Other Common Names:
The other common names for the herb Oregano are Common Marjoram, True Oregano, Turkish Oregano, Wild Marjoram and Winter Marjoram.
Oregano is a famous European herb which is a familiar spice of botanical name Origanum vulgare.Oregano is a very ancient and reputed herb which is been used both in the kitchen and the sickroom. The name oregano for the spice and the botanical genus, Origanum for the plant is derived from the Greek words oros - for mountain and another Greek word - ganos, for joy - thus the herb can be said to be "joy of the mountain”. The ancient herbal records say that oregano is referred to as Wild Marjoram, which can be confused with the herb known today as wild marjoram, Thymus mastichina , which is a wild-growing species of thyme."
Oregano is a perennial hardy and slightly hairy herb which grows upto two feet high and spreads to form a dense cluster. The leaves are aromatic and oval-shaped, about 3cm to 4cm long and usually pubescent. The leaves of the herb are also hairy. The leaves and calyces are usually covered with glandular dots, and the stems with rough, coarse, glandular hairs. Oregano bears tiny purple tube-shaped flowers which peek out from whorls of purplish-green leafy bracts that resemble little pinecones. The oregano herb has been considered to be a symbol of happiness because of the profusion of vivid purplish flowers that bloom from the plants carpeting many hilly Mediterranean landscapes. The plant has a very pungent penetrating smell. It is said that the pungency of oregano is directly related to the amount of sun it gets.
The oregano herb is a perennial plant, native of Mediterranean region of continental Europe and Asia. It also now found in Eastern US, Greece and Turkey. It has now been naturalized in areas of the Middle East with similar climates.
Oregano prefers a growing condition of well drained and slightly alkaline soil with a lot of exposure to sunlight. It requires a pH of about 6-8.The moisture requirement says water should be sparingly enough for too much of water will cause root rot.
Oregano can be propagated from seeds, stem cuttings, or root division. The plants prefer a light, well-drained, slightly alkaline soil with full sun. The period of watering should be sufficient to retain the top soil dry. The young seedlings can be planted during the early summer or in the spring. Plants must be spaced at least thirty cm or twelve inches apart from each other for optimal growth. Oregano grows very slowly and the soil must be weeded on a regular basis to ensure maximum growth of the crop during the growing season.
By propagating through layering of stems they should be pinned down to the ground during the early summer and kept covered with loose soil till they began to root into the soil. The soil must be kept moist at all times when propagating the plant in this way. During the early fall, the new grown and rooted seedling can be transplanted to a new place. To maintain a continuous supply of fresh leaves, the flowers must be pinched off as and when they develop.
Growing in containers is one of the ideal ways to cultivate oregano. A growing pot should be about ten to twelve inches or twenty five to thirty cm wide pot, the ideal soil mixture must have some coarse sand with the clay. When cultivating using seeds, you must make sure that the seeds are initially sown in the pot out doors early during the spring season or germinated seedlings can be settled into growing containers immediately following the last frost of the year. Following germination and rooting, a sunny spot free from strong exposure to high winds must be chosen for placement of the containers. The growing potted plant must be regularly watered without saturating the soil, following every four weeks by the use of a suitable fertilizer. The flavor of older plants tends to lessen with time, and these must be replaced with newer seedlings in pots on a regular basis.
Pests and Diseases
The oregano is vulnerable to root rot and leaf spot disease; it is also prone to infestations from aphids, from spider mites, and other leaf mining insects. To control root and fungal disease, remove and destroy diseased plants, and reduce soil moisture. Hose off spider mites and aphids with a strong stream of water, apply horticultural-oil spray, and use beneficial insect predators. For leaf miners, remove affected leaves.
Though the whole herb is of both medicinal and economical use, the aerial parts of the plant are very frequently used.
- The herb is used as a remedy for narcotic poisons, convulsions and dropsy.
- Oregano oil and leaf are both strong herbal antibacterial agents due to the high thymol content.
- The dried leaves are used in hot fomentation to painful swellings and rheumatism.
- Oregano tea is a strong sedative and traditionally used to treat colds, bronchitis, asthma, fevers, and painful menstruation because of antiseptic action.
- Bile flow is stimulated by the oregano, and the herb also aids in alleviating the discomfort of flatulence and excess abdominal gas.
- Oregano oil is used after dilution and topically applied to treat toothache as well as painful joints in patients.
- The oregano was also used as an antidote for venomous bites from snakes and insects.
- It is also used in treating skin disorders.
- This spice can be used on meat and fish dishes as it resembles thyme in flavor and aroma.
- Home grown oregano can be used in number of reciepes like pizza, pasta, all sorts of tomato based dishes and different Italian sauces.
- Oregano can be used green in salads.
- Oregano leaves can be crushed and then added during the last ten minutes of cooking to a dish to bring out the maximum flavor and aroma.
- Oregano can be used to flavor olive oil.
- The dried flower bracts are used in arrangements.
- Oregano is used as a meat preservative.
Symbolism and Cultural Importance
The oregano herb has been considered to be a symbol of happiness because of the profusion of vivid purplish flowers that bloom from the plants carpeting many hilly Mediterranean landscapes. The blooming of these beautiful flowers on the mountains had a symbolic and spiritual meaning for the ancient Greeks, the herb springing up on the graves of the dead signified that the happiness of the deceased person in the afterlife. Marjoram floral wreaths were very commonly worn by couples at both Greek and Roman marriages, this floral wreaths of the herb was taken to symbolize the joyfulness of the wedding and the happiness of the couple.
Folklore and Myths
It is believed to be a Protective herb with the power to Ward off Troublesome and Meddling Individuals, especially those who may wish to interfere with one's personal financial dealings. Oregano have significant Power to Keep the Law Away by mixing Oregano with Cascara Sagrada bark, burn them on charcoal, and pray for deliverance before their court date so that matters will turn out in a way that is most helpful to their own case.