First used by the Greeks in ancient times, oregano is a very popular herb in modern American kitchens. Oregano is used extensively in a culinary context to flavor meats, soups and sauces adding a distinctively Mediterranean flavor. Only in recent years has its ancient medicinal heritage been investigated by mainstream researchers.
The History of Oregano
The word, oregano, is translated from Greek to mean “The joy of the mountain”. In ancient Grecian societies, wreaths of oregano were used in marriage ceremonies to bless the happy couple and used in funeral services to impart peace to the deceased.
As The Romans conquered Greece, they integrated a large portion of Grecian culture into their own. It was these conquering Romans who were responsible for the widespread use of oregano throughout Europe and abroad.
As this versatile, pungent spice wound its way down the “spice road”, a trading route between the Middle East and Asia, oregano finally arrived in China where it was used almost exclusively for medicinal purposes.
Oregano was a rare find in the United States up until World War II when soldiers and an influx of foreign immigrants introduced it along with other spices to American culture.
Medicinal Uses for Oregano
Used both internally and externally, oregano oil has been found to possess remarkable antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.
In ancient Greece, Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic and even though he did not understand the exact nature of infection, he understood that using oregano could prevent and treat one.
As well as purportedly being the most effective natural treatment for yeast infections, oregano oil is used for respiratory health, strengthening the immune system and is a safe and effective treatment for ear infections in children and adults.
The active ingredients in oregano oil are thymol and carvacrol. These key compounds have been isolated and concentrated into a liquid that is currently sold in some grocery stores and health food stores. It is important to note that, although safe, the concentrated form of oregano oil should be diluted to a 50/50 concentration with olive oil to avoid the sometimes uncomfortable warming sensation that occurs when applying oregano oil topically or when taking it orally.
Oregano oil is highly effective as a topical agent. Bug bites, rashes, even poison ivy will respond to a topical application of oregano oil that has been diluted with olive oil. As an antibacterial solution, a drop of oregano oil on a toothbrush will help immensely to eradicate bacteria associated with gum disease and tooth decay. Coupled with its pain killing properties, oregano oil becomes a good home remedy for toothaches as well.
This ancient herb holds much promise in the medical community. Having anti-oxidant properties that rival apples or blueberries, oregano oil is being researched for its possible future role in the prevention and treatment of cancer.
Today, oregano oil is sold and used for a variety of conditions. Oregano oil is becoming more popular among homeopaths and naturalists seeking safe and effective alternatives to traditional drugs.
As always, consult a physician before treating any condition.