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Herb profiles: Oregano

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Native to the warm Mediterranean regions of the world, oregano means “joy of the mountains” in Greek. As well as being a prized culinary herb, oregano is also recognized for its medicinal properties.

The health benefits of oregano

A member of the mint family, oregano is a pungent spice that has long been used in Spanish, Greek, and Italian culinary culture. But its benefits go far beyond the taste buds. Gram for gram, oregano has more antioxidant vitamins than apples, orange, or blueberries. Oregano also contains important minerals such as potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. In addition, studies show that cooking with oregano may be a viable way to kill some bacteria that cause serious food-borne illnesses. To top it off, oregano is a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well.

More health benefits

Our ancestors most likely first used oregano as a digestive aid. Ancient cultures also made use of oregano’s ability to treat colds, influenza, fever, parasites, bronchitis, and menstrual cramps. Modern day research has revealed that oregano does, indeed, possess powerful antimicrobial properties. In fact, it is now common knowledge that oregano contains an impressive list of health-promoting compounds in its pungent leaves. Today, researchers are testing oregano for its possible use in treating conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, urinary tract infections, and even cancer.

Using oregano

Oregano can be purchased at most any grocery store fresh or dried. Fresh oregano is a bit expensive, but fortunately, oregano can be easily grown in many climates. Oregano takes up very little space and tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions and fluctuation in temperature. It can even be grown in a container on a sunny window sill.

Oregano leaves are most commonly used to flavor savory dishes. Add a healthy dose of depth and complexity to your next meal by including this versatile herb in “blackened” rubs, tomato dishes, eggplant dishes, soups and stews, green salads, or even scrambled eggs.

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