Most of us are pretty familiar with the taste of oregano even if we are not too sure what the plant looks like. It is almost synonymous with Italian foods we adore like pizza and lasagna. It’s delicious and savory, but it’s a lot more than that. We should all give it a closer look.
Oregano plants are pretty easy to grow, and presently, easy to find in garden centers in the spring. Many species are relatively hardy, withstanding moderate freezes and returning the following year. They can be “lifted” in the fall, put into pots, and overwintered inside too. Being plants of Mediterannean origin, they need only moderate watering and dislike being constantly wet. They do well in containers and raised beds and have very modest fertilizer needs.
Oregano packs a punch with regards to its health benefits. Modern research supports long-time anecdotal evidence that the carvacrol and thymol in oregano contain powerful antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic elements. It has been shown to kill E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and Shigella- bacteria that cause food poisoning- as well as H. pylori bacteria that cause stomach ulcers. (This does not mean that a dash of oregano on top of tainted food would completely protect you from sickness, but it’s good to know that your immune system would have some help. The studies utilized more than a little sprinkling of the herb).
Research at Georgetown University Medical Center showed that the oils in the plant also “completely inhibit” the growth of the Candida fungus that causes yeast/thrush infections and other health problems. A different study at Georgetown found that oregano oil was the “most potent killer” of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria also.
In fact, a terrific book that I have, Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD, lists all the following conditions that oregano has been found to either prevent or treat:
- age spots
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Candida infections
- high “bad” cholesterol
- food poisoning
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- insulin resistance (prediabetes)
- liver disease
- metabolic syndrome
- parasitic infection
- Staph infection
Rosemary Gladstar’s book Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide also suggests that oregano should be “used to relieve nervousness, irritability, and insomnia due to tension and anxiety.”
Wow! What an amazing spice!
Aggarwal suggests that we incorporate oregano into many more dishes than just the typical pizzas and pastas. (In fact, he says that Turks make much more use of it than the Italians). He says that oregano complements many other foods including beans, soups, eggplant, wild game, grilled meat, ground beef, poultry, rabbit, salsas, and seafood.
What is your favorite use of oregano? Got any fantastic recipes you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments below.