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We know oregano as a spice for many of our favorite Mediterranean dishes. It also enhances the flavor of pizza, pasta, and salads, making it a source of joy for both Greeks and Romans. No wonder its name roughly translates to a mountain of joy.
Oregano does not only refer to one plant. There are a handful of species of plants called oregano.
First on the list is the Greek or Mediterranean oregano. It has a milder taste but a bold aroma. Mexican oregano, on the other hand, has a strong peppery taste that blends well with chilies.
Another is the Cretan oregano, which tastes like Greek oregano, while Italian oregano tastes sweeter, therefore, it is ideal for pasta seasoning and pizza sauce.
In the Philippines, the plant we call oregano is a mere distant relative of Mediterranean oregano. It is, in fact, more related to the colorful ornamental plant mayana. Have you noticed that their leaves have the same shape? This oregano grows naturally in the tropics and warm regions of Africa, Asia, and Australia.
Like other oreganos, the Philippine oregano’s leaves are also highly aromatic. They can be added when marinating, for food stuffing, and flavoring meat dishes. They can also be eaten raw.
Studies found that oregano contains about a hundred phytochemicals that bring us health benefits. Here are some of those medicinal benefits.
Oregano, along with herbs such as lagundi and tawa-tawa, is great for asthma and cough. The essential oils in the leaves and flowers help clear the air passages by preventing the build-up of thick mucus or phlegm in the airways of our bodies.
It is said that oregano leaves help the growth of good bacteria in our stomachs. In India and Africa, the plant is a popular treatment for dyspepsia, indigestion, and diarrhea. It is also used to cure diarrhea in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Oregano has been used in Brazil for the treatment of skin ulcerations. In India it is used to treat skin allergies and in other Asian regions, it is used for treating cuts and burns.
In some parts of Southeast Asia, oregano leaves are added to new mothers' diet, either in soup or consumed raw, to stimulate lactation. Eating leaves also enriches the mother’s milk with minerals such as iron, potassium, zinc, and magnesium.
Tooth decay affects a big fraction of the population. It is attributed to bacterial growth in the oral cavity. But you can use oregano leaves concoction as a mouthwash.
Oregano is also reported to relieve kidney troubles and treat vaginal discharges. It may also be taken as a drink after childbirth to relieve urinary-related conditions.
Oregano extract can be applied to the forehead. The analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of the leaves help relieve the pain.
Oregano can be consumed as tea. Simply cut two oregano leafy sprigs and boil them in a pot of water. After five minutes, pour it into your mug and enjoy.
As a mouthwash, you can gargle the oregano concoction. For external applications, the leaves can be pounded to extract the essential oil and apply it to the affected area of the body.
The oregano we have in our gardens may be just a distant relative of oregano in the Mediterranean, however, it is as useful as the latter. It is worthy of bearing the same name as "mountain of joy" because it brings us joy, happiness, and lots of benefits, too!