Plectranthus amboinicus or Cuban oregano is a sprawling, slightly juicy plant, which grows up to a height of 1 meter. While the plants are horizontal at the base, their branchlets are ascending and densely covered with bristles. The leaves have petioles, which are anything between 1 cm and 4.5 cm in length. The petioles are compactly pubescent, while the blades are plump. The shape of the leaves varies from roughly ovate to rhombic, sub-orbicular or kidney-shaped to rounded to truncate and afterward usually long and slender at their base, while being thick or curved at the apex. Along the margin, the leaves are roughly crenate (having notched or scalloped margins in order to form rounded teeth) to dentate (tooth-like projections) or complete near the base. The leaves are closely pressed (appressed) as well as pubescent both above as well as beneath.
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The vericils number about 10 to 20 and they are open, sub-globose and arranged in the terminals. The inflorescences are densely pubescent and about 10 cm to 20 cm in length, while the bracts are anything between 3 mm and 4 mm long. The pedicels are thin, hairy and measure about 5 mm in length. The calyx is campanulate, measuring about 1.5 mm to 4 mm in length. The calyx is hairy and glandular, with the higher lip being straight, and generally ovate or oblong shaped. The other teeth are thin and acute. The color of the corolla varies from light blue or mauve (light purple) to pink and measures about 8 mm to 12 mm in length. The corolla is tubular and expands distally. The upper lip is erect and puberulent and measures 4.5 mm x 3 mm, while the lower lip is concave and measures about 5 - 6 mm x 4 mm. The stamens appear as filaments that are generally merged into a tube around the style. The nutlets are smooth, light brown in color and measure about 0.7 mm x 0.5 mm.
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Cuban oregano is a green leafy herb and its leaves are widely used all over the Caribbean Islands and East Asia for culinary as well as medicinal purposes. Similar to other oregano varieties, Cuban oregano also belongs to the mint family.
In all probability, this herb was first introduced to the inhabitants of Haiti in the Caribbean in the 1800s when the region was under French occupation. In Cuba, this plant is locally known as the French oregano or oregano frances.
Cuban oregano leaves have several conventional therapeutic utilities; they are particularly used for treating sore throats, cough and cold and even nasal congestion. In addition, these leaves are also used for treating a variety of other different disorders, including infections, flatulence and rheumatism.
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Yerberos, people who practice herbal medicine in Cuba, prepare a tea from the leaves of this herb. This tea is consumed to cure digestive disorders, respiratory problems and arthritis. In Indonesia, Cuban oregano is known as daun kambing. People in this country add the dried out leaves of the herb in soup and give it to nursing mothers to improve breast milk production. On the other hand, herbalists in India blend Cuban oregano with sugar to prepare syrup, which has been traditionally used to cure sore throats and cough. People in India also therapeutically use Cuban oregano for curing cough.
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Many gardeners rub the leaves of Cuban oregano on their skin with a view to keep insects away. The leaves of this herb have a very potent aroma. According to some people, the smell of Cuban oregano leaves is similar to a blend of sage and very potent oregano. The aroma of Cuban oregano is said to counteract capsaicin, the chemical compound present in peppers and responsible for their spiciness. Often people are advised to chew Cuban oregano leaves with a view to calm the burning sensation due to consumption of very spicy foods.
Traditional healers in Haiti fry Cuban oregano leaves to extract the enclosed oil and use it in the form of a chest rub for treating bronchitis and various other breathing disorders. In the West, practitioners of herbal and holistic medicine also value Cuban oregano for the herb's antiseptic and antioxidant attributes. However, it is important to note that Cuban oregano is not the plant which is widely used in supplements containing oregano oil. The scientific/ botanical name of the variety of oregano that is used in oregano oil supplements is Origanum vulgare, denoting the common oregano.
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Therapeutically, the juice obtained from the leaves of Cuban oregano is recommended for treating conditions like asthma, dyspepsia, bronchitis, coughs, chronic coughs, pain in the region of the stomach and heart, problems related to the kidneys and bladder, urinary problems, vaginal discharges, epilepsy, jaundice, scurvy, colic in children, suppressed menstruation and urine, and rheumatism. This herb is also prescribed after childbirth and it alleviates dropsy and sour stomach. In addition, Cuban oregano is effective in expelling gas formed in the stomach as well as bowels.
The leaves of Cuban oregano have a number of culinary uses, especially they are used for flavouring meat and stuffing. In addition, these leaves are also used as a replacement for sage.
