It’s awesome in spaghetti sauce and a staple on pizza. But oregano also has a long history of use as a medicinal and even, some say, a magical herb.
Oregano is said to promote good fortune and good health, and has been used in magic spells since ancient times to bring happiness, luck and protection. The ancient Greeks believed that oregano was an antidote to poisons and could treat convulsions and skin irritations. In Shakespearean times oregano was thought to cure overdoses of opium and hemlock. It’s thought that growing oregano near your home will offer protection from evil, and that placing it near your head while sleeping promotes visions and psychic dreams.
Though oregano isn't used as a medicinal herb as often as it once was, herbalists still recommend it for a variety of conditions including gastrointestinal distress and discomfort. It is a rich source of nutrients, including antioxidants, minerals and vitamin K. It also has antibacterial properties that make it effective when used in a healing paste or dressing. Oregano oil is thought to be very effective in the treatment of giardia, a common infectious parasite.
In the West, we associate oregano strongly with Italian dishes like spaghetti and pizza. It’s also a great complement to poultry dishes and turkey stuffing and is essential to the popular Middle Eastern spice blend za'atar, which is used in vegetable dishes and on grilled meats.
Oregano is an easy-to-grow perennial that doesn't need a ton of watering and can thrive in many kinds of soils, though it's best if the soil is well-draining. Oregano isn't fond of too much moisture and loves full sun.