Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hippocrates and the "Pizza Spice" - History and Traditional Uses
Origanum vulgare, common name oregano, is a perennial, aromatic flowering plant of the mint family of herbs. It ranges in height from 20–80 cm and is a member of the Origanum genus (It’s Nature Let’s Discover, 2010). There are 42 species of oregano (see Table 1 for most common). The etymology of the term oregano is Greek and translates to “joy of the mountains” (Watching Nutrition, 2010). Its use dates back to about 7th century BC and the Ancient Greek, Egyptian and Anatolian era (Tonk et al., 2010).
It has been used as a flavoring agent for various cuisines across around the world.  This warm and pungent herb is native to the Mediterranean and as such it is most commonly used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. Although the fresh leaves may be used for culinary purposes, it is normally used dried because it adds more flavor.  Oregano was introduced in the Americas, specifically to the US, post World War II, when soldiers returning from Italy discovered the herb was commonly used in Italian pizza sauce (It’s Nature Let’s Discover, 2010). Historically however, oregano has had both culinary and medicinal uses.

It has been noted that in ancient Greece, Hippocrates used the herb as an antiseptic (Scribd, 2010). Ancient Greek physicians would frequently prescribe the herb to treat headaches, wounds and traumas and respiratory ailments such as pneumonia (Watching Nutrition, 2010). Traditionally, oregano was used both internally and externally to treat various ailments. Oregano was taken orally in the form of oregano teas, to treat colds and other respiratory concern (Watching Nutrition, 2010). Additionally, it could also be applied externally in the form of extract oils or the dried leaves could be applied in a hot compress form to external wounds or to areas of aches, pains and swelling, for example in cases of external injury or arthritis (Watching Nutrition, 2010).

Table 1- Species of Oregano
Common Name
Scientific Name  
Greek or Italian Oregano
Origanum vulgare hirtum
Turkish or Cretan Oregano
Origanum vulgare onites
Syrian or Lebanese Oregano
Origanum vulgare syriacum
Mexican Oregano
Lippia graveolens
Cuban Oregano
Plectranthus amboinicus
* Table developed from Wikipedia

1 comment:

  1. Hey Donya,
    Great job on the blog, it looks really good!
    You mentioned that oregano is highly used in certain diets (ie. the Mediterranean diet), I was wondering if it is necessarily further supplement with oregano or is the amount present within the diet adequate to produce the mentioned benefits?
    Miona Milutinov HMB434