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Oregano

oreganoBotanical Name – Origanum vulgar
Family – Labiatae
Common Names – Wild Marjoram, Field Marjoram, Common Oregano
Description – Oregano is an aromatic, herbaceous perennial with erect, hairy, square stems, and spreading roots.  The whole plant grows approximately two feet tall, with dark green, opposite, oval leaves that can be either toothed or untoothed. The whole plant is often mistaken for its close relative Sweet Marjoram.  Oregano has a sharper, spicier taste than marjoram which is smaller and lighter gray green in color.  Oregano has 1 to 1 ¼ inch terminal flower clusters or spikelets that range in color from rosy – purple to white.
Part used – Arial parts
Primary Constituents – volatile oil, carvacrol, thymol, borneol, rosmarinic acid, the triterpenoids ursolic and oleanolic acid, sterols, vitamin A and vitamin C.
Medicinal Properties – Antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, stimulant, diaphoretic, carminative, emmenagogue, expectorant, digestive and tonic.
Preparation – Infusion, essential oil, tincture, liniment, and capsule.
oregano2Medicinal use – Today Oregano is cultivated world wide as a culinary herb, but has been used as a medicine for thousands of years.   Energetically Oregano is warming, aromatic and slightly bitter.  A poultice of the leaves or infused oil is applied externally to sore, aching muscles and joints and to reduce swellings.  The poultice can be applied to insect bites, sores, and venomous bites such as that from a scorpion or spider.  The tea or infusion is a diaphoretic used to promote sweating and reduce a fever, as a gargle for sore throat and to promote menstruation.  The tea or essential oil is used as a treatment for indigestion, headache, chronic cough, asthma, allergies and food poisoning. Oregano is a superb antimicrobial and antifungal agent.  Clinical studies have shown Oregano in herb form to be extremely effective inhibiting the growth of Candida albicans, especially when taken by capsule.  The capsule taken orally dissolves in the digestive system releasing the oregano   destroying yeasts and urinary bacteria.  The volatile oil in Oregano contains solvents that literally destroy fungus membranes.  A study in Mexico showed Oregano to be more effective in destroying the giardia microbe than standard medications.  Additional clinical studies demonstrate that the Oil of Oregano has anti-microbial properties effective against a large array of bacteria including Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Salmonella enterica and Staphylococcus aureus.  The oil also appears useful against other parasitic infections such as scabies, mites and ringworm.  Use the diluted essential oil placing a few drops in the mouth to relieve a tooth ache. Interactions and Counter-indications – Oregano has a moderate interaction with Lithium.  It seems to affect the bodies ability to process Lithium and can lead to excess amounts of lithium in the system, possibly resulting in serious side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider before using Oregano as a medicine or supplement  if you are taking lithium. Oregano is counta-indicated when pregnant (other than as a culinary herb)
History and Folklore – Oregano is native to the Mediterranean.  Its botanical name Origanum means “joy of the mountains” otos meaning “mountain” and ganos meaning “joy”.  Historically there seems to have been a lot of confusion between Oregano and Marjoram beginning with the Romans and Greeks.  Luckily, with only minor differences, they are both used for essentially the same purposes.    In the past, Oregano was preferred for medicine while its cousin marjoram was favored for use in the kitchen.
References
Branca, Charlotte:  Dr Christopher’s Herbal Legacy Rodales’s Encyclopedia of Herbs Culpeper, Nicholas:  Complete Herbal
Herbalwisdom.com
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