Monday, May 16, 2016

Garden to Table: Oil of Oregano

My weekend weather forced me to work inside instead of out. Between showers and storms my feet found their way to the gardens for snippets of pungent herbs and healing spices; after all, my body has been waging quite a war with things these past weeks.

Amid the many buzz words floating around the health-o-sphere oregano has risen. This strong, somewhat 'hot' herb caught my attention some time ago leading me to dig deeper and test it for myself.

Oregano oil is derived from the leaves and flowers of oregano (Origanum vulgare), a hardy, bushy perennial herb, and a member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family. It's native to Europe, although it grows in many areas around the world1 The plant grows up to 90 centimeters (35 inches) high, with dark green leaves that are two to three centimeters long.
The ancient Greeks and Romans have a profound appreciation for oregano, using it for various medicinal uses. In fact, its name comes from the Greek words "oros" and "ganos," which are words for mountain and joy,– oregano literally means "joy of the mountain." It was revered as a symbol of happiness, and it was an ancient tradition to crown brides and grooms with a laurel of oregano.

In the general population, oregano is known as the taste Italian and Greek cooking- sauces, vinaigrettes and marinades. Aromatherapy clinicians employ oregano essential oil for it's antiviral antiseptic, and antibacterial properties. Herbalists bring oregano into their practice knowing the broad uses of aroma therapy as well as the importance of ingesting it and topical application for skin conditions, fungal issues, and inflammation.

Personally, I bring oregano into all aspects of my home practices: culinary, aroma therapy, and herbal preparation. One rather multipurpose and very easy preparation is oil of oregano. Let's make a note of understanding: oregano oil often infers the essential oil derived from oregano, while oil of oregano often implies an infusion of oregano into a carrier oil. Both preparation can be topical, diffused, and ingested with caution (oregano is 'hot' and may cause rash, burning and upset stomach).

Oil of oregano can be prepared in two ways: sun steeped or heat steeped.
Sun steeped simply means placing the leaves and or stems of the oregano plant in oil then placing it i the sun to infuse for approximately 6 weeks. I do not use sun steeped due to the increased risk of botulism spores or rancid oil.
Heat steeped is much quicker and safer since the herbs are set in the oil over low heat and warmed just to the simmering point.
Both methods require removal of the plant materials and air tight storage (I freeze or refrigerate mine for extra precaution).
From here the oil is used for cooking, added to boiling water for a steam/aroma therapy, or applied topically for specific ailments.

Today my oil of oregano resides safely in the fridge waiting for me to call it into action! Hopefully it will only be needed for flavor and preventative health- not to combat illness:)

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