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Overview

Brief Summary

The genus Origanum includes two economically significant aromatic species, Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana), which is native to Cyprus and southern Turkey but widely introduced across the Mediterranean region, and the widely distributed Oregano (Origanum vulgare). The aromatic quality of Marjoram is present in just a single species in the genus. In contrast, oregano-like qualities may be found in a number of Origanum species, but the widespread O. vulgare is the main species of economic importance.

According to recent taxonomic treatments (Ietswaart 1980, as cited in Kokkini 1997), O. vulgare is represented by six subspecies collectively distributed widely across Eurasia and North Africa. It has also been introduced by humans to North America. Oregano contains an essential oil with characteristic monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes that account for its aromatic qualities. The three subspecies with a more northerly distribution are less rich in essential oils than are the the three more southerly distributed subspecies.

Oregano was used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. It is a familiar herb used on pizza and in a range of tomato and meat dishes and salads. Mexico and Turkey are major exporters (Italy is a major producer as well, but consumes most of this production domestically) (Olivier 1997). Oregano's essential oil (which is high in carvacrol) is used in a number of foods and liqueurs.

Oregano is an erect perennial, 30 to 60 cm tall, with stalked, ovate leaves that are 1 to 4.5 cm long. The purplish flowers are borne in dense, rounded terminal panicles with purplish bracts. The flowers have a tubular 5-toothed calyx, never becoming turbinate (top-shaped) in fruit (unlike some related species). Calyx shape is important in the taxonomy of the genus Origanum. The calyx shape is highly variable between, but stable within, Origanum species and appears to be largely controlled by 5 independent genes with simple Mendelian inheritance, potentially allowing plant breeders to reliably distinguish naturally occurring hybrids rather than always having to perform painstaking hand pollinations. (Novak et al. 2002)

(Vaughan and Geissler 1997; Novak et al. 2002)

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Distribution

Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Micromeria formosana C. Marquand:
Taiwan (Asia)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Origanum vulgare L.:
Canada (North America)
Ecuador (South America)
Kyrgyzstan (Asia)
Kazakhstan (Asia)
Mexico (Mesoamerica)
Pakistan (Asia)
Russian Federation (Asia)
United States (North America)
China (Asia)
Colombia (South America)
Venezuela (South America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Xizang, Yunnan, Zhejiang [Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia; Africa, Europe, introduced in North America]
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Throughout Europe, Asia and N. America.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Herbs perennial, mostly shiny golden glandular. Stems erect or ascending, ca. 12 cm, much branched, terete, red and purplish, sparsely floccose-puberulent. Petiole 2-3 mm; leaf blade ovate, ca. 7 × 5 mm, adaxially slightly scabrid, base subcuneate, apex slightly obtuse. Verticillasters few flowered, in upper axils; bracts leaflike; bracteoles absent. Pedicel less than 1 mm. Calyx tubular-funnelform, 2.5-3 × 1 mm, purplish, puberulent, throat white villous; teeth ovate-triangular, ca. 1 mm, apex subacute. Corolla gray-violet, 5-7 mm, pubescent; upper lip ovate, ca. 2.5 mm in diam.; lower lip lobes subcircular, ca. 1.5 mm in diam. Nutlets ellipsoid-oblong, less than 0.5 mm, smooth (specimens not seen).
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Elevation Range

600-4000 m
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Description

Rhizomes oblique, ± woody. Stems erect or prostrate near base, 25-60 cm, purplish, retrorse pubescent or slightly floccose-pubescent, numerous, leafless near base, lower branches sterile. Petiole 2-7 mm; leaf blade ovate to oblong-ovate, 1-4 × 0.4-1.5 cm, glandular, adaxially shiny green tinged purple, sparsely villous, abaxially densely villous, base broadly cuneate to rounded, margin entire or remotely serrulate, apex obtuse to slightly obtuse. Spikes oblong, ± elongated in fruit; floral leaves mostly sessile, purplish; bracts green or purple, oblong-obovate to obovate or oblanceolate, ca. 5 mm, margin entire, apex acute. Calyx ca. 3 mm, minutely hispid or subglabrous; teeth triangular, ca. 0.5 mm. Corolla purple-red to white, tubular-campanulate, 5-7 mm; tube ca. 5 mm, exserted in bisexual flowers, ca. 3 mm, included in pistillate flowers, sparsely pubescent; upper lip ovate, ca. 1.5 mm, apex 2-lobed; lower lip ca. 2 mm, lobes oblong-ovate. Nutlets brown, ca. 0.6 mm, apex rounded. Fl. Jul-Sep, fr. Oct-Dec.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Origanum creticum Loureiro; O. normale D. Don; O. vulgare var. formosanum Hayata.
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Ecology

