Mexican oregano is not oregano (Origanum vulgare) at all. Rather it is part of the lippia genus. More specifically it is Lippia graveolens. It has a similar smell and taste to oregano though its medicinal properties are unique to this species. Orégano de monte is a plant native to Mexico. In Nahuatl, this spice is called ahuiyac-xihuitl which translates to “fragrant savory herb.” In Maya, the plant is xaak-il-ché or xak’il-ché. In the Huasteca language it’s known as ananté. It is also known as orégano cimarrón or orégano del país.
There are some local names that also refer to other plants in different regions, so care should be taken when identifying the plant. For example, in Puebla, Lippia graveolens is known as salvia. In Coahuila, the same plant is epazote. In certain parts of Oaxaca, this herb is romerillo de monte. Hierba dulce is another common name for this plant which also refers to several other species. Additionally, there are more than 40 species of plants that are called orégano in Mexico.
Traditionally, orégano de monte is used for indigestion caused by gastrointestinal infections, respiratory issues, intestinal parasites, toothache, diabetes management, and to bring on delayed menstruation. It should not be used during pregnancy. In high doses, it can provoke vomiting. It is also to season meat, pozole, salsa, fish, menudo, and other savory dishes.
Lippia graveolens has antioxidant, anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, antibiotic, and anti-glycemic properties. It is useful in the treatment of dyspepsia. It also is effective in reducing anxiety. Orégano de monte has a high concentration of monoterpenes supporting its use in the treatment of respiratory issues. Several studies have shown it is an effective agent against ticks and diseases caused by protozoans such as malaria, trypanosomiasis, and giardiasis.
To eliminate intestinal parasites, add a spoonful of epazote leaves (Dysphania ambrosioides), and a sprig of orégano de monte (Lippia graveolens), tomillo (Thymus), and yerba buena (Mentha spicata) to a cup of boiling water. Drink 3 cups a day on an empty stomach.
For toothache, moisten a cotton ball in the essential oil and place it on the problem tooth for relief. Make an infusion from the leaves to make a compress for bruises, soreness, and swelling. Simmer a sprig of orégano de monte (Lippia graveolens) and romero (Salvia rosmarinus) in a cup of water. Strain and drink for a gasy stomach.
Treatment for bilis (liver buildup as a result of anger, hence an anxiety issue) boil one liter of water. Add equal parts albahaca (Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon), estafiate (Artemisia ludoviciana), yerba buena (Mentha spicata), and orégano de monte (Lippia graveolens). Simmer the herbs for 10 minutes. Strain. Drink one cup a day on an empty stomach for nine days.
Want to learn a new way to look at plants? Discover common traditional medicine practiced in Mexico today in the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series.