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This image of Oregano comes from the first edition of De historia stirpium commentarii insignes, by Leonhart Fuchs in 1542.  This book is available in the John R. Martin Rare Book Room in Hardin Library for the Health Sciences.  

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

Origanum vulgare, a Mint family herb, native to the Mediterranean region and southwestern Europe (Baser, 2008), is now grown and cultivated on most continents under a variety of conditions—which can affect the specific constituents of its essential oils (Lukas, Schmiderer, & Novak, 2015; Singletary, 2010). Greece, Israel, and Turkey are known for producing high-quality Oregano essential oils (Lukas et al., 2015). Oregano leaves are used dry or fresh as a culinary herb to flavor pizza, fish, meat, vegetables, and baked goods (Singletary, 2010). The ancient Greeks and Romans used the leaves as an antiseptic and for treating skin sores, aching muscles, stomach aches, coughs, colds, and other respiratory diseases, and Oregano tea with wine for treating snake bites (Baser, 2008; Singletary, 2010). Studies have shown that the essential oils from Oregano have strong chemopreventive, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties (Grondona et al., 2014). 

Historical Use

R. Eglesfeld’s Medical Botany, published in 1847, includes historical information on the use of Oregano. Oregano’s essential oils have been used to stimulate or increase menstrual flow (i.e., as an emmenagogue), to induce perspiration (as a diaphoretic), and, added to a liquid or lotion (liniment) for rubbing on the body, to relieve pain. 

Excerpt taken from Eglesfeld’s Medical Botany, 1847. This book is available in the John R. Martin Rare Book Room in Hardin Library for the Health Sciences. 

Latest Research


Baser, K. H. (2008). Biological and pharmacological activities of carvacrol and carvacrol-bearing essential oils. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 14(29), 3106–3119. doi:10.2174/138161208786404227 

Grondona, E., Gatti, G., Lopez, A. G., Sanchez, L. R., Rivero, V., Pessah, O., . . . Ponce, A. A. (2014). Bio-efficacy of the essential oil of oregano (Origanum vulgare Lamiaceae. Ssp. Hirtum). Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 69(4), 351–357. doi:10.1007/s11130-014-0441-x 

Lukas, B., Schmiderer, C., & Novak, J. (2015). Essential oil diversity of European Origanum vulgare L. (Lamiaceae). Phytochemistry, 119, 32–40. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2015.09.008 

Singletary, K. (2010). Oregano: overview of the literature on health benefits. Nutrition Today, 45(3), 129–138.  

Other Resources

Natural Medicines record: Oregano.  (Access to UI only)