What do Chef Tell, Chef Boyardee (he was really a real chef), and Chef Paul Prudhomme have in common? They all used oregano. Seriously, Guys and Gals, oregano is a really awesome herb and one of the most popular to have for medicinal use. Not only does it taste great on pizza and in spaghetti sauce, but it has some really astounding qualities that you should be aware of. It is a true boon in your arsenal for day-to-day ailments and also when things head south and you need to find natural alternatives to medicines. Inexpensive and easily-grown, it needs to become part of your field medical chest of herbs to use in regular situations or when the world takes a dive.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is a woody perennial plant. It grows to a height of approximately 3 feet. The parts of the plant that serve in a naturopathic capacity are the extracted oils from either fresh or dried leaves (the method of extraction is usually distillation), and also the whole herb harvested during the time it flowers. The thick stems can be dried just as effectively as the rest of the herb. It can also be tinctured. All of the plant with medicinal qualities are the parts that are above ground, not the root.
The volatile (easily broken down) oil’s chief constituent is carvacrol (in a percentage ranging from 40-70% of the oil. There are other components as well, such as thymol, but we are concentrating on these two just mentioned now. Carvacrol is antimicrobial, and the phenolic compounds make it both antibacterial and antifungal. Sound good thus far, a health food you’re sprinkling on your pizza slice?
Oil of Oregano
The strains of bacteria that essential oil of oregano works against are Proteus vulgaris, Streptococcus faecalis (found in stool), Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, and Escherichia coli (one of the bad ones, also found in stool). In terms of antifungal activity, essential oil of oregano is effective against Candida albicans, Aspergillus niger, and Fusarium species.
The oil also is effective against several types of parasites, such as Entamoeba hartmanni and Endolimax nana. Most of all of these bugs and fungi can be found (whether you want to find them or not) in…you guessed it…the great outdoors. In the case of Candida albicans, a bug that affects women, oil of oregano has positive effects that are similar to Nystatin in clearing up the problem.
The other good news is that oregano (in either dried herb form or the essential oil) are readily available over the counter and in your health food concerns locally. You can also prepare it on your own from the dried herb, using 250 ml of boiling water. Pour this over the herb after you have brought it to a rolling boil and then allowed it to cool for about one minute. This enables you to use the water without boiling the herb itself, because straight boiling water will many times kill off the beneficial effects of the herb you are using, as I have mentioned in past articles. Pour the water over 1 heaping teaspoon of the herb and allow it to steep for 10 minutes. After straining it (I leave it in, but you can strain the herb if you desire to), you can sweeten it with honey. As a tea this can be taken 2 to 3 times per day.
You can also use this tea as a gargle or mouthwash, as oregano is highly effective for inflammations of the mucous membranes, and also for respiratory illnesses, such as bronchitis or coughs. There are no known health hazards or adverse side effects with its use. The essential oils will store for years if you keep them out of the light. I haven’t provided any dosages for these because it will be different as per the manufacturer due to the different extraction processes used and varying percentages of carvacrol and thymol, both of which are phenolic compounds.
I have personally found that the best food-grade essential oils of oregano you can take and place a few drops (depending on who makes it) in a glass of water, and take this several times a day. It will really knock out a bacterial or a viral infection; the oil is very powerful. Remember to protect all of your essential oils and tinctures from light, as light will cause your naturopathic aids to break down and deteriorate in quality and effectiveness. The really good stuff I buy locally for about $20 for a 1-ounce bottle.
If you grow it yourself, water it but do not overwater it. When you dry it you should try to dry it in an airy and well-ventilated area so the air will circulate, and keep it out of the direct sunlight. The sun can lower the qualities of the herb, even though this method is faster. I have found the best method is to take 2-3 stalks and hang them from rafters in a cool, dry place with good air circulation.
Oregano is really good stuff. You also do pick up some of the benefits and qualities mentioned here by consuming it with your meals. It is similar to garlic, in that if you like it and make it a regular part of your diet, you will be exercising good preventative care benefits just in the normal course of its use. You’ll spend pennies on the dollar, and it cannot hurt to pick up a few packets of heirloom seeds if you do not already have them, or a good seed vault for long-term storage. So Buon Appetito if you’re having oregano with your meals, and lay in a good supply of it. In the long run, this affordable and safe herb can do nothing but be a benefit to your preparations and supplies. Keep fighting the good fight, and enjoy!