Opa! Which Greek herb comes to mind when you think of joy and happiness? Aphrodite’s choice was Greek oregano.
Read on to learn more about this herb’s history, uses, and health benefits.
History of oregano
It has been a staple of the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the name comes from two ancient Greek words: oros and ganos. Oros means mountain and ganos meaning brightness. Put together, the word means “brightness of the mountain.”
The ancient Greeks believed it was created by Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, passion, and procreation. She cultivated the herb on her Mount Olympus garden, making it a symbol of happiness and joy throughout all of Greece.
In ancient Greece, newlyweds wore the herb as crowns at their weddings. This tradition is still carried on today by some Greeks! Additionally, oregano plants were placed on gravestones to pay respect to ancestors and spirits.
Uses of oregano
It’s a culinary staple in the Mediterranean diet and for any other foods in the world. You can use fresh or dried oregano for a variety of cooking uses:
- Add as an herb or spice to Greek salads, vegetables, pizza, lean meats, or fish. It’ll add a sweet and spicy aroma and great flavor! Additionally, it extends olive oil’s resistance to heat, so you don’t have to worry about cooking food at high temperatures.
- Make oregano-based pesto. Basil isn’t the only one that gets to have all the fun. You can blend oregano with other herbs, garlic, olive oil, lemon, and/or salt for a sweet and spicy
- Bake some oregano bread for the family. Savory bread is an important part of the Mediterranean diet. Try adding it next time you make dinner rolls, bread, biscuits, or corn muffins for added taste.
Additionally, it has some non-culinary uses that you might find interesting:
- Apply oregano essential oil to your skin. It kills harmful bacteria and fungi, so it’s perfect to keep around for minor wounds and cuts.
- Drink as an herbal tea. Oregano tea can help stimulate digestion, hydrate, and cure coughs and colds. You can either add it to hot water and sweeten it with lemon or buy teabags.
- Use as a natural cleaning agent around your home. Tired of using harsh chemicals to clean? Mix it with some cleaning vinegar.
- Grow oregano plants in your garden as the ancient Greeks did to fight off negative energy and bring good luck.
A quick note: Not all oreganos are the same. To maximize its health benefits, be sure to check the label to ensure you are buying Greek oregano – it will typically state that it’s made in Greece.
Greek oregano is better than that from other regions, as it contains more essential oils per serving. This is due to better climate conditions, which then plays a role in quality.
- High in antioxidants
Greek oregano is rich in antioxidants like carvacrol, thymol, and rosmarinic acid – the antioxidant content is higher than many fruits!  Antioxidants can reduce damage from harmful free radicals.
- Improves digestion
Some foods in our diets are acidic (e.g. tomatoes) or high in fiber (e.g. beans or lentils), which can occasionally cause gas and bloat.
A study found that taking 600mg of oregano oil reduced symptoms of diarrhea, pain, and bloating in people with stomach parasites. 
- May support immunity
A lab study found that oregano can ward off 23 strains of bacteria!  More human studies are needed to confirm its antibacterial and antiviral effects.
- May prevent cancer
Recent research shows that carvacrol, which is found in oregano, can stop lung cancer cells from spreading.  More research is needed on humans and different types of cancer cells, but initial results are promising.
The bottom line
The Greek goddess Aphrodite created oregano as a symbol of joy and happiness. Today, it’s enjoyed as a healthy and flavorful addition to food and for non-culinary uses all around the world. It has a multitude of unique health benefits. Try adding it to your daily routine today!
You can buy some of the most authentic oregano and other herbs and spices from Greece from Olive Grove Market.
- Lagouri V, Boskou D. Nutrient antioxidants in oregano. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 1996 Nov;47(6):493-7.
- Force M, Sparks WS, Ronzio RA. Inhibition of enteric parasites by emulsified oil of oregano in vivo. Phytother Res. 2000 May;14(3):213-4.
- Saeed S, Tariq P. Antibacterial activity of oregano (Origanum vulgare Linn.) against gram positive bacteria. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2009 Oct;22(4):421-4.
- Jung CY, Kim SY, Lee C. Carvacrol Targets AXL to Inhibit Cell Proliferation and Migration in Non-small Cell Lung Cancer Cells. Anticancer Res. 2018 Jan;38(1):279-286.
About the author
Chrissy Arsenault, MBA, RDN, LD, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and licensed dietitian based in Indianapolis. She obtained her bachelor of science in nutritional science at Cornell University and her MBA at Indiana University Kelley School of Business. She is the founder and CEO of a nutrition communications firm called Pink Pamplemousse LLC, where she creates engaging nutrition and wellness content for clients. She has also coached clients on various health conditions including heart disease, obesity, digestive issues and diabetes over the last seven years. Visit Chrissy’s website.
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