Oregano: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information on oregano


Lippia graveolens an evergreen, flowering, woody shrub or small tree in the Verbenaceae family, is native to the southwestern United States (Texas and southern New Mexico), Mexico, and Central America as far south as Nicaragua. Its thin, arching branches are irregular and open giving it a sprawling look. All year it produces small, fragrant, oval leaves with toothed edges that are dark green and rough to the touch. The white or yellow flowers are small, star-shaped and clustered together at the branch tips. They usually appear from spring through fall, especially after a rain, and are fragrant. Small, dry, round fruits follow the blooms. It can reach 1–2.7 m (3.3–8.9 ft) in height.

common names & nomenclature

Also known as:
Mexican oregano, redbrush lippia, orégano Cimmaron, scented lippia, and scented matgrass. The species name is derived from two Latin words: gravis, meaning "heavy", and oleo, meaning "oil".

Oregano, not just for pizza
Oregano: Where in the World
habitat and range for oregano

Oregano is native to warm-temperate western and southwestern Eurasia and the Mediterranean region.

Oregano: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting oregano

Oregano grows in meadows, dry grassy areas, scrubby areas and in cultivated herb gardens in full sun.

Grow in well-drained soil. Take care not let the roots sit in wet, soggy soil.

Oregano is grown by seed or is propagated by division of roots in the autumn. Sow seeds in early spring, germination usually takes place within 2 weeks. Transplant the seedlings when they are large enough, then plant in garden beds in early summer.

The plant can be used fresh or dried—harvest the whole plant (but not the roots) in late summer to dry and store for winter use.

Store dried oregano in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Oregano: The Rest of The Story
oregano history, folklore, literature & more

To most Americans, oregano is simply the seasoning on pizza. But to botanists, the word oregano can be a real headache. More than 40 plants in four botanical families go by the name oregano. For healing, this confusion doesn't matter much. All the plants called oregano taste similar and contain a similar oil, so they probably have similar effects.

Traditional Chinese physicians have use oregano for centuries to treat fever, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, and itching skin conditions.

Europeans used it like marjoram, as an aromatic spice and as a digestive aid, arthritis treatment, expectorant for cough, colds, flu, and chest congestion, and as a menstruation promoter.

America's 19th-entury Eclectic physicians considered oregano "a gently stimulant tonic" and menstruation promoter. Other folk healers used oregano oil to treat toothache, relieve arthritis, and grow hair on bald heads.

Contemporary herbalists call oregano an expectorant, digestive aid, mild tranquilizer, and menstruation promoter.

COUGH REMEDY, EXPECTORANT: All the oreganos contain a volatile oil high in two chemically related expectorants (carvacrol and thymol). They help loosen phlegm and make it easier to cough up, lending credence to the herb's traditional use in colds, flu, and chest congestion.

DIGESTIVE AID: Like most culinary spices, oregano helps soothe the smooth muscle lining of the digestive tract, making it an antispasmodic. It may also help expel parasitic intestinal worms. These attributes lend support to its age-old use as a digestive aid.