When you think of oregano, what first comes to mind?
If you are a fan of either Greek or Italian food, you should almost certainly be picturing a fresh Greek salad of cucumbers, olives, onions, and feta cheese, with dried oregano sprinkled on top. On the other hand, if you love Italian pasta, you can probably already smell that pot of pasta sauce, with a generous handful of oregano, which is bubbling away on the stove.
Like many other culinary herbs and spices, such as curry and garlic, oregano has also been around for centuries as a medicinal herb for a wide variety of conditions and illnesses. What are some of these conditions, and how might oregano help?
Forms of oregano oil
In its medicinal form, oregano is usually available as oil, in either liquid or capsule form. The liquid oil can either be applied to the skin or taken it in oral form, depending upon the condition that is being treated. For applying it to the skin, it should be diluted at a ratio of one teaspoon of olive oil to one drop of oregano oil. If your patients are taking it under their tongue, the oil should be mixed with olive oil at a 1:1 ratio. The liquid should be dropped under the tongue, held for three minutes, before being rinsed out with water.
Properties of oregano oil
There are three distinct active ingredients in oregano oil that appear to provide its health beneficial properties:
- Carvacrol: This phenol compound stops the growth of several different bacterial strains.
- Rosmarinic acid: This is a very powerful antioxidant
- Thymol: This is an antifungal that may also boost the immune system
Staphylococcus aureus is one of the most common bacterial strains. It can cause conditions such as food poisoning or certain skin conditions. A 2005 study published in the journal Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods studied the effect of oregano oil on lab mice that had been infected with Staphylococcus.1 Out of the group of 14 mice given oregano oil, six (43 %) survived past 30 days, which was almost equivalent to the group of seven mice out of the 14 (50 percent) who received standard antibiotics.
A study in the 2001 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry looked at the antioxidant levels (measured as oxygen radical absorbance capacity [ORAC] levels) and phenolic concentrations for 39 commonly used medicinal and culinary herbs.2
Overall, the culinary herbs had higher ORAC and phenolic concentrations than did the medicinal herbs. Three varieties of oregano had the highest phenolic and ORAC concentrations of all the tested herbs. The researchers thought this may have been due to oregano’s rosmarinic acid levels.2
Yeast is a type of fungus that is usually harmless, but can result in a number of digestive, reproductive, and infectious issues if it becomes overgrown. A 2010 article in the Brazilian Journal of Microbiology examined the effectiveness of oregano oil on 16 different strains of Candida.3 It was found