Mediterranean cuisines like Italian and Greek are popular all around the world for their hearty and tasty dishes. Though there are many elements to point to in this kind of cooking, one spice tends to be especially noticeable: oregano. Also no stranger to Spanish, Portuguese, and Mexican food, oregano is a versatile herb that brings an aromatic warmth to any dish it is added to. But beyond the interesting flavor profile of oregano, it also contains a variety of nutrients that are known to provide numerous health benefits.
Where Does Oregano Come From?
Oregano (Origanum vulgare), also known as wild marjoram, is a perennial herb in the mint family (Lamiaceae). Originally native to the hills of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, it has now become naturalized in parts of the United States and Mexico and can be grown in any mild climate. Over the centuries of its cultivation, many different types of oregano have been developed for various uses and flavor profiles. Some types are even grown solely for ornamental purposes.
Uses of Oregano
The leaves of the oregano plant are the most commonly used part because they are the source of the pungent flavor and aroma that oregano is known for. Though fresh oregano leaves are useful in many applications, dried oregano typically has a much stronger flavor and is more versatile in how it can be incorporated while cooking. In Italian cuisine, for example, dried oregano is often used in herb blends along with basil, rosemary, and thyme. These herbs often form the major flavor profiles of commercial soups, stews, salad dressings, and many other food products.
The oregano plant also has some uses outside the culinary realm. The leaves of the plant can be dried and steam distilled in order to extract the plant’s oils. Oregano essential oils are sometimes sold as a dietary supplement, though there is little evidence that it offers any additional benefits in this form. Some lab studies have indicated, however, that the essential oils from oregano extract may have antimicrobial properties, anti-inflammatory properties, and antibacterial properties. These and other medicinal properties are mostly likely due to the presence of carvacrol, thymol, and rosmarinic acid, three phenolic compounds found in oregano.
What Are the Health Benefits of Oregano?
Though modern research hasn’t fully borne out its potential medicinal applications to date, there are still numerous compounds and nutrients in oregano that are digestible and usable by the body’s cells. Below are some of the nutrients contained in oregano and their potential health benefits:
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is used in maintaining the immune system, normal vision, and the regular growth and development of the body. Oregano also contains beta carotene, which is a carotenoid that can be turned into vitamin A during the digestion process.
- Vitamin B: B vitamins are a set of eight water-soluble vitamins that are important for a variety of functions, including the synthesis of red blood cells and cell metabolism. Oregano has trace amounts of vitamin B6 and other B vitamins, but it is relatively rich in vitamin B9 (folate).
- Vitamin C: Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an essential water-soluble vitamin that has many uses in the body. In addition to protecting cells and aiding with wound healing, vitamin C is important in maintaining healthy skin, bones, blood vessels, and cartilage. Vitamin C also has antioxidant properties that protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals; protection from free radicals is also associated with an anticancer effect.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a group of fat-soluble compounds that are beneficial for immune system function as well as the maintenance of healthy eyes and skin.
- Vitamin K: One of the most important uses for vitamin K is its role in the synthesis of certain proteins needed for blood clotting and the healing of wounds.
- Calcium: Calcium is well-known for being valuable in building bones and maintaining bone health, but it also plays a role in regulating heart rate and wound healing.
- Potassium: The balance of potassium and sodium is a crucial factor in maintaining normal levels of fluid inside cells and in the body in general. Insufficient potassium can lead to water retention, swelling, and a series of related problems; potassium draws sodium out of body tissues so that it can be processed through the kidneys. This effect of potassium also plays a role in keeping blood pressure within a normal range.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is a versatile mineral the body uses for proper muscle function, nerve function, and the ability to make proteins and DNA. Magnesium can only be obtained through dietary sources, and insufficient quantities can eventually lead to negative health outcomes.
- Manganese: Manganese is similarly beneficial as other minerals because it is one of the building blocks of bones and connective tissues as well as normal brain and nerve function.
Premium Dried Oregano Leaves from Silva
Fresh herbs can be a great addition in many circumstances, but most of the time dried oregano leaves are the ingredient of choice for home cooks as well as in commercial food production. Dried oregano has a punchier flavor but still has all the nutritional benefits of fresh oregano. From Greek food to Italian food or any number of recipes that call for aromatics, high quality dried oregano can be a perfect addition.
Silva’s good-for-you promise is all about delivering ingredients that are good for your customers in a way that’s good for your business. With state-of-the-art production facilities and decades of experience, we want to be your partner in providing only the best products for your customers. To learn more about our premium dried oregano, you can request a sample or contact us for more information. We are dedicated to finding a solution for any recipe you have.