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Oregano is a traditional herb with oval, deep green leaves and pink, purple or white flowers. It has a subtle sweet and spicy taste and gives a flavour of the earth with a tinge of bitterness, along with a strong camphoric-like aroma. Oregano holds a special place in the Mediterranean diet which is widely recognised for its health-promoting benefits.
According to the journal Molecules, oregano refers to varieties of plants with similar flavour and odour. There are around 61 species and 17 genera of plants that belong to the six botanical families called oregano. Some of the names of the oregano families include Verbenaceae, Lamiaceae and Rubiaceae. 
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Oregano is renowned for its essential oils, which are essences derived from aromatic plants. These oils are packed with compounds like terpenes, esters and aldehydes which have great therapeutic benefits. Some of the oregano species from which oils are derived are Lippia graveolens, Hedeoma patens and Origanum dictamnus.
Both oregano herb and essential oils of oregano have great importance in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. There's more about oregano in this article. Read on to know.
Nutritional Profile Of Oregano
According to the USDA, 100 g of dried oregano contains around 9.93 g of water and 1110 kJ of energy. It also contains the aforementioned nutrients. 
Active Components In Oregano Oil
Essential oils of oregano have a complex mixture of volatile compounds which varies as per the oregano species, its geographical locations, pests, soil condition, season and other growing conditions.
Some of the main active compounds in oregano oil include thymol, carvacrol, beta-myrcene, camphene, caryophyllene, gamma-terpinene, linalool and trans-sabinene hydrate. 
Health Benefits Of Oregano And Its Oil
1. Relieves menstrual cramps
Oregano has great anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties which help in the management of pain-related disorders, including menstrual cramps. When consumed or applied topically, oregano's active compounds may help relax the gastrointestinal muscles, decrease the uterine contractions and thus, ease cramps in a go. Oregano also has anti-spasmodic activities which may help relieve spasms of the pelvic and uterus. 
2. Promotes healthy heart
Oregano is packed with heart-healthy nutrients like potassium and magnesium which have a great role in maintaining cardiac arrhythmias or keeping up the normal heartbeat. They also help lower the blood pressure and thus, keep away the risk of hypertension.  The anti-oxidant potential of oregano may also help prevent oxidative damage to the heart cells and improve their functions, while the anti-inflammatory properties reduce the risk of chronic heart inflammation, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. 
3. Has antimicrobial actions
Oregano has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Compounds like carvacrol and terpenes in oregano are known to inhibit a range of pathogens with viruses like the H1N1 virus, adenovirus, hepatitis C virus and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella typhi, and fungus-like Candida albicans.  Oregano is also helpful against various resistant pathogenic strains. 
4. Treats malaria
Essential oils of oregano contain major compounds like carvacrol, linalool, thymol, terpinene and cymene which have antiparasitic potency against parasites like Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense and Plasmodium falciparum. These parasitic genera are widely known to cause parasitic infections like malaria and sleeping sickness. Oregano oil can help inhibit the growth of malarial protozoa and thus, treat the infection efficiently. 
5. Promotes bone health
As per the USDA, oregano contains 1600 mg of calcium per 100 g of the herb. The high amounts of calcium in oregano can help maintain bone health, prevent bone loss, increase bone mineral density and reduce the risk of related diseases like arthritis. Flavonoids in oregano may also help in the promotion of bone health while its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities prevent damage to bones by harmful free radicals. 
6. Improves nasal congestion
The antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of oregano can help treat patients suffering from nasal congestion, improve their breathing and prevent further growth of microbes. The camphor-like aroma of the herb is also a great way to improve congestion of the nose. Inhaling oregano oil by mixing it in boiling water can help improve the symptoms.
7. Facilitates wound healing
According to a study, oregano essential oil is largely used as a folk remedy to facilitate wound healing. Skin wounds are mainly a result of inflammation and oregano's anti-inflammatory capacity could help in reducing this effect. Also, thymol and carvacrol in oregano may help prevent infections of the wounds. 
8. Manages diabetes
According to a study, carvacrol possesses a great anti-diabetic activity; it may help reduce blood glucose levels, prevents insulin resistance, lower cholesterol levels, protects pancreatic cells and can even prevent or reverse diabetes and its complications. Oregano can also help prevent the risk of liver fibrosis caused due to diabetes and insulin resistance. 
9. Has chemopreventive properties
Different properties like antioxidant, antiproliferative and antimutagenic of oregano oil contribute to the chemopreventive property of the herb. Oregano and its oil can help inhibit the growth of cancerous cells and prevent their spread. It can inhibit the growth of colon carcinoma cells, hepatocarcinoma cells and breast cancer cells. Oregano can also alter the DNA of the cells causing cancer and thus, promote healthy cell growth. 
10. Treats a range of respiratory disorders
Not only for nasal congestion but oregano is used as a traditional remedy for a range of respiratory disorders such as asthma, cough, cold, sore throat and bronchitis. The phytochemical in this vital herb help prevent and kill pathogens that cause these infections and also help reduce inflammation for easy breathing. 
11. Improves gastrointestinal health
Oregano has positive effects on gastrointestinal health and may help treat or improve related issues like diarrhoea, stomach pain and indigestion problems. It may help reduce the inflammatory markers causing stomach pain and kill pathogens causing diarrhoea and indigestions. The astringent nature of oregano also helps cool the gastrointestinal system.
Ways To Include Oregano In Your Diet
- Oregano is a flavoursome herb; it can add a great flavour and aroma to meat and chicken dishes.
- It can be sprinkled on pizza, salad or bread for a herby flavour.
- While marinades and stuffings, oregano can be a good flavouring agent.
- It mixes well with cheese-topped foods like sandwiches.
- Oregano can also be an excellent addition to salty baked goods like crackers.
- It is mainly used as an aromatherapy to treat respiratory illnesses like nasal congestion and cold.
- Oregano oil is also used as a great massaging oil to relax muscles.
- To treat skin infections or heal wounds, oregano oil is used either as a primary oil or mixed with a carrier oil.
- It is applied topically on painful areas to ease pain and inflammation.
Uses Of Oregano Oil
Side Effects Of Oregano
Though oregano, in both herb and oil forms, is safe when consumed orally or applied topically, may sometimes, cause mild side effects such as stomach upset, stomach pain and skin allergies.
The side effects usually occur when the herb is taken in excess or with certain medications like antidiabetic drugs.
Oregano and oregano oil are the widely available forms of the herb. It is also available in capsule and tablets form. As oregano is a herb, it must be taken only after consulting a medical expert. A small amount of oregano can be added to foods, however, while using it in the form of essential oils, capsules or tablets, a doctor recommendation is a must.