Habitat

Hills, grasslands, forests; 500-3600 m.
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Habitat & Distribution

* Taiwan
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Associations

Foodplant / gall
Aceria origani causes gall of shoot tip of Origanum vulgare
Other: sole host/prey

Foodplant / gall
Aphis origani causes gall of leaf of Origanum vulgare

Foodplant / open feeder
imago of Aphthona atratula sensu Cox grazes on leaf of Origanum vulgare
Other: sole host/prey

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Apion flavimanum feeds within stem (lower) of Origanum vulgare
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / sap sucker
adult of Canthophorus impressus sucks sap of Origanum vulgare
Remarks: Other: uncertain

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / open feeder
adult of Longitarsus obliteratus grazes on leaf of Origanum vulgare
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / parasite
Neoerysiphe galeopsidis parasitises live Origanum vulgare

Foodplant / miner
larva of Phytomyza origani mines leaf of Origanum vulgare
Other: sole host/prey

Foodplant / parasite
uredium of Puccinia menthae parasitises live leaf of Origanum vulgare

Foodplant / gall
telium of Puccinia thymi causes gall of live petiole of Origanum vulgare

Foodplant / open feeder
nocturnal larva of Tenthredo thomsoni grazes on leaf of Origanum vulgare
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / feeds on
female of Thrips origani feeds on Origanum vulgare
Remarks: season: 6-11

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Origanum vulgare

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 26
Specimens with Barcodes: 34
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Wikipedia

Oregano

Oregano (US /əˈrɛɡən/ or UK /ɒrɨˈɡɑːn/, scientific name Origanum vulgare) is a common species of Origanum, a genus of the mint family (Lamiaceae). It is native to warm-temperate western and southwestern Eurasia and the Mediterranean region.

Oregano is a perennial herb, growing from 20–80 cm tall, with opposite leaves 1–4 cm long. Oregano will grow in a pH range between 6.0 (mildly acidic) and 9.0 (strongly alkaline) with a preferred range between 6.0 and 8.0. The flowers are purple, 3–4 mm long, produced in erect spikes. It is sometimes called wild marjoram, and its close relative O. majorana is known as sweet marjoram.

Description and biology[edit]

Oregano is related to the herb marjoram, sometimes being referred to as wild marjoram. Oregano has purple flowers and spade-shaped, olive-green leaves. It is a perennial,[1][2] although it is grown as an annual in colder climates, as it often does not survive the winter months.[3][4] Oregano is planted in early spring, the plants being spaced 30 cm (12 in) apart in fairly dry soil, with full sun. It prefers a hot, relatively dry climate, but will do well in other environments.[citation needed]

Taxonomy[edit]

Many subspecies and strains of oregano have been developed by humans over centuries for their unique flavors or other characteristics. Tastes range from spicy or astringent to more complicated and sweet. Simple oregano sold in garden stores as Origanum vulgare may have a bland taste and larger, less dense leaves, and is not considered the best for culinary uses, with a taste less remarkable and pungent. It can pollinate other more sophisticated strains, but the offspring are rarely better in quality.

The related species, Origanum onites (Greece, Turkey) and O. syriacum (West Asia), have similar flavors. A closely related plant is marjoram from Turkey, which, however, differs significantly in taste, because phenolic compounds are missing from its essential oil. Some varieties show a flavor intermediate between oregano and marjoram.

Subspecies[edit]

Notable subspecies are:

  • Origanum vulgare subsp. gracile (= O. tyttanthum) is originally from Kyrgyzstan, and has glossy green leaves and pink flowers. It grows well in pots or containers, and is more often grown for added ornamental value than other oregano. The flavor is pungent and spicy.[5]
  • Origanum vulgare subsp. hirtum (Italian oregano, Greek oregano) is a common source of cultivars with a different aroma[5] from those of O. v. gracile. Growth is vigorous and very hardy, with darker green, slightly hairy foliage. Generally, it is considered the best all-purpose culinary subspecies.

