There is probably no kitchen that does not have “reserves” of oregano in the spice cabinet.
Oregano is best known as the inevitable spice for all types of pizza.
However, its nutritional value goes far beyond the “ordinary” flavoring of pizzas. This spice deserves our attention, and in the following, you will see why.
Oregano is a flowering herb of the mint family, Lamiaceae. There are over 40 varieties, but for us, the most famous oregano, which also has the best health potential, belongs to the genus Origanum vulgare. It is gaining worldwide popularity along with pizza, but oregano in the past was mostly used in Italian, Turkish, and Greek cuisine. So, it originates from the warm parts of the Mediterranean region, and in the USA, it arrives only after the Second World War.
Oregano leaves are used as a fresh, dried spice, and essential oils are extracted from them. Oregano has been used by traditional medicine for centuries to treat a variety of health problems. It has a specific aromatic, warm, at times upward taste, which significantly depends on the climate and the composition of the soil in which it is grown.
Recently, science has confirmed several benefits of oregano. Although the best health effects are achieved with the use of oil, still the frequent use of the most common dried/fresh spice has a particularly positive effect on our body.
Table of Contents
All types of oregano have excellent nutrition (dried, fresh, oil). Let’s see what is the nutritional value of the most commonly used dried oregano.
6g oregano, or about 2 tablespoons, contains:
- 2.6g fiber
- up to 30% Daily Needs of iron
- 31% of DN for vitamin K.
- 7% of DN for vitamin E.
- 5% of DN for vitamin B6
- 10% of DN for calcium
- 5% of DN for magnesium
- 13% of DN for manganese
- 2% of DN for potassium
Also, oregano contains slightly lower concentrations of other important nutrients, such as B vitamins (primarily folic acid), vitamin A, copper, zinc, etc.
Why is it important to use as many different spices as possible?
The habits of regular use of various spices are extremely useful, firstly because the spices have an excellent nutritional composition and numerous beneficial health effects arising from it. Secondly, because different spices make healthy food more attractive and thirdly, no less important, they reduce the need for the salting of meals!
Excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect
Due to its excellent nutritional value and excellent antioxidant potential, oregano can be considered a super-spice among the spice family.
Antioxidants are the body’s defense mechanism against free radicals – harmful components that are constantly produced as metabolic waste in the body and oxidatively damage its various cells and tissues. The body has mechanisms to produce a certain percentage of necessary antioxidants, but it still depends on the intake.
Permanent oxidative damage leads to processes of chronic inflammation, which in the long run is one of the main reasons for the development of chronic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, various neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular problems, etc.
Oregano is especially rich in flavonoids and phenolic antioxidant phytochemicals. Analyzes show that among hundreds of herbs, oregano is in the top 3 with the greatest antioxidant effect (it has 3 to 20 times stronger effect than other spices)!
It is considered the best source of thymol, an extremely important phenolic antioxidant that stimulates the optimal work of digestion, and has an antimicrobial effect.
Other important antioxidants in oregano:
Tocopherol (vitamin E)
Cryophilic (which gives a specific taste)
In animal studies, oregano shows a strong positive effect in diseases directly related to inflammatory processes, such as rheumatoid and autoimmune arthritis, asthma.
However, such results are relative to concentrated versions of oregano (oil) and human research is needed to conclude that oregano is good for these diseases.
Strong antimicrobial effect
In addition to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect, oregano in all its forms (especially oil) has antimicrobial action.
Numerous studies point to this fact. For example, according to one study, oregano oil has particularly strong antibacterial properties against E.coli bacteria, which would mean that oregano could be used as an adjunct treatment for problems associated with these bacteria. Maybe in smaller concentrations, but the antioxidant components that provide this effect are also present in oregano spices.
The mentioned powerful antioxidant carvacrol, in research, has shown significant antiviral action, which could contribute to the prevention and reduction of the duration of certain viral infections.
Numerous components of oregano significantly contribute to the successful control of diabetes.
A survey shows that the extract of oregano helps:
- decreased insulin resistance
- regulating the expression of genes related to the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates
- recovery of damaged kidney and liver tissues
Also, there are animal studies that suggest that oregano extract may improve the condition of type 1 diabetes (autoimmune disease).
It is believed that oregano can contribute to improving the condition of:
- Allergic reactions
- Urinary tract infections
- Elevated cholesterol
Oregano essential oil can help for:
- Varicose veins
- Muscle and joint pain
- Insect bites
- Gum disease
Although there is no strong evidence that oregano can directly help with most of these conditions, reputable health institutions, such as the US National Institutes of Health (US Department of Health), recommend using oregano frequently as there are indications that it may be of some help. On the other hand, oregano in any form can not harm us.
Tips for use
Apart from pizzas, you can also use fresh and dried oregano for:
- Salads and salad dressings
- Roasted and cooked vegetables
- Soups and meals from different legumes (lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas ..)
- Preparation of fish
- Roast meat
Oregano goes well with cold-pressed olive oil, dried garlic, sage, thyme, pepper, basil, etc.
To make the most of the taste and nutrition, add the oregano at the end of baking. Fresh oregano, chop finely and add the spice gradually to know when it is enough.
Before using oregano essential oil, it is always good to consult your doctor, especially if you are facing a certain health problem.