I write about this plant today, not because it’s a weed, but because it has so many wonderful properties that few people take advantage of. You may know it as Mexican Mint, Mexican Thyme, Broad Leaf Thyme; French or Cuban Thyme, Indian Borage, and a bunch of other names depending on what part of the world you hail from. My personal favourite: Oregano Brujo! (*If you know, you know!)
In Chinese Medicine, it is known as Dao Shou Xiang, and used in formulas to help soothe digestion and relax spasms, and - as a tea - steeped with garlic to help soothe a cough and reduce fever. Some countries like Indonesia use it to treat malaria or epilepsy, and help with milk production in lactating mothers. Others use it for its laxative effects, to expel kidney stones or relieve headache.
In the Caribbean, this can be found growing in pretty much EVERYBODY’S garden as we use it to season our meats, salsas and stews. Nutritionally, it is a great source of vitamin A, C and E plus additional minerals and phosphates.
The fragrance is like a combo of oregano, thyme & sage, and some say camphor (hence the other common name for the genus, Plectranthus tomentosa: “Vicks Salve Plant”). The leaves have a very distinct, fragrant yet pungent smell, and contain 2 chemical compounds reportedly used in Listerine(R) mouthwash and Gold Bond Powder(R) for their antibacterial and antifungal properties. And for all my Homesteaders out there: You can even crush the leaves & mix in the water bowl for your chickens to help boost their immunity as well.
Topically, try bruising the leaves and rubbing it on your skin, and the smell will repel mosquitoes, or inhale the aroma to help relieve chest congestion just as if you had rubbed Vicks on your chest. When I was a kid growing up, I had frequent attacks of bronchitis, and so my Granny always had a bottle of her homemade remedy that included this plant, or she would send me to pick some leaves from the flower-pot on the steps, and so every time I smell it, I am transported back in time to my formative years growing up at the feet of Grandmother-Nature. Especially now in COVID times, I always have a fat leaf in my pocket at work or when I travel, and I take a whiff throughout the day to ‘cleanse my lungs’ (my personal upbringing; Please note this does not constitute medical advice).
In our spiritual practice we use it to attract helpful Fairies, cleanse and protect our space much like how you would sage yourself, your home or objects, or even wear it like an amulet. There is a really great article ("10 Magical Properties of Oregano" by Carla Greenwood) that makes for delightful reading if you'd like some additionall suggestions on how to use not only Cuban Oregano, but oregano in general.
This is a very easy herb to propagate as it needs little care, does not like wet feet, and much like other succulents, it thrives in the Florida sun. If you’re local and you’d like a plant, let me know and I’ll start one for ya! This is the perfect plant to have now that we’re going into cold and flu season! Comment below if you use/like Cuban Oregano too!
Here’s to your health! Happy weeding; Happy eating!
Audrey Steele, L.Ac
Disclaimer: This information is educational in nature only, and is NOT intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader.