Oregano (Niu Zhi)
Botanical Name: Origanum vulgare, O. onites, O. vivens, O. v. hirtum
Oregano is considered a staple herb in many cuisines, especially Italian and Greek foods. Oregano is also a powerful medicine with strong antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties, to name just a few of its attributes. Sometimes called wild marjoram, oregano (O. vulgare), is not to be confused with its close relative, sweet marjoram (O. majorana).
Below is an overview of Oregano (Niu Zhi), combining and interpreting the best of Western Science, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore and more. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Oregano (Niu Zhi).
Western Name: Oregano
Also Known As: Wild marjoram, Himalayan Oregano, Mountain Joy, Greek Oregano, Pizza Herb, Mountain Mint, Wintersweet, Yerba Dulce
Organs/Systems: Digestive System, Nervous System, Respiratory System, Skin
Key Actions: Antioxidant, Antibacterial, Antiviral, Antifungal, Antiparasitic, Anti-inflammatory, Anticancer, Antiseptic
Medicinal Uses: Colds, flus, lung infections, bronchitis, croup, bloating, candida, cancer, osteoporosis, headaches, allergies, earache, fatigue, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, heart conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual cramps, urinary tract infections, muscle pain, acne, dandruff, repels insects, parasites.
Pin Yin: Niu Zhi
Also Known As: N/A
Meridians: Spleen, Heart, Urinary Bladder, Kidney, Liver
Key Actions: Clears Heat, Clears Damp Heat, Circulates Qi, Disperses Wind (especially Wind Heat), Releases the Exterior
Medicinal Uses: Fever, colds, flu, lung infections, bronchitis, coughs, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, urinary tract infections, poor appetite, delayed menses, menstrual cramping, uterine spasms, stomach ulcers, anxiety, insomnia, low back ache, constipation, scanty or copious urination, bedwetting, premature senility.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Leaves, Oil
Flavors/Temps: Pungent, Slightly Bitter, Aromatic, Cooling and Warming
Caution: Considered safe, some people allergic to plants in the Lamiaceae (mint) family may experience allergic reactions.
History/Folklore: Oregano has been used for thousands of years as a cure-all and culinary herb. It is very good at treating lung infections, colds, flus, herpes, fungal infections, and a wide range of stomach disorders. Unlike pharmaceuticals, the herb does not also destroy pro-bacteria found in the intestines and gut that are crucial for promoting health. A tonic herb, oregano can be enjoyed in teas and foods to help promote immunity and overall health.
One study found that essential oil made from Origanum vulgare, was effective fighting 41 strains of the food pathogen known as Listeria monocytogenes, a species that causes the infection listeriosis, is a serious food contaminate that can survive without the presence of oxygen. The infection causes headaches, stiff necks, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions. It is found in ready-to-eat deli meats, hot dogs, raw sprouts, meat spreads, soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk, such as Feta, Brie and queso fresco.
Adding oregano to meats before searing or cooking them will reduce the level of the chemical marker for oxidation called malondialdehyde by 71%. This then lowers the levels of the same chemical in urine to about 49%, showing that adding powerful antioxidant herbs to meat prior to cooking can help reduce the oxidation process that causes the production of free radicals that can then cause cancers.
Another study conducted by the University of the West England, Bristol, won an award from the United Nations in 2008 for confirming that the essential oil made from oregano kills MRSA (a potentially deadly hospital superbug) at a dilution of 1 to 1,000. The tests confirmed that the oil killed MRSA both as a liquid and as a vapor and its antimicrobial activity did not diminished by heating it in boiling water. Adding oregano to water, soap, and disinfectants is another great way to take advantage of this herbs powerful antimicrobial and antiseptic properties.
The constituents thymol and rosmarinic acid, found in oregano, are thought to be effective against Heliobacter pylori, the stomach bacteria that causes ulcers.
The constituent, beta-caryophyllin (E-BCP), continues to be studied for its potential to treat osteoporosis, arteriosclerosis, and metabolic syndrome. E-BCP is a dietary cannabinoid.
A boiled oregano leaf solution can be used to effectively wash wounds and burns, helping to prevent infection, relieve pain, and promote healing.
High in fiber, oregano helps bind bile salts and cancer-causing toxins in the colon so they can be easily and safely eliminated from the body. Fiber is also known to help lower high cholesterol levels.
Oregano also contains compounds that can help manage type 2 diabetes in a way similar to some currently prescribed drugs.
In China, the herb has a long history of use for treating fevers, colds, flu, diarrhea, and vomiting. It is also used to treat malnutrition in children. It is also consider to be both a cooling and a warming herb making is useful for treating Heat or Cold conditions.
It is a safe, gentle, but effective herb for treating colds in infants and small children, as well as treating stomach gastritis in small children.
The 17th century herbalist, Culpeper said oregano, “strengthens the stomach and head much, there being scarce a better remedy growing for such as are troubled with a sour humour in the stomach.”
Oregano has been found to contain 42 times the antioxidant power of apples, 12 times more than oranges and 4 times more than blueberries.
Virtually identical to marjoram, oregano is stronger at expelling the afterbirth and stimulating menses. Oregano is also better at preventing and fighting infections than marjoram is.
There are many species of Oregano. The cultivar O.v. hirtum is hardy, dark with silvery leaves, and has an excellent reputation for its flavor, pungency, and medicinal uses.
Oregano was not really known in the U.S. until after WWII when returning soldiers from Italy brought back stories of this delicious herb and it began to be introduced as part of the growing popularity for Italian foods and pizza.
Dried oregano is added during the cooking process, fresh is added at the end to preserve its aromatic qualities and more delicate flavor.
Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) is technically not oregano, it has a pepper-like taste and it is used similarly to oregano (O. vulgare). Italian oregano (Origanum x Majoricum) is actually a hybrid of oregano and marjoram and has a sweeter flavor than oregano (O. vulgare).
The name oregano derives from the Greek words “oros,” meaning mountain, and “ganos” meaning joy. Greeks and Romans would crown brides and grooms with laurels made of oregano. In ancient Greece the herb was revered for its warming, stimulating, and relaxing effects on the lung and reproductive organs especially. It remains an excellent choice for helping to relieve menstrual cramping and delayed menses caused by cold.
Want Oregano (Niu Zhi)?
Here are some options…
Carvacrol, Thymol, Limonene, Pinene, Ocimene, and Caryophyllene. Beta-caryophyllin (E-BCP), Rosmarinic acid, Fiber, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Potassium, Vitamin A, B6, C, E and K, Tannins, Resin, Sterols, Flavonoids.
Oregano is in the mint family, called Lamiaceae, however, its taste is pungent and earthy with only a hint of minty overtones.
One teaspoon of dried oregano will fulfill 14% of your daily vitamin K requirements.
Dried v. Fresh
Dried oregano leaves have a stronger flavor than the fresh leaves do. For some, the fresh leaves are perfect for a milder cup of tea, and the dried leaves are preferred for tomato sauces or stews.
References: For a complete list of references please visit our References and Resources page.
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