You may already know that oregano is the “secret” herb that takes tomato sauce to a new level of savory and can even put flavor in butter sauces and chicken dishes that have people begging you for your recipes.

Oregano is an ancient, perennial herb, being an integral cooking ingredient in what is now known as Eurasia for thousands of years. The entire Mediterranean is well acquainted with this food-enhancing spice, but it’s probably no surprise that Greece and Italy are noted as the regions where it most likely originated.

Because it’s related to mint, which is from the menthe family of plants, you may detect a similarly cool but distinctive essence when you crush a leaf from the oregano plant between your fingers. Oregano has many of the same therapeutic qualities as mint, and the scent may also remind you of thyme.

Strolling through a garden that includes oregano, you may not be overwhelmed by the scent and aroma nearly as much as when the herb is dried. Greek oregano, or Origanum heracleoticum, is the variety recommended for your culinary endeavors.

As an herb, it makes sense that oregano provides health benefits. You might be surprised how many there are, though, and that the powerful properties extend throughout your whole body. Organic farm Floral Encounters offers a succinct account of the traditional uses for oregano:

“The leaves and flowering stems have a strong antiseptic effect and a tincture of tea is used to treat colds, influenza, mild feverish illnesses, indigestion, stomach upsets and painful menstruation.