Ecology, Cultivation and Utilization of the Aromatic Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare L.): A Review
Medicinal and aromatic plants represent a stable part of the natural biodiversity legacy of many countries in the world. The present review focuses on oregano (Origanum vulgare L.; family Lamiaceae), an endemic herb in Greece that constitutes one of the best known aromatic and medicinal plants originating in the Mediterranean region. In particular, oregano is an evergreen, rich in natural compounds perennial plant that received increased attention in the last years for a wide range of uses. Oregano dry leaves and inflorescences in mixture are used as human and animal food that is extremely rich in antioxidative properties. Additionally, its essential oil is rich in carvacrol, thymol, c-terpinene and p-cymene, and is used for a number of medicinal purposes, e.g. for inhibiting microbial and fungal toxin production as well as for the well-known anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiarthritic, antiallergic, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, cardioprotective, gastroprotective, hepatoprotective, and neuroprotective properties. Due to its perfect quality and high essential oil concentration, Greek oregano (O. vulgare ssp. hirtum) is regarded among the best in the world gaining in popularity in the global markets for food industry applications. Consequently, oregano might be considered as an important low-input, environmental friendly commodity for extensive cultivation in Greece. The present review summarizes on the origin, the morphology, the ecology and the utilization of this plant. Despite the extensive literature available on the use of oregano biomass and essential oil, only few reports exist concerning the cultivation of this plant. Therefore, the present review is additionally focused on the cultivation practices and the importance of cultivation and utilization of Origanum vulgare L. in Greece and generally in the Mediterranean region in the near future, as it constitutes a plant species with high medical, economic and environmental value.
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