Whether fresh or dried, oregano is one of the foundations of Greek and Italian cuisine because of its ability to draw out the best of tomato-based dishes and any other ingredient it's blended with. Not quite as strong or sweet as wild marjoram (its close cousin), oregano could be called an essential herb for the kitchen.
Perennial and easy to grow, whether from seed or small seedlings, oregano proliferates quickly in a wide climate range into a small, attractive bush with grey-green leaves. Clip what you need, swish them in cool water, and dry before use. Keep dried oregano in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
Soups, salads, sauces, meat dishes, eggs, and anything considered Mediterranean all are enhanced with a few teaspoons of oregano added for delicious complexity and flavor.
Health Benefits of Oregano
The one-ounce oregano amount shown in the nutritional profile is an indication of the nutrient ratio you'd get in a smaller serving, such as a teaspoon mixed in your favorite soup. However much you eat, oregano is an excellent source of fiber and the vitamins A (which maintains the immune system and vision), C, E (antioxidant power for cell protection) and K (to keep the blood from clotting).
Oregano also contains high amounts of folate (to help form RNA and DNA building blocks), lots of iron (to prevent anemia), magnesium and calcium (for metabolizing the bones), and healthy amounts of vitamin B6 (for optimal brain function). There's also potassium in oregano (to maintain your heart rate and blood pressure), and manganese and copper (both important for the body's optimal use of the enzyme superoxide dismutase.
Listed at 175,925 for oxygen radical absorbance capacity or ORAC value, oregano has one of the highest antioxidant activity ratings, which is excellent for neutralizing free radicals. To get the full impact, oregano packs more than 42 times the antioxidant punch of apples. Flavonoids include the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin.
Ingesting oregano encourages sweat production as a mode of detox, helps rid the body of unwanted phlegm in the lungs, reduces fevers, and relieves diarrhea. Medical use has found it to be helpful in the treatment of colds and flu, indigestion, and to regulate the menstrual cycle. Made into a poultice, oregano can be used to remedy sore muscles and eczema.
Mildly stimulating, oregano leaves and flowers contain properties that promote the flow of bile from the gall bladder into the intestines, which aids in digestion and prevents gas. Essential oils from the leaves include carvacrol andthymol, which have antibacterial and fungus-fighting activities, as well as limonene, pinene, ocimene, and caryophyllene.
Oregano Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1 tsp (1 gram), leaves, dried
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Studies on Oregano
A study was undertaken to investigate whether origanum vulgare, widely used in the Mediterranean diet and already associated with a low risk for colon cancer, might have some effect on cancer prevention. Oregano extract was found to lead to an arrest in growth and the death of colon cancer cells, possibly because changes in glutathione content reduced oxidation.1
Certain parts of the Mediterranean region (diet) have been associated with a decreased cardiovascular and diabetes risk. In one study, an inverse relationship was observed between Mediterranean herbs, including oregano, and lung cancer (although reported lifestyle choices also lowered the risk for several cancers).
In evaluating which herbal phytonutrients were responsible, the naturally occurring polyphenol carnosol was identified as having anti-cancer properties in prostate, breast, skin, leukemia, and colon cancer. Carnosol also exercised selective toxicity towards cancer cells versus benign tumor cells2.
Oregano Healthy Recipes:
Savory Beet Salad with Oregano, Parmesan, and Pecans
|8 medium-sized beets
||3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
||3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
||Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
|4 oz. fresh parmesan or Romano cheese, crumbled
||2 Tbsp. medium-chopped fresh oregano
||¼ cup chopped lightly toasted pecans
- Cut all but a few inches off the stems and leaves of the beets and wash off any surface dirt.
- Half-fill a large pot with water, add 2 tsp. salt, bring to a boil and drop in your beets. Boil gently until just fork tender; begin testing them after 15 minutes so they don't get too soft. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then trim, peel (the skin falls off very easily), and cut into narrow wedges.
- Arrange the beets on a large serving dish and drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Season with a few generous pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
- Sprinkle the parmesan (or Romano) cheese, chopped oregano, and pecans over the beets and serve. Simple and savory!
This recipe makes six to eight servings.
(From: Fine Cooking)
Oregano Fun Facts
Since methane has more than 20 times the potency of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, and cows produce their share with about 5.5 million metric tons of methane per year, scientists have been trying to figure out how to reduce methane emissions from livestock. Vaccines, breeding, and antibiotics were tried to no avail.
After six years of concentrating on the conundrum, an assistant professor of dairy nutrition at Penn State found oregano to be the most effective methane suppressant. Using oregano even increased milk production.
When determining what nutritional advantages oregano might offer, an easier question might be whatit doesn't offer, because the list is long.
Vitamins A, C, E and K, fiber, calcium, niacin, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, and the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and cryptoxanthin are all found in oregano. Its antioxidant power and proven disease prevention is incredible. This fragrant Mediterranean herb can help the body detox, reduce fever, relieve diarrhea, prevent colds, flu and indigestion and regulate menstrual cycles.
An oregano poultice can sooth sore muscles and improve eczema, and compounds in the leaves and flowers can aid digestion and prevent gas. Antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities are released in the oil, which also contains germ- and bacteria-battling antibacterial agents. So there are more than a few reasons why the Greeks called oregano the "delight of the mountains."