Oregano

Botanical and Common Names

  • Family Labiatae
  • Origanum vulgare (Oregano, Origano, Wild Marjoram, Winter Marjoram, Mountain Mint, Wintersweet; Spanish: Oregano castillo, Yerba Dulce)
  • Origanum majorana syn. Majorana hortensis (Marjoram, Sweet Marjoram)
  • Origanum heraclites (Greek Oregano)
  • Origanum onites (Italian Oregano)
  • Origanum vivens (Spanish Oregano)

Cautions

  • It is contraindicated in those with gallbladder or liver disease.
  • Do not take as a medicine during pregnancy. However, cooking amounts do not pose a problem.
  • Do not take the essential oil internally.
  • Marjoram salve should not be administered to infants or small children.
  • External use may cause irritation of the skin.
  • It should not be used extensively or by those prone to anemia as it may inhibit the absorption of iron.
  • It should not be given to children under the age of two.

Description

 Native to Europe and naturalized in the Middle East, oregano is widely cultivated as a culinary herb. Oregano is an upright perennial herb, growing to about thirty-two inche,s but can reach heights of six feet. It has square, red stems, elliptical leaves, and clusters of deep pink flowers. It thrives in chalky soils near the sea, and is gathered when in flower during the summer. There are about forty different plants known as oregano.

Marjoram is a woody perennial herb native to countries bordering the Mediterranean, but now widely cultivated, especially in Germany. Depending on the area of cultivation, there may be two crops per year. It grows to about twenty inches, having aromatic, light green, oval leaves and pinkish white flowers emerging from the upper leaf axils. The leaves have a mild sage-like flavour.

History

 The oregano plants are well known food seasonings, as well as having a long history as medicinal plants. In China, they have long been used to treat fever, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Oregano was much used by the ancient Greeks, and had a more significant role in medicine than did marjoram.

The 18th century herbalist, K'Eogh described it as having a "hot, dry nature" considered good for stomach pains and the heart as well as for coughs, pleurisy, and "obstructions of the lungs and womb", and thought to be a "comfort" to the head and nerves.

In 1597, the herbalist John Gerard made an assessment of marjoram, saying that it was a remedy "against cold diseases of the braine and head" including that of toothaches. It was also thought to lower the sex drive.

Key Actions

  • antiseptic
  • antifungal
  • antiviral
  • antimicrobial
  • antihelmintic
  • antispasmodic
  • choleretic (stimulates liver to increase bile production)
  • digestive aid
  • promotes menstruation
  • tonic

Key Components

(a) Oregano

  • essential oil
  • volatile oil (mainly carvacrol, thymol, beta-bisabolene, caryophyllene, linalool, and borneol)
  • tannins
  • resin
  • sterols
  • flavonoids

(b) Marjoram

  • essential oil
  • volatile oil (about 3% mainly sabinene hydrate, sabinene, linalool, carvacrol, and others)
  • flavonoids
  • caffeic acid
  • rosmarinic acid
  • triterpenoids

Medicinal Parts

  • Aerial parts
  • Both carvacrol and thymol are antibacterial and antifungal.
  • In one Australian study, oregano was found to inhibit the growth of eleven different microorganisms.

Traditional Uses

 Marjoram has long been used to ease cramps and stomach upsets, including flatulence and colic while stimulating the flow of bile. It appears to have a stronger effect on the nervous system than oregano.

The Mexicans use a species, listed as one of the top ten medicinal plants in their culture, to treat symptoms of cold and flu, coughs, sore throat, and respiratory congestion.

In Belize, the plants are used in a tea to treat upper respiratory tract infections, induce menstruation, and, when taken as a leaf decoction after childbirth, to help expel a retained placenta.

A boiled leaf solution is said to be a good wash for wounds and burns.

Marjoram is a good general tonic, helping to relieve anxiety, headaches, and insomnia.

The plants are strongly antiseptic and can be taken to treat coughs, tonsillitis, bronchitis, and asthma. – – The diluted oil can be applied externally to a toothache or painful joints.

In Chinese medicine, oregano is used for colds, fevers, vomiting, dysentery, jaundice, and malnutrition in children.

The herb is best used for rhinitis and colds in infants and small children, but also used to treat gastritis in small children, as well as in adults. However, the salve should not be used on small children.

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