Oregano – characteristics, cultivation, use and curative effects

Oregano - flowers
Oregano - flowers

Oregano or Dost is one of the most important Mediterranean herbs. Oregano, like basil and thyme, is indispensable in the Mediterranean cuisine for its aromatic, tart taste. Often it is used for pizza and pasta dishes. It also has many medically interesting active ingredients, which can provide relief for stomach and intestinal complaints as well as for fungal diseases.

Profile of Oregano:

Scientific name: Origanum vulgare

Plant family: mint family (Lamiaceae)

Other names: borage, sweet marjoram

Sowing time / Planting time: April – May

Flowering period: July – September

Harvest time: all year

Location: warm, sunny locations

Soil quality: rather dry and nutrient-poor soils

Use as a medicinal herb: stomach trouble, bowel complaint, candida, chronic bronchitis, impure skin

Use as aromatic herb: pasta, pizza, salads, soups, omelets, potato dishes, meat, fish

Plant characteristics and classification of Oregano

Oregano is one of the most famous herbs. The herb is sometimes referred to as wild marjoram. The name is a bit misleading, as the oregano is by no means the wild form of the marjoram.

Origin and distribution of oregano

Oregano is a typical Mediterranean herb whose original homeland is the Mediterranean region. Since its importance as a spice and medicinal herb increased since the 17th century, it is now found throughout Central Europe, North America and in some countries of Asia Minor. Escaped or wild oregano is found mostly on dry meadows, forest edges or edges of bushes. In the mountains it is found up to the subalpine level.

Plant order of oregano

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is one of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and thus belongs to one of the most species-rich herb families. It also belongs to a botanical subfamily named Nepetoideae, which includes known culinary and medicinal herbs such as basil, lavender, mint, sage or thyme. In the close relationship, oregano belongs to the genus Dost (Origanum), which consist of about 40 species. A well-known species of this genus is the marjoram (Origanum majorana).

Depending on the origin, one also distinguishes oregano subspecies by origin. These differ sometimes strongly in the composition of the essential oils. The subspecies virens (Origanum vulgare subsp. virens) e.g. is the kind, which is offered as aromatic herbs.

Look and characteristics of oregano


Oregano is a typical herbaceous plant that can reach heights of growth up to 65 cm (25 inches). The Mediterranean herb is perennial, persistent and emits an aromatic smell in good conditions. It forms powerful runners. The plant is somewhat hardy, with some varieties even withstanding temperatures down to -15 ° C (5 °F).


The herb has relatively small leaves, usually no larger than 4 cm (1.5 inches). The leaves are ovate and dotted at the bottom. Some subspecies may also be hairy on the leaf margins, which can be a clear distinguishing feature to marjoram. Noticeable are the leaf-veins that are clearly visible on the underside of the leaves.


Oregano produces typical small (up to 6 mm long (0.24 inches)) lip-shaped flowers, which are usually white to pale pink. The flowers are arranged in so-called sham panicle. The flower consists of four stamens, two carpels, five petals and five sepals with calyx-teeth. The heyday is generally expected from July to September.


For the ripeness the flowers turn into plain brown nut fruits (so-called schizocarps).

Oregano - plant with leaves
Oregano – plant with leaves

Oregano – cultivation and care

Oregano is a popular medicinal and aromatic herb and is therefore often cultivated in the garden or on the balcony. The cultivation is not particularly difficult, in so far as a favorable location is chosen and fertilizers are used sparingly.


Oregano prefers a location in the garden that is warm and sunny. The soils should be relatively permeable, rather nutrient-poor and somewhat calcareous. Loamy garden soils should therefore be loosened with some aggregates such as quartz sand, lava sand or pumice. For cultivation a more sheltered place should be chosen. Insofar as these conditions are more or less complied with, the herb is relatively undemanding in its care.


Oregano is a light germinator, the seeds of which are scattered only loosely on the ground and do not have to be covered with soil. Sowing in the garden starts in spring from the end of April. Optimal is a planting distance of 10 to 15 cm (4 to 5 inches) per plant. Alternatively, it can be grown on the windowsill in planters. This is especially suitable for the late winter and early spring months. Mineral soil or low-fertilizer organic soil can be used as soil.

In addition to the sowing, the propagation of oregano takes place via cuttings or by careful division of the plant.

Care and watering

Oregano does not need much care. It grows perennially and can form lush shrubs within a growing season. Therefore, when sowing or planting young plants, it is recommended to keep enough distance to other plants. Based on the conditions of his original homeland, the plant does not need much water. It usually survives short dry phases if it is then watered generously. Waterlogging should be avoided in any case. In order to avoid this, a drainage layer (lava grit or expanded clay balls) should be incorporated in the flower pots so that the water can drip off.


Oregano requires very little fertilizer throughout the year. It is recommended to add a little organic long-term fertilizer such as horn shavings or compost. Potted cultures usually need more nutrients, depending on the planter and competitive-plants.


Oregano is native to the more southern parts of Europe, which do not know hard winters with frost and minus temperatures. Nevertheless, the plant has proved to be hardy in colder regions, but should be covered in the winter with brushwood and mulch.


Oregano can be harvested from the plant throughout the year. If you gently pluck the leaves, the growth of the side shoots is promoted. If the plant has become too big and bushy, cut off the stems with their leaves about a hand’s breadth above the ground. The plant then sprouts out within a very short time.

