Botanical name: Origanum vulgare Family: Lamiaceae (Mint family)
Synonyms: Origanum creticum, Origanum officinale, Origanum orientale
Oregano is a spicy, Mediterranean, perennial herb, particularly common in Greek and Italian cuisines. It is an aromatic, woody-based perennial, which grows to 20-90 cm in height. Its leaves are ovate, 1-4 cm long and 0.5-2.5 cm wide, oppositely arranged. The edges of the leaves are smooth or very shallowly toothed, and the leaf tips vary from pointed to blunt. The flowers are tiny, borne in many-flowered, short dense lateral or branch-end spikes. The flowers are white to purplish, 4-8 mm long, and have two lips. The calyx is five-toothed. Each flower has four stamens. Each fruit has four small nutlets. Oregano is found in Europe and Asia. In India it is found in the Himalayas at altitudes of 1500-3600 m.
Medicinal uses: Oregano has been used as a culinary and medicinal herb for thousands of years. It has a beneficial effect upon the digestive and respiratory systems and is also used to promote menstruation. The leaves and flowering stems are strongly antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic and mildly tonic. The plant is taken internally in the treatment of colds, influenza, mild feverish illnesses, indigestion, stomach upsets and painful menstruation. It is strongly sedative and should not be taken in large doses, though mild teas have a soothing effect and aid restful sleep.
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