(Extra)Ordinary Oregano By Ellary Allis
According to Greek mythology, oregano made its entrance when Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty and sexual rapture created the herb as a symbol of happiness and cultivated it in her garden on Mount Olympus. In fact, the word oregano is derived from the greek words oros, meaning mountain, and ganos, meaning joy; thus, oregano means “joy of the mountains.” In ancient Greece, where the herb grows abundantly on hillsides, bridal couples were crowned with garlands of oregano to ensure their joy in the coming years. Oregano was also used in funeral ceremonies to confer peace to the dead.
Ancient Romans inherited the use of oregano with the conquest of Greece, and were responsible for the extensive spread of oregano throughout Europe. Frequently used for food flavoring, especially in Greek, Italian, Spanish, and Turkish cuisine, oregano is an herb that’s flavor is stronger when it’s dried. Oregano is also a food preservative that’s been used as such as far back as Ancient Egypt, where it was also used as an antidote to poison. It was Greek philosopher Aristotle who observed that after eating tortoise, snakes will eat oregano. Oregano is an effective first aid treatment for bee stings, snake and spider bites, as it neutralizes and extracts venom. In Herball, Or Generall Historie of Plantes, a botanical tome written by English botanist and herbalist John Gerard in 1597, which would become the most widely referenced botany book in England in the 17th century, Gerard writes of oregano: “Organy cureth them that have been poisoned by drinking Opium, or the juice of Black Poppy or Hemlock, especially if it be given with Wine and Raisons of the Sunne.” When oregano made its way to China, it was incorporated into Chinese medicine, where it’s prescribed to treat fever, diarrhea, vomiting, dysentery, and jaundice. Prior to World War II, oregano was not widely used in the United States, but became popular when soldiers returning from Europe brought back a taste for the “pizza herb.”
Oregano’s medicinal value was recognized by Hippocrates, infamous physician of the Age of Pericles (Classical Greece) and hailed as the “father of modern medicine,” who used oregano as an antiseptic and to treat stomach and respiratory ailments. Oregano is in fact a potent antiseptic and antimicrobial with the ability to target a range of microbes without promoting microbial resistance-always a concern with antibiotics. Research by the ENT Department at the Israel Institute of Technology Medical Center corroborated Hippocrates’ observation of oregano’s impact on the respiratory tract. The study found that oregano also positively benefits the coughing reflex and nasal passage airflow. 18th century Irish naturalist John K’Eogh described oregano as having a “hot, dry nature,” and noted its ability to treat coughs, pleurisy and “obstructions of the lungs and womb.” Oregano is a histamine reducing herb that helps mitigate allergic reactions such as mucous production, sneezing, and nasal congestion. The rosmarinic acid in oregano inhibits allergy related inflammation due to fluid buildup. A US Department of Agriculture study concluded that oregano essential oil’s antimicrobial activities fight Salmonella and E. Coli. Oregano is one of the most antioxidant dense foods; it has 42 times the antioxidant activity of apples. The antimicrobial compounds in oregano oil called carvacrol and thymol are naturally occurring biocides that fight bacterial infections; a clinical study in Mexico discovered that oregano oil is a more effective treatment for giardia than Tinidazole, the medication commonly given against the infection. Chemicals called esthers, contained in oregano, are potent antifungal agents; taken internally oregano helps stave off and treat yeast infections.
Applied topically, oregano oil is an anti-inflammatory, eases discomfort from muscle pain and rheumatism, and heasl skin infections. To use as a topical remedy, mix equal parts oregano oil with a carrier oil such as olive, jojoba or coconut; undiluted, oregano oil can cause a burning sensation because of its potency. For topical application, oregano leaves can also be ground into a paste using a mortar and pestle and mixed with little hot water or tea or even small amounts of oatmeal for consistency. Because oregano leaves are choloretic, or bile-stimulating, oregano is often prescriped for indigestion, bloating, and flatulence. In Belize, oregano is taken as a leaf decoction to expel retained placenta. Oregano is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, copper, niacine (vitamin B3), calcium, vitamins beta-carotene, iron, and manganese.
Oregano, or Origanum vulgare, is a perennial herb, a common species of Origanum, a genus of the mint family Lamiaceae, native to warm-temperate western and southwestern Eurasia and the Mediterranean. When growing oregano from seed, cover seeds only lightly with soil because oregano seeds require some light to germinate. Oregano likes well-drained soil and full sun; note that rich soil will reduce the pungency of the herb’s flavor. Though oregano can reach a height of 30 inches, it usually grows between 8-12 inches. Plants are ready for harvesting when they have reached 4-5 inches in height.
Oil Pulling with Oregano
The practice of oil pulling is an Ayurvedic treatment. Because our mouths house bacteria, fungi, and other parasites with their accompanying toxins, oil pulling is an excellent way to cleanse the body through detoxifying the teeth and gums. Oil pulling is most effective first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Oil pulling also reduces inflammation, improves the lymphatic system, regulates menstruation, whitens teeth, and improves sleep and energy levels.
Instructions for Oil Pulling with Oregano
*Add two drops of oregano oil to a tablespoon of cold-pressed vegetable oil (coconut works great)
*Spoon into mouth
*Swish for 15-20 minutes, trying not to swallow any of the oil
*Rinse thoroughly and brush teeth (some people use a separate toothbrush for brushing after oil pulling)