Oregano - insects like bees and bumblebees are attracted by it
Oregano – insects like bees and bumblebees are attracted by it

Oregano and its use

Oregano is a well known spice herb used in Central European cuisine since the 17th / 18th century. As a medicinal herb oregano and other plants of the genus Dost has been known for some time.

Oregano in the kitchen

Oregano is an intense aromatic herb, with a slightly bitter and very aromatic taste. Depending on the quality and cultivation conditions, the leaves may also develop a slightly spicy taste.

Oregano is most commonly used in Italian and Mediterranean dishes. Whether on pizza or in tomato sauces – oregano gives many dishes a spicy touch. The aroma also fits very well to egg dishes – especially omelets or farmer’s breakfast. The herb is widely used in the preparation of salads. It harmonizes perfectly with fruity tomatoes or cucumbers.

Oregano is also suitable for many sauces and soups. Especially sauces for meat and fish dishes can get a very tasty touch. In soups, it can be used for seasoning strong vegetable or cream soups. The aromatic herb also fit very well with potato cream or tomato cream soup.

As an aromatic herb, both the fresh leaves as well as the dried, optionally rubbed herb and the edible flowers are used. With regard to the spiciness, oregano is an exception within the dried herbs. Many herbs lose their aroma when dried; in the case of oregano, however, it intensifies considerably as a result of the drying process.

In contrast to many other herbs, it can be co-cooked without loosing the aroma.

Oregano as a medicinal herb

Although oregano is usually known only as a kitchen herb, it also finds relatively much attention in the folk medicine. It can be used for a variety of ailments due to its containing ingredients.

The herb was already known in antiquity and the Middle Ages as a herb with great healing power. It was used to treat painful hemorrhoids. In gynecology, the medicinal herb was used to initiate the birth. Furthermore, oregano was a tried and tested means to shield themselves from demons, witches and the devil. Oregano lentils in the house and incense with it they promised themselves the same effect as garlic used against vampires.

In old herbal books, oregano was used for both internal and external applications. It was recommended for itching (application: oregano-bath), in tonsils (probably tonsillitis) or in wound treatment. The herb has also been used to treat gastrointestinal complaints, coughing or tracheal diseases. The herb was usually mixed with red wine or drunk as pressed juice.

Today, however, oregano is used for problems in the gastrointestinal tract. The tannins and bitter substances have an anticonvulsant effect, thus helping with gastric and / or intestinal cramps as well as flatulence and casually stimulate the appetite.

The plant parts of oregano, particularly the leaves and the herb contain a variety of different active ingredients. The containing essential oils, tannins and bitter substances have the following healing effect:

  • antibacterial
  • carminative
  • appetizing
  • cough expectorant
  • antifungal
  • antioxidant
  • partly antiviral
Oregano planted in a pot
Oregano planted in a pot

Preparation of oregano tea

To relieve stomach and intestinal complaints or chronic bronchitis, oregano is usually taken in the form of a tea. One teaspoon of dried herb or two teaspoons of fresh oregano is spilled with 250 to 300 ml (8.5 to 10 fl oz) of boiling water. The infusion is left covered for about 10 minutes and then drunk. Even with bacterial cough and infestation of Candida fungi the tee can be drunk supportive.

Externally, oregano is used in inflammatory skin problems, as the ingredients in the essential oil of oregano (especially phenols and carvacrol) are classified as antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Oily ginger tinctures are used to treat greasy, blemished skin, which is used to dab the affected areas of the skin.

Oregano oil for fungal diseases

Some essential oil compounds have fungicidal or fungicidal properties. Therefore, oregano oil, is considered as a kind of miracle cure in herbal medicine, especially in the treatment of various fungal infections such as the notorious Candida albicans. Fungi of the genus Candida are, among others, responsible for diseases such as thrush and can also cause diseases such as dermatitis, nail fungus, mastitis (chest infection) or even pneumonia.

In natural medicine, the essential oil is often recommended in Candida. For this purpose, usually two to three drops of oil are mixed with a cooking oil and swallowed. It should be noted, however, that pure oregano oil is irritating to the mucosa and corrosive and should never be used on its own. A self-therapy without consultation with a doctor or pharmacist should also be omitted.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy oregano – What is there to pay attention to?

When buying fresh oregano, make sure that the leaves are strong and that the aroma is intense. Strong plants can be recognized by the slightly woody base of the shrub and the stems grow bushy. Plants with large leaves and a lot of space between the leaves are mostly inferior in quality and overbred.

When buying, there are sometimes some species to choose from, which differ in taste from each other and sometimes in appearance, here for color (for example, golden oregano, sometimes referred to as golden majoran) and pattern (white-green pied).

One can’t go wrong with dried leaves, as the herb intensifies its aroma when dried. Insofar as a label indicates, Greek oregano varieties are to be preferred, as this has the most intense aroma. Nevertheless, make sure that the purchased goods are flavor-sealed.

For gardeners, many varieties are available for oregano seeds. Greek oregano is to recognize by the botanical name Origanum vulgare subsp. Hirtum. This should have a particularly intense taste in good growth conditions, which is suitable for dishes such as pizza or tomato sauces. The occasionally sold as wild marjoram oregano (Origanum vulgare subsp. vulgare) is more suitable as ground cover or as a roof plant, which emits a strong aromatic scent. As a spice plant, it is less suitable, but still usable.

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