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Oregano (Origanum vulgare L.)


pharmaceuticalHerba Origani
AlbanianRigon i egër, Rigoni i zakonshëm, Çaj mali
Arabicصعتر بري
صَعْتَرُ بَرّي
Anrar, Satar barri
Aramaicܩܘܪܢܝ, ܕܪܫܝܪܓܢ, ܐܪܝܓܢܘܢ, ܕܪܡܩ, ܡܪܘܐ
Qurni, Drashirigan, Origanon, Dramaq, Marwa
BasqueAitz belarr, Loragiño, Oregano
奧勒崗 [ngou lahk gòng], 牛至 [ngàuh ji]
Ngou lahk gong, Ngauh ji
奧勒崗 [ào lè gǎng], 牛至 [niú zhì], 奧勒崗草 [ào lè gāng cǎo], 奧勒岡 [ào lè gāng]
Ao le gang, Niu zhi, Ao le gang cao
Copticⲉⲛⲅ, ⲉⲡⲟⲩⲛⲅ, ⲡⲟⲩⲛⲕ
Eng, Epoung, Pounk
CroatianMravinac, Origano
CzechOregáno, Dobromysl
DutchWilde Marjolein
EnglishWild marjoram, Oregan
EsperantoOrdinara origano, Origano
EstonianHarilik pune, Pune
Farsiآویشن کوهی, اوريگانو
Avishan kuhi, Origano
FrenchMarjolaine bâtarde, Marjolaine sauvage, Origan, Pelevoué, Marazolette, Penevoué, Thé rouge, Thym de berger, Doste
GaelicOragan, Origan
GermanOregano, Wilder Majoran, Dost, Kostets
GreekΡίγανη; Δίκταμος
Rigani; Diktamos (Origanum dictamnus)
Greek (Old)Ὀρίγανον, Ὀνῖτις
Origanon; Onitis (Origanum onites)
HungarianOregánó, Szurokfű; vadmajoránna, Kaslók, Fekete gyopár
IcelandicOreganó, Bergminta
ItalianErba acciuga, Origano
ハナハッカ, オレガノ
Hana-hakka, Oregano
KazakhКиикот, Киишөп
Kiikot, Kiišöp
LithuanianPaprastasis raudonėlis
Nepaliसजीवन, सथ्रा, रामतुलसी
Sajivan, Sathra, Ramtulsi
NorwegianKung, Bergmynte
PolishDziki majeranek, Lepiodka pospolita, Oregano
PortugueseOrégão, Orégano, Oregâos
ProvençalMajurano fero
RomanianOregano, Sovârf, Măgheran sălbatic, Arigan, Rigan
SerbianОригано, Дивљи мажуран, Враниловка, Вранилова трава
Origano, Divlji mažuran, Vranilovka, Vranilova trava
SlovakPamajorán obyčajný, Oregano
SwedishOregano, Vild Mejram, Kungsmynta
TurkishKekik otu, İzmir kekiği, Güvey otu, Kekikotu
UkrainianМатеринка, Материнка звичайна
Materynka, Materynka zvichajna
Origanum vulgare: Oregano, Italian type
Flowering Oregano. This Italian cultivar has an exceptionally intensive flavour.
Origanum vulgare: Oregano leaves
Fresh leaves of oregano: left a yellow-coloured cultivar (gold marjoram or gold oregano), right regular oregano

In the countries of the Eastern Medi­terranean, there is often nor clear distinction made between a couple of aromatic herbs of the mint family: Names like Turkish kekik or Arabic zatar/satar [زعتر, صعتر] and related forms in Hebrew and Persian, often in conjunction with qualifying or descriptive adjectives, may be applied to a varity of native herbs including, but not restricted to, oregano, marjoram, thyme and savory. Usage may vary even within a given language, depending on the region and particularly on the local flora. In Jordan, zahtar usually means a spice mixture containing such herbs (see sumac for more).

