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The Healing Powers of Oregano Print E-mail
Didi Hofmann   
Tuesday, 11 July 2006


A recent study in the United States has found that many of the herbs used in cooking have more antioxidant power than fruits and vegetables and that Oregano (Origanum Vulgaris) leads the pack.

The study, which was conducted at the U.S Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Centre in Beltsville, MD, measured the phenolic content and antioxidant activity of 27 culinary herbs and 12 medicinal herbs under laboratory conditions.

Oregano was found to have 42 times more antioxidants than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges, and four times more than blueberries. That means that one tablespoon of fresh oregano has the same free-radical fighting power as one medium-sized apple.

Overall, oregano had 3 to 20 times more antioxidant content than the other herbs tested. But there were other good sources; for example, dill, thyme, rosemary, and peppermint all ranked high.

Medicinal herbs like Gingko biloba, sage, St. John's Wort and valerian all showed significant antioxidant content as well.

According to the study's authors, fresh herbs are the best choice, as some of the antioxidant concentration is lost in processing.

The good news is that oregano is very easy to grow. It is frost hardy and remains green throughout winter. It only needs to be watered once a week and in cooler, wetter areas the flavour is milder.

It is an easy herb to identify as the plant has dark green, oval shaped leaves carried on sturdy green stems. The leaves have a pungent, aromatic flavour that is very distinctive. The bush itself is hardy and robust, growing strongly to about 60cm high. Harvest or pinch back the leaves regularly to prevent woody growth.

Oregano also grows well in pots. For best growth feed every monthly with a liquid fertiliser at half strength.

If you prefer not to grow your own, most supermarkets now carry a wide variety of fresh herbs, and it's easy to work them into familiar recipes. As a general rule, if a recipe calls for one teaspoon of a dried herb, you can substitute one tablespoon of chopped fresh herb in its place for the same taste.

The secret is to always use oregano sparingly because it can easily overpower a dish and spoil it.

Fresh herbs should stay good in your refrigerator for up to five days if stored properly. Wrap them in a damp paper towel and seal in an airtight plastic bag.

Oregano also dries well. Tie the stems together and hang them in a warm, airy place. Once the leaves are dry store them in an airtight container in a dark place. The powerful flavour of oregano comes through well when dried.

Besides its anti-oxidant properties oregano can also be used to relieve anxiety, headaches and insomnia. The leaves can be chewed to help soothe a sore throat and coughing. They can also be used if you want a good general tonic.

Now we know that fresh herbs can help add even more antioxidant power into our lives - while adding great taste, too. Of course, you still need to eat your fruits and veggies. These foods offer a wide range of other beneficial phytochemicals, plus vitamins, minerals, and fibre that are essential to good health.

Information supplied by Di-Di Hoffman who is the owner of Bouquet Garni Nursery - South Africa's Top Potted Herb Growers and Marketers. Visit his website for access to his free Timeless Herb Secrets e-newsletter and hundreds of tips and recipes to help you get the most from your herbs.

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