipes, especially those that call for oregano as a supporting herb. Basil has a sweeter and more aromatic taste. Use it in a smaller quantity than oregano and consider adding other herbs or spices to enhance the overall flavor.

  4. Sage: Sage has a distinct flavor that can work as a substitute for oregano in certain savory dishes. It has a slightly peppery and earthy taste. Use sage in smaller quantities than oregano, as it can have a stronger flavor.