Used plant part

Leaves. The dried herb is often more flavourful than the fresh (see also thyme on this phenomenon).

Plant family

Lamiaceae (mint family).

Sensory quality

Aromatic, warm and slightly bitter. Oregano largely varies in intensity: Good quality is so strong that it almost numbs the tongue, but the cultivars adapted to colder climate have often unsatisfactory flavour.

Origanum dictamnus: Marjoram from Crete
Crete oregano with flowers, O. dictamnus
Main con­stituents

The essen­tial oil (max. 4%) may contain variable amounts of the two phenols carvacrol and thymol (see also thyme and savory); furthermore, a variety of monoterpene hydrocarbons (limonene, terpinene, ocimene, caryophyllene, β-bisabolene and p-cymene) and monoterpene alcohols (linalool, 4-terpineol) are reported.

In Mexican ore­gano (Lippia grave­olens) an es­sen­tial oil of very similar con­stitu­tion is found. A typical ana­lysis is as fol­lows: 50% thymol, 12% carv­acrol, 9% p-cymene and a number of further mono­terpenoids (1,8 cineol, γ-terpinene, terpinene-4-ol and terpinene-4-yl acetate) in amounts between 1 and 5%.


Several species of genus Origanum are native to the Medi­terranean, all of which are traded as a spice. The influence of climate, season and soil on the composition of the essential oil is greater than the difference between the various species.

Origanum vulgare: Oregano plant with flowers
Oregano plant with flowers
Origanum vulgare: Inflorescence of Himalayan oregano from Western Nepal
Flowers of Nepali oregano
Origanum vulgare: Himalayan oregano from Western Nepal
Oregano native to Nepal

The most impor­tant species are O. vulgare (pan-Euro­pean, Asian), O. onites (Greece, Asia Minor) and O. hera­cleoticum (Italy, Balkan pen­insular, West Asia). A close­ly related plant is mar­joram from Asia Minor, which, how­ever, diff­ers signi­ficantly in taste, because phenolic com­pounds are missing in its es­sential oil. Some breeds show an flavour inter­mediate between oregano and mar­joram (gold marjoram = gold oregano).

Mexican Oregano stems from the plant Lippia graveolens (Verbenaceae) and is closely related to lemon verbena. Although only loosely related to oregano, Mexican oregano displays a flavour very similar to that of oregano, albeit stronger. It is increasingly traded, especially in the US. Its strong aroma makes it an acceptable substitute for epazote leaves if the latter are not available; this wouldn’t work the other way round, though.

There is a sig­nificant taxo­nomic confusion about the term oregano in Mexican cooking. Several plants are named thus in different parts of México, and there is little clear information about those. Some plants that have been identified as Mexican Oregano are Poliomintha longiflora, Lippia berlandieri and Plectranthus amboinicus (syn. Coleus aromaticus).


The Greek name ori­ganon [ὀρί­γανον] might well contain oros [ὄρος] moun­tain, and the verb ganou­sthai [γανοῦ­σθαι] delight in, be­cause oregano pre­fers higher alti­tude in Medi­terra­nean climate. Some Scandi­navian names also contain an element of that kind: Nor­wegian bergmynte and Icelandic berg­minta moun­tain mint and Finnish mäki­meirami hill marjoram; a parallel forma­tion exists in Farsi, avishan kuhi [آویشن کوهی] mountain marjoram. Oregano is indeed related to mint and marjoram, be­longing to the same plant family Lamia­ceae.

Yet that explanation also has its faults. First, the ancient plant called origanon [ὀρίγανον] is not clearly identified; it could well have been a related species, e. g., marjoram, as the two have often been confused in the course of history. Second, a pre-Greek origin of origanon has also been suggested (possibly dervied from a Semitic tongue of Western Asia or Northern Africa). Confusingly, rosemary bears names with the element mountain in Arabic and Farsi.

