If you like Italian food, you’re going to love what I have to say today! We are going to talk about three of the most important green herbs in Italian food. For those who cook Italian you will definitely know what I’m talking about, and for those of you who don’t know how, never fear, the Italian cooking wonder is here!
The three most important herbs in Italian cooking are bay leaves, marjoram, and oregano. (Basil is also important but we have already sung its wonders in a previous article).
Scientifically bay leave (also known as bay laurel) is called Laurus Nobilis, and is an evergreen herb, mostly grown in Asia and the Mediterranean. This herb has been used since ancient times, and was considered the herb of champions. Haven’t you ever heard of “resting on your laurels”? (That is when people who are winners get lazy). In ancient Greece and Rome, poets and others were crowned with wreathes of bay laurel, in honor. Also, at that time and after people believed that bay leaves could protect people against evil and disease. Although this herb is mostly used in cooking (and is imperative for a great Italian tomato sauce, but only for flavoring, not for eating), there are plenty of medicinal uses as well. Bay is good for muscle aches and pains, rheumatism and arthritis (for which it is apparently like a miracle), colds, bronchitis, and the flu, stomach ailments (also gassiness), and skin problems (like rashes). It is said that pregnant women shouldn’t take bay leaf though, because it is very astringent and might cause contractions. It is also good to help bring down a fever, and is supposed be great for diabetics, being particularly helpful in metabolizing sugar.
In order to treat with bay leaves, you can make a nice light tea with the leaves, or make an infusion and use it for hot compresses on achy muscles and joints. It can be used as a poultice on the chest (for flu, bronchitis, etc), and directly on bruises, sprains, etc. And low and behold, putting a few in your drawers or closets will help to keep the moths and other bugs out.
Now, the deal with oregano and marjoram is that they are from the same “Origanum” family, and are basically the same. They are both native to the Mediterranean areas, although they are also found in the Sham areas (like Syria, for example), as well as practically everywhere else around the world now as well. Oregano is stronger than marjoram, which has a very mild, sweet flavor. Interestingly, all marjorams are oreganos, but not all oreganos are marjorams. Go figure! Oregano is known scientifically as Origanum vulgare (which is also known as wild marjoram), while marjoram is known as Origanum majorana L. What’s even stranger is that they act the same in some ways, and very differently in others. Oregano is considered a winter herb, while marjoram is considered a summer one. It would be ideal to use marjoram fresh, but it isn’t available in Kuwait like that unless you grow it yourself, so dried will probably have to do. You can usually find it in the grocer’s herb and spice section of any larger supermarket. Oregano can also be used fresh, but here in Kuwait is probably only available in dried form. Don’t confuse it with some kinds of what they call “zaatar” here in Kuwait. That’s not really what it is.
These herbs are also known to be good for diabetes, and they are both antibacterial and antifungal. There is nothing better for an upset stomach than marjoram, and it is also amazing for sore throats. It is one of the most soothing herbs I have ever seen, and can reduce swelling practically immediately. These herbs have also been used since ancient times, and again, the ancient Greeks and Romans used to love both.
Marjoram and oregano are both great for stomach problems, colic, and many people say headaches. They are also good for colds, flu, fever, and cough. You can also take it for relaxing because it is so soothing that many use it as a sedative. People who have menstrual problems use marjoram and oregano to soothe the cramping. If you suffer from arthritis or rheumatism, you will also find relief in these two herbs, and you can both drink it and use it externally. Both oregano and marjoram are great for getting rid of swelling and can also be taken both internally and used externally for that purpose. If you suffer from edema, then a nice light tea will help if you drink it on a regular basis, and swelling due to injury will be greatly relieved with both of these herbs. You can use an infusion with compresses for relief.
Like bay, both oregano and marjoram are supposed to be very helpful for those who suffer with diabetes, and they are said to help the body metabolize the sugar taking the place of the missing insulin. Marjoram is good for high blood pressure and more. They both are also great for liver problems and gall stones.
Oregano has been found to be so high in antioxidants that it leaves even garlic in the rear, and if you’ve been watching Oprah in the past year, you will have seen a program talking about super foods, and how great blueberries, etc, are. Well, I have news for you! Statistically, oregano beats them all. Listen to this. From an antioxidant point of view, according to an Internet source, oregano has: 4 times more than blueberries, 12 times more than oranges, 30 times more than potatoes, and 42 times more than apples! Now that is incredible!
But, don’t overdo any of these herbs, because they can be harmful. Always remember, in herbal medicine, less is more. Go light on any herb you take and you will never have a problem. When you make any herbal tea, always make your tea as light as possible. You want a light green color, nothing dark! Keep that as a rule, and you will never go wrong.
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