encyclopedia

Greek Oregano

Scientific Names:     

Origanum vulgare ssp. hirtum (Link) Letsw. [Fam. Lamiaceae]

Forms:     

Aqueous extract of Greek oregano leaves; pure essential oil of Greek oregano     

Traditional Usage:     

– Anti-aging
– Antibacterial
– Antifungal
– Antioxidant
– Antiseptic
– Cellular Regeneration
– Cleansing
– Detoxification
– Digestive Disorders
– Disinfectant (externally)
– Mouthwash
– Poultice     

Overview:     

Greek oregano, Origanum vulgare ssp. hirtum (Link) Letsw. [Fam. Lamiaceae], is a perennial native to Greece. Formerly known as Origanum heracleoticum, Greek oregano is a very spicy herb. Its parent, Origanum vulgare L., known as wild oregano, is a culinary zero in comparison to Greek oregano but is often commercially grown and offered as Greek oregano. Greek oregano, Origanum vulgare ssp. hirtum, is the true Greek oregano with flavor so intense it numbs the end of your tongue when fresh, and like all culinary oreganos, the flower of Greek oregano is white. Greek oregano is a superior source of powerful antioxidants. The antioxidant capacities (oxygen radical absorbance capacity, ORAC) and total phenolic contents in extracts of 27 culinary herbs and 12 medicinal herbs were recently determined in a study and Greek oregano, Origanum vulgare ssp. hirtum, was shown to have higher ORAC and phenolic content as compared to other culinary herbs (together with two other herbs). The volatile oil of Greek oregano, Origanum vulgare ssp. hirtum was also recently assessed for antibacterial activity against 25 different genera of bacteria and again was shown to have superior activity as compared with other herbs. The bacteria tested included animal and plant pathogens, food poisoning and spoilage bacteria. The volatile oil exhibited considerable inhibitory effects against all the organisms under test while their major components demonstrated various degrees of growth inhibition. Another study on the antioxidant activity of herbs found that wild oregano, Origanum vulgare, had over 26 active compounds. It is clear from these studies that spices and herbs are excellent sources of natural antioxidants and thus can play an important role in the chemoprevention of diseases resulting from lipid peroxidation. Greek and wild oregano also contain many monoterpenes that have been shown in studies to have powerful activity against abnormal growths.     

Active Ingredients:     

Greek and wild oregano contain: ca. 1.0 – 4.9% essential oil (and possibly much lower for improperly dried materials) with rosmarinic acid, linalool, thymol and carvacrol as the main components. Other monoterpenes include limonene, p-cymene, gamma terpinene and geraniol. There are also many tannins, flavonoids and triterpenes in the leaves.  Related species (Origanum scabrum and Origaum microphyllum, both endemic species in Greece) contain (as the major components): carvacrol, terpinen-4-ol, linalool, sabinene, alpha-terpinene, and gamma-terpinene. Spanish wild oregano contains linalool as the main component of the essential oil.     

Suggested Amount:     

Greek oregano leaves can be taken as a tea with the recommended dosage of a cold or moderately hot cup of tea taken several times a day or as required. An infusion is made using 1.5-2g (one teaspoonful) of the coarsely cut or powdered leaves. Boiling water (ca. 150ml) is poured over this and extracted for 10 minutes. For poultices, a 5% infusion is recommended.     

Drug Interactions:     

None known.     

Contraindications:     

None known.     

Side Effects:     

None known.     

References:     

Crowell PL. 1999. Prevention and therapy of cancer by dietary monoterpenes. J Nutr. 1999 Mar; 129(3): 775S-778S. Review.
 
Dorman HJ, Deans SG. 2000. Antimicrobial agents from plants: antibacterial activity of plant volatile oils. J Appl Microbiol. 2000 Feb; 88(2): 308-16.
 
Lamaison JL, Petitjean-Freytet C, Carnat A. 1991. [Medicinal Lamiaceae with antioxidant properties, a potential source of rosmarinic acid]. Pharm Acta Helv. 1991; 66(7): 185-8. French.
 
Nakatani N. 2000. Phenolic antioxidants from herbs and spices. 2000; 13(1-4): 141-6. Review.
 
Zheng W, Wang SY. 2001. Antioxidant activity and phenolic compounds in selected herbs. J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Nov; 49(11): 5165-70.