Names for Oregano in the large majority of European languages are very similar, or even the same: The spice is named oregano not only in English, but also in German, Danish, Polish and even Hebrew (written אורגנו). Minor spelling modification occur some other languages, e. g., Czech oregáno, Spanish orégano, Icelandic oreganó, Italian origano, Catalan orenga, Irish Gaelic oragán and Portuguese orégão. Only a few languages have the name significantly changed: Maltese riegnu and Greek rigani [ρίγανη], which was transferred to Albanian (rigon) and Bulgarian (rigan [риган]).

Many tongues name oregano as wild marjoram, e. g., German wilder Majoran, Swedish vild mejram, Hungarian vadmajoránna, Polish dziki majeranek, Provençal majurano fero and French marjolaine sauvage and marjolaine bâtarde (bastard marjoram). This is botanically incorrect, because although oregano and marjoram are indeed closely related, one cannot identify the former as the wild form of the latter.

Selected Links

Indian Spices: Oregano ( Ilkas und Ullis Kochecke: Oregano ( via A Pinch of Oregano ( Sorting Origanum names ( Saskatchewan Herb and Spice Association: Oregano Oregano Crop and Food Research: Oregano ( Alles over Oregano / Marjolein ( Herbs by Linda Gilbert: Oregano and Marjoram Desirable Herb and Spice Varieties: Oregano

Origanum samothrake: Greek oregano
Greek oregano
Origanum vulgare: Oregano
Oregano (flowering plant).
Oregano is a condicio sine qua non in Italian cuisine, where it is used for tomato sauces, fried vegetables and grilled meat. To­gether with basil, it makes up for the character of Italian dishes; see parsley on Italian variants of bouquet garni.

The dish most asso­ciated with oregano is pizza, a kind of open pie: Bread dough topped with tasty stuff and baked. Bread of this kind was probably eaten in Southern Italy since centuries; according to the legend, pizza came into existence in 1889, when King Umberto and his wife Margherita sojourned in Napoli (Naples). Pizza, at this time not more than white bread flavoured with tomato paste, was then a popular food for the poor masses. To honour the Queen, a local baker devised a richer kind of pizza: In addition to the red tomato paste, white mozzarella cheese and green basil leaves were employed, thus reflecting the colours of the Italian flag. This invention became known as pizza Margherita and spread all over Italy and, with some delay, over the rest of the world.

Today’s pizze rely more on oregano than on basil, and use a multitude of further ingredients: Ham, sausage, fish, shellfish, mushrooms, artichokes, onion, garlic, olives, capers, rocket, anchovies and more make pizza a sophisticated delicacy, although it had once been the poor man’s sandwich.

Oregano can effec­tively com­bined with pickled olives and capers or lovage leaves; other than most Italian herbs, oregano har­monizes even with hot and spicy food, as is popular in Southern Italy. The cuisines of other Medi­terranean countries make less use of it, but it is of some importance for Spanish and French cooking.

In Greece, oregano is one of the more popular herbs and usually employed in the dried state. Like in Italy, it is valued together with the acidic flavours of pickled olives and feta cheese [φέτα], for example in the so-called Greek salad (choriatiki salata [χωριάτικη σαλάτα]). Moreover, oregano flavour grilled meats; it is used for the vertical rotating spit roast meat gyros [γύρος], and also for its Turkish counterpart, döner; also, the charcoal-roasted skewered lamb pieces souvlaki [σουβλάκι] are sprinkled with oregano.

Outside the Mediterranean region, oregano is, rather surprisingly, little in use, except among Italian immigrants. The very similar, but stronger, taste of Mexican oregano (see above) is popular not only in its native country México, but also in the south of the US, where it is frequently used to flavour chili con carne (meat stewed with chiles and sometimes beans) or other México-inspired dishes. For this purpose, it is mostly combined with several varieties of chiles and paprika, dried garlic or onion and cumin.

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