Oregano is a popular herb used in various styles of cooking. It is native to warm temperate climates, especially in Mediterranean countries. The plants like a dry climate and should be planted in early spring in a dry soil where it can get the maximum sunlight. Oregano can also be grown well in pots or other containers. The plant should be kept well pruned and pinched out at all times during the growing process, keeping it rounded and bushy.
This perennial herb grows up to 80cm with purple or pink flowers and it is often known as wild marjoram. There are numerous varieties of Oregano, all with different flavours from spicy to sweet. Simple Oregano is often a bit bland and therefore is not regarded as the best variety for cooking, but Oregano produced in Greece and Turkey tends to be darker in colour and is considered to be the best all-purpose Oregano for culinary uses.
The leaves of the Oregano plant are more pungent when dried and they have an aromatic, warm and slightly bitter taste which makes them ideal for various recipes and sauces. Good quality Oregano may even numb the tongue slightly, which is why it is used to spice up recipes. In Italian cuisine, Oregano is used with roasted or fried vegetables, meat and fish and of course on the ever-popular pizzas and tomato based dishes, but it is used extensively throughout the Mediterranean.
Oregano is used in herbal medicine and has been used as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments such as bronchitis and asthma for centuries. It can be used as a palliative for sore throats and as an antiseptic and it has also been used as an antidote for venomous snake and insect bites. Oregano Oil is used after dilution and topically applied to treat toothache as well as painful joints in patients. Due to the high antioxidant activity in Oregano, it has been used as an antimicrobiotic remedy for bacterial infections such as food poisoning, although like many of these natural remedies, the medical profession dispute these findings.
Oregano is strongly sedative and should not be taken in large doses, though mild teas have a soothing effect and aid restful sleep. Used topically, Oregano is one of the best herbal antiseptics because of its high thymol content.