The leaves of this herb have a potent flavour and they are a wonderful addition when used to stuff poultry and meat. You can also use delicately chopped leaves of Cuban oregano to add essence to meat dishes, particularly game, lamb and beef.
It is worth mentioning that Cuban oregano is also employed in the form of a alternate for oregano, especially in the food market and products that are labelled "oregano-flavored" may actually enclose this herb.
Cuban oregano leaf has a marked pungent taste and some consider it to be akin to that of thyme. Adding only one extremely delicately chopped Cuban oregano leaf to stuffing in the Western-style bread delivers enjoyable results.
Cuban oregano grows effortlessly, provided the soil is well-drained and the plants are grown in a partial shade. Plants of this species grow excellently in places having tropical and sub-tropical climatic conditions. They also do well when grown in cooler locations, especially if grown in containers and moved indoors or transferred to a sheltered place during the winter months. However, this herb is extremely susceptible to frost. It is important that you only water the plants moderately.
Cuban oregano variety having plain green leaves grows best when they are cultivated in partial shade, while the color of the variegated type or "Variegatus' seems to be more prominent when grown in complete sunlight or semi-shade. Provided the plants are cultivated in a sheltered place, the spreading partially horizontal stems of Cuban oregano are able to grow randomly and freely over the ground forming an excellent ground cover. In such conditions, this sprawling plant will possibly even run over small shrubs.
On the other hand, it has been found that when the common green leaf form is grown in complete sunlight, the plans show sun stress and this may result in the leaves becoming pale and rather bleached. Contrarily, the variegated variety of Cuban oregano turns out to be denser having comparatively short internodes and having compact and chunky leaves. The red tint of the leaves also becomes more vivid, particularly when the plants are grown in a comparatively arid season.
This herb has fleshy leaves and grows partially prostrate. It is believed to be indigenous to Africa and found growing in the wild in Malaysia. This plant is very common in gardens in Australia and is also common in other places where the species is grown in the form of an herb garden plant or pot specimen. In places having tropical and sub-tropical regions, Cuban oregano is generally grown outdoors, while it is grown indoors in places that are prone to frosts.
Cuban oregano is generally propagated by means of root division, preferably undertaken during spring. You may also propagate this herb any time of the year from stem-tip cuttings. If you wish to propagate Cuban oregano from its seeds, it is essential to sow the seeds at temperatures ranging from 66°F to 75°F immediately when they ripen.
The young Cuban oregano plants are often attacked by mealy bugs and spider mites, and are affected by leaf spots, which will result in root rot.
Cuban oregano is an exceptional, chunky-leafed herb that is used for seasoning cooked foods in the Caribbean Islands. The stems of this plant are delicate, while the foliage is colourful - resembling the common coleus. The herb grows very sluggishly during the winter, while the growth rate is moderate during summer and spring. Cuban oregano plants develop somewhat insignificant flower stems during the fall. Since the plants are extremely tender, they should essentially be grown in a sheltered place or kept mobile growing them in containers, so as to enable you to move them to a regulated environment during the winter months.
When using therapeutically, the standard dose of the fresh Cuban oregano juice is one tablespoon given once in an hour for adults. To treat children, give one teaspoonful of the freshly obtained juice once in two hours, four times daily. An infusion can be prepared using Cuban oregano leaves by boiling about 50 grams to 60 grams of the leaves in one pint of water. Drink this infusion as tea - four to five glasses every day. Children should be given half cup (125 ml) of the infusion four times daily. It is important to continue this treatment till all the ailments disappear.
It is recommended that you pour some fresh, unadulterated Cuban oregano leaf juice in the ear for treating deafness, noises in the ear or pain and allow it to remain for about 10 minutes. On the other hand, make a poultice using the herb's leaves and apply it to the affected areas for treating boils, carbuncles, painful swellings, felons and nervous problems. Change the poultice at least four times daily.
You may also use Cuban oregano leaves in the form of a heating compress. To do this, obtain several leaves of the herb, heat them up and apply them in the form of a compress to cure sore throat. Prepare a general dose of Cuban oregano herb by adding two tablespoon of dried leaves of the herb to one pint of steaming water. If you are using fresh leaves, increase the number of leaves two-fold, but use the same amount of water. For best results, drink the tea/ infusion an hour prior to or following your meals.
When you wish to add Cuban oregano in your cooking, simply pick the required number of leaves. You may add them to your dish as whole and bring them out just prior to serving.