• The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World

OREGANO ( Origanum vulgare L. )
Names in Other Languages:

English Wild marjoram, Oregan
French Marjolaine bâtarde, Marjolaine sauvage, Origan
German Oregano, Wilder Majoran, Dost, Kostets
Spanish Orégano
Italian Erba acciuga, Origano
Turkish Kekik otu, İzmir kekiği, Güveyik otu, Kekikotu
Japanese 花薄荷 Hana-hakka, オレガノOregano

FAMILY: Lamiaceae

ORIGIN:   Oregano grows throughout many regions of the world. It has been used for its flavour since ancient times. It has been a symbol of joy and happines by Greeks and Romans holding oregano. Oregano is native to northern Europe and has been cultivated in France.


Oregano is the common name for a general aroma and flavour
primarily derived from a plethora of plant genera and species used all over the world as a spice, but usually refers to the genus Origanum, the European oregano, the name of which is derived from the Greek words oros, mountain and hill, and ganos, ornament. At least 61 species of 17 genera belonging to six families are mentioned under the name oregano.


Leaves. The dried herb is more aromatic than the fresh herb.


Aromatic, warm and slightly bitter. Oregano largely varies in intensity.


Although abundant chemical compounds have been isolated from oregano, the most important group, from a commercial and application point of view, refers to its volatile oils, basically composed of terpenoids.

Composition of essential oils of oregano may vary significantly among different genotypes.

Oregano species are rich in phenolic monoterpenoids such as carvacrol and secondarily thymol while species rich in bicyclic monoterpenoids cisand trans-sabinene hydrate are commercially designated as marjoram.

It is quite easy to distinguish the difference between the pungent smell of oregano and the sweet smell of marjoram. In the first group are a number of chemically related compounds such as γ-terpinene , p-cymene, thymol and carvacrol methyl ethers, thymol and carvacrol acetates; also compounds such as p-cymenene, p-cymen-8-ol, pcymen-7-ol, thymoquinone and thymohydroquinone are also present. In the second group, α-thujene, sabinene, cis- and trans-sabinene hydrate acetates, cis-and trans-sabinol and sabina ketone can also be found [1]

Other chemical groups that are commonly detected in Origanum species are acyclic monoterpenoids such as geraniol, geranyl acetate, linalool, linalyl acetate and bornane-type compounds such as camphene, camphor, borneol, and bornyl and isobornyl acetate; and sesquiterpenoids, such as β-caryophyllene, β-bisabolene, β-bourbonene, germacrene-D, bicyclogermacrene, α-humulene, α-muurolene, γ-muurolene, γ-cadinene, allo-aromadendrene, α-cubebene, α-copaene, α-cadinol, coryophyllene oxide and germacrene-D-4-ol.

Comprehensive composition of oregano essential oil


Carvacrol acetate
Carvacrol methylether
Thymol acetate

Sabinene hydrate
cis-sabinene hydrate
trans-sabinene hydrate
cis-sabinene hydrate acetate
trans-sabinene hydrate acetate
cis-sabinol trans-sabinol
Sabina ketone
Sabinyl acetate
Acyclic compounds

Geranyl acetate
Linalyl acetate

Isobornyl aceate

Caryophyllene oxide


Betulic acid
Betulin Methyl-3β-21α-dihydroxyurs-12-en-28-olic acid
Oleanolic acid
Ursolic acid

Source: Peter, K.V. Handbook of Herbs and Spices. Cambridge, , GBR: Woodhead Publishing, Limited, 2004. p 217.


Oregano is a good source of fiber. Fiber binds the cancer-causing toxins in the colon and removes tham from the body. This forces the body to break down cholesterol to make more bile salts. These are just some of the reasons that diets high in fiber have been shown to lower high cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of colon cancer.

It is a very good source of iron, manganese and dietary fiber, as well as a good source of calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A (through its concentration pro-vitamin A carotenoidsl ike beta-carotene) and omega-3 fatty acids. Oregano contains significant amounts of vitamins E, B6 , riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenate and biotin; so it means that the dietary value of oregano is quite high .

Oregano is also rich in mineral elements such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, iron, copper, sulphur, chlorine, iodine and selenium, whereas its sodium content is low.


Oregano is used in meat, sausages, salads, stewings, salad dressings and soups. The food industry uses oregano oil and oregano resin both in foods and in beverages and also in cosmetics.

Oregano oil is used in alcoholic beverages, baked goods, meats and meat products, condiments and relishes, milk products, processed vegetables, snack foods, and fats and oils.