Cultivars[edit]

Example cultivars are:

  • 'Aureum' – Golden foliage (greener if grown in shade), mild taste. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[6]
  • 'Greek Kaliteri' – O. v. hirtum strains/landraces, small, hardy, dark, compact, thick, silvery-haired leaves, usually with purple undersides, excellent reputation for flavor and pungency, as well as medicinal uses, strong, archetypal oregano flavor (Greek kaliteri: the best).
  • 'Hot & Spicy' – O. v. hirtum strain
  • 'Nana' – dwarf cultivar

Cultivars traded as Italian, Sicilian, etc. are usually hardy sweet marjoram (O. ×majoricum), a hybrid between the southern Adriatic O. v. hirtum and sweet marjoram (O. majorana). They have a reputation for sweet and spicy tones, with little bitterness, and are prized for their flavor and compatibility with various recipes and sauces.

Uses[edit]

Culinary[edit]

Dried oregano for culinary use
Oregano growing in a field

Oregano is an important culinary herb, used for the flavour of its leaves, which can be more flavourful when dried than fresh.[7] It has an aromatic, warm and slightly bitter taste, which can vary in intensity. Good quality oregano may be strong enough almost to numb the tongue, but the cultivars adapted to colder climates often have a lesser flavor. Factors such as climate, seasons and soil composition may affect the aromatic oils present, and this effect may be greater than the differences between the various species of plants. Among the chemical compounds contributing to the flavour are carvacrol, thymol, limonene, pinene, ocimene, and caryophyllene.[8]

Oregano's most prominent modern use is as the staple herb of Italian-American cuisine. Its popularity in the US began when soldiers returning from World War II brought back with them a taste for the “pizza herb”,[9] which had probably been eaten in southern Italy for centuries. There, it is most frequently used with roasted, fried or grilled vegetables, meat and fish. Unlike most Italian herbs,[citation needed] oregano combines well with spicy foods, which are popular in southern Italy. It is less commonly used in the north of the country, as marjoram generally is preferred.

The herb is also widely used in Turkish, Palestinian, Lebanese, Egyptian, Syrian, Greek, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Philippine and Latin American cuisines.

In Turkish cuisine, oregano is mostly used for flavoring meat, especially for mutton and lamb. In barbecue and kebab restaurants, it can be usually found on table, together with paprika, salt and pepper.

The dried and ground leaves are most often used in Greece to add flavor to Greek salad, and is usually added to the lemon-olive oil sauce that accompanies many fish or meat barbecues and some casseroles.

Oregano is also used by chefs in the southern Philippines to eliminate the odor of carabao or water buffalo when boiling it, while simultaneously imparting flavor.

Oregano growing in a pot

Medicinal[edit]

Oregano essential oil in a clear glass vial

Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic, as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments. A Cretan oregano (O. dictamnus) is still used today in Greece as a palliative for sore throat.[9]

Oregano is high in antioxidant activity, due to a high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids.[10][11] In test-tube studies, it also has shown antimicrobial activity against strains of the food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.[10]

In the traditional Austrian medicine Origanum vulgare herb has been used internally (as tea) or externally (as ointment) for treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, and nervous system.[12]

In 2005, the US Federal Trade Commission brought legal action against a firm that had claimed oil of oregano treated colds and flus, and that oil of oregano taken orally treated and relieved bacterial and viral infections and their symptoms,[13] saying the representations were false or were not substantiated at the time the representations were made, and that they were therefore a deceptive practice and false advertisements.[14] The final stipulation on the matter said no representation as to any health benefit could be made without "…competent and reliable scientific evidence…".[15]

Other plants called "oregano"[edit]

Medicinal Philippine oregano leaves (for coughs and colds)
  • Cuban oregano or oregano poleo (Plectranthus amboinicus, formerly Coleus aromaticus), also of the mint family (Lamiaceae). Sometimes also called "Mexican mint or Mexican thyme", it has large and somewhat succulent leaves. Not just a Latin American plant, it's also grown and used throughout the tropics, including Africa and Southeast Asia.
  • Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) is not of the mint, but of the closely related vervain family (Verbenaceae), including, e.g., the lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora). It is a highly studied herb that is said to be of some medical use and is common in curandera (female shamanic practices) in Mexico and the Southwestern United States. The flavor of Mexican oregano is somewhat more like savory, instead of the piney hint of rosemary flavor in oregano. It is becoming more commonly sold outside of Mexico, especially in the United States, where it is an important source of dried oregano. It is sometimes used as a substitute for epazote leaves; this substitution would not work the other way round.[citation needed]
  • Poliomintha longiflora is also occasionally called orégano in America.

