Nothing fills the senses (and Nona’s kitchen) with warmth as much as aromatic oregano. Most often associated with Greek and Italian cooking, this spice also boasts several medicinal qualities. For example, oil of oregano has long been used to treat sore throat and respiratory illnesses. Let’s take a look at the health benefits of oregano…
You wouldn’t know it by smell alone, but oregano (or Origanum vulgare) is a genus to the mint family. This herb is native to temperate, rocky landscapes like the Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, India, Afghanistan, Italy, Morocco, Greece, Portugal, and Central Asia.
Oregano thrives in hot, dry climates with full sun exposure. This might explain the origin of the name, oregano, which comes from the Greek words “oros” (or mountain) and “ganos” (which means joy).
Oregano spice comes in a variety of flavors and aromas from slightly astringent and spicy to bold and somewhat sweet. Notably the dried herb is far more pungent than the fresh leaves.
Most prominently featured in Italian-American dishes like pastas and pizza, U.S. soldiers first brought oregano home from stations in southern Italy after World War II. However, oregano is also a feature in Mediterranean and Latin cuisine—both as a rub for grilled meats and vegetables as well as a salad garnish.
According to folklore, oregano has long been used as an ailment to treat various respiratory disorders such as cough, bronchitis, croup, and asthma) and gastrointestinal ailments (from indigestion and heartburn to menstrual pain and bloating).
Hippocrates myths suggest that the herb was used in folk medicine for treating respiratory and tummy troubles—as well as an antiseptic. For instance, the Greeks used it to treat sore, scratchy throats.
Although oregano oil has garnered a lot of attention as a cold and flu treatment, the US Federal Trade Commission responded to these claims in 2005 with legal action.
The FDA challenged any companies that claimed oil of oregano could effectively ease the symptoms of nasty viral and bacterial infections.
Research from WebMD suggests that oregano may be helpful as a natural expectorant for alleviating cough and expelling mucous. While a small study, published by the National Institutes of Health, supported oregano’s effectiveness as a digestion aid after oregano oil was given orally to 14 adult patients with enteric parasites.
Following 6 weeks of daily supplementation, symptoms improved and parasites were eradicated in 7 out of 11 patients. Still, the scientific community claims that additional studies are necessary.