Oregano is traditionally used in Italian, Mexican and Spanish cooking as it is used in tomato dishes, barbeque sauce, soups, egg and cheese and used as a seasoning on meats. It is an important spice in Mediterranean cooking.

It is the most common spice for pizza. Oregano increases aroma in such vegetable dishes as pea soup and other pea dishes, squash and stews made from mixed vegetables, mushrooms and asparagus. Oregano is used either in its fresh or dried form, heat can easily cause a loss of its delicate flavor so it is not suggested to treat oregano with heat.


It is said that oregano has various effects such as carminative, diaphoretic, expectorant, emmenagogue, stimulant, stomachic and tonic and used on the traditional uses. In addition, it has been used as a folk remedy against colic, coughs, headaches, nervousness, toothaches and irregular menstrual cycles.

Turkish villagers have traditionally used kekik water, the aromatic water obtained after removing essential oil from the distillate of oregano herbs, which has in recent years become a commercial commodity [2]

Nevertheless, many of the studies confirmed benefits of oregano for human health and its use for the treatment of a vast list of ailments, including respiratory tract disorders such as cough or bronchial catarrh as expectorant and spasmolitic agent, in gastrointestinal disorders as choleretic, digestive, eupeptic and spasmolitic agent, as an oral antiseptic, in urinary tract disorders as diuretic and antiseptic and in dermatological affections alleviation of itching, healing crusts, insect stings, viral infections and even cancer.

---  Oregano extracts have documented antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, which attributed to phenylcarboxylic acids, such as cinnamic, caffeic, p-hydroxybenzoic, syringic, protocatecholic and vanillic acids.

Dietary supplies of antioxidants from Origanum species have been considered as effective scavengers of the free radicals that are generated by metabolic pathways in the body.

Dry leaves of Origanum vulgare showed a high antioxidant activity in olive oil and, besides their stabilizing effect, the organoleptic quality of the olive oil was significantly improved by addition of oregano.

---  The volatile oils in this spice such as thymol and carvacrol, both of them inhibit the growth of bacteria, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus .

Potential Anti-Oxidant Activity

---   Oregano contains numerous phytonutrients - including thymol and rosmarinic acid - that have also been shown to function as potent antioxidants that can prevent oxygen-based damage to cell structures throughout the body. In laboratory studies, oregano has demonstrated stronger anti-oxidant capacity than either of the two synthetic anti-oxidants commonly added to processed food - BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and BHA (butylated bydroxyanisole). Additionally, on a per gram fresh weight basis, oregano has demonstrated 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges and 4 times more than blueberries.

---  Oregano is not a commonly allergenic food and is not known to contain measurable amounts of goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.

[1] Peter, K.V. Handbook of Herbs and Spices.
Cambridge, , GBR: Woodhead Publishing, Limited, 2004. p 216.
[2] BASER K.H.C. (2002), ‘The Turkish Origanum species’ in Kintzios S., Medicinal and Aromatic Plants – Industrial profiles – Oregano: The Genera Origanum and Lippia, London, Taylor & Francis, 109– 26.
Peter, K.V. Handbook of Herbs and Spices.
Cambridge, , GBR: Woodhead Publishing, Limited, 2004. p 219.
• Akgul A, Kivanc M. Inhibitory effects of selected Turkish spices and oregano components on some foodborne fungi. Int J Food Microbiol 1988 May;6(3):263-8 1988. PMID:12430.
• Ensminger AH, Ensminger, ME, Kondale JE, Robson JRK. Foods & Nutriton Encyclopedia. Pegus Press, Clovis, California 1983.
• Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986 1986. PMID:15210.
• Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York 1996.
• Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Dover Publications, New York 1971.
• Lagouri V, Boskou D. Nutrient antioxidants in oregano. Int J Food Sci Nutr 1996 Nov;47(6):493-7 1996. PMID:12400.
• Lambert RJ, Skandamis PN, Coote PJ, Nychas GJ. A study of the minimum inhibitory concentration and mode of action of oregano essential oil, thymol and carvacrol. J Appl Microbiol 2001 Sep;91(3):453-62 2001. PMID:12450.
• Martinez-Tome M, Jimenez AM, Ruggieri S, et al. Antioxidant properties of Mediterranean spices compared with common food additives. J Food Prot 2001 Sep;64(9):1412-9 2001. PMID:12440.
• Takacsova M, Pribela A, Faktorova M. Study of the antioxidative effects of thyme, sage, juniper and oregano. Nahrung 1995;39(3):241-3 1995. PMID:12410.
• Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988 1988. PMID:15220.
• Zheng W, Wang SY. Antioxidant activity and phenolic compounds in selected herbs. J Agric Food Chem 2002;49:5165-70 2002.