Etymology[edit]

Oregano is the anglicised form of the Italian word origano, or possibly of the medieval Latin organum; this latter is used in at least one Old English work. Both were drawn from the Classical Latin term origanum, which probably referred specifically to sweet marjoram, and was itself a derivation from the Greek ὀρίγανον (origanon), which simply referred to "an acrid herb".[16][17] The etymology of the Greek term is often given as oros ὄρος "mountain" + the verb ganousthai γανοῦσθαι "delight in", but the Oxford English Dictionary notes it is quite likely a loanword from an unknown North African language.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Origanum vulgare L. oregano". Plants Database, United States Department of Agriculture, http://plants.usda.gov/. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  2. ^ "Growing Culinary Herbs In Ontario". Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs, http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  3. ^ Peter, K. V. (2004). "14.3.1 Growth habit of wild oregano populations". Handbook of herbs and spices. Volume 2. Abington Hall, Abington: Woodhead Publishing Limited. p. 219. ISBN 1-85573-721-3. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  4. ^ "Herbs". Government of Saskatchewan, http://www.agriculture.gov.sk.ca. September 2009. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Organic Gardening
  6. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Origanum vulgare 'Aureum'". Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  7. ^ http://gernot-katzers-spice-pages.com/engl/Orig_vul.html. Oregano leaves are more flavorful when dried
  8. ^ The essential oil of Origanum vulgare L. ssp. vulgare growing wild in vilnius district (Lithuania) Phytochemistry. 2001 May;57(1):65-9.
  9. ^ a b Epikouria Magazine, Fall/Spring 2007
  10. ^ a b Faleiro, Leonor; et al. (2005). "Antibacterial and Antioxidant Activities of Essential Oils Isolated from Thymbra capitata L. (Cav.) and Origanum vulgare L". J. Agric. Food Chem. 53 (21): 8162–8168. doi:10.1021/jf0510079. PMID 16218659. 
  11. ^ Dragland, Steinar; et al. (1 May 2003). "Several culinary and medicinal herbs are important sources of dietary antioxidants". J Nutr. 133 (5): 1286–1290. PMID 12730411. 
  12. ^ Vogl S, Picker P, Mihaly-Bison J, Fakhrudin N, Atanasov AG, Heiss EH, Wawrosch C, Reznicek G, Dirsch VM, Saukel J, Kopp B. Ethnopharmacological in vitro studies on Austria's folk medicine - An unexplored lore in vitro anti-inflammatory activities of 71 Austrian traditional herbal drugs. J Ethnopharmacol.2013 Jun13. doi:pii: S0378-8741(13)00410-8. 10.1016/j.jep.2013.06.007. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 23770053. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23770053
  13. ^ Barrett, Stephen (13 June 2005). "Regulatory Actions against Michael Teplitsky, M.D.". Quackwatch. Retrieved 2 November 2010. 
  14. ^ "Complaint for permanent injunction and other equitable relief" (PDF). FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION. Plaintiff, v GREAT AMERICAN PRODUCTS, INC., PHYSICIAN'S CHOICE, INC., STEPHAN KARIAN, and MICHAEL TEPLITSKY, M.D., a/k/a MICHAEL TEPLISKY, M.D., Defendants; United States District Court, Northern District of Florida, Civil Action No. 3:05-CV-00170-RV-MD. United States Federal Trade Commission. 10 May 2005. pp. 32–33. Retrieved 2 November 2010. 
  15. ^ "Stipulated final order for permanent injunction and settlement of claims for monetary relief" (PDF). FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION. Plaintiff, v GREAT AMERICAN PRODUCTS, INC., PHYSICIAN'S CHOICE, INC., STEPHAN KARIAN, and MICHAEL TEPLITSKY, M.D., a/k/a MICHAEL TEPLISKY, M.D., Defendants; United States District Court, Northern District of Florida, Civil Action No. 3:05-CV-00170-RV-MD. United States Federal Trade Commission. 20 May 2005. p. 10. Retrieved 2 November 2010. 
  16. ^ ὀρίγανον, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  17. ^ origanum, on Oxford Dictionaries
  18. ^ Oxford English Dictionary Online. Draft revision for "oregano", June 2008; draft revision for "origanum", March 2009; draft revision for "organum", June 2008
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Notes

Comments

A little known species described from a cultivated plant.
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Comments

A polymorphic species; used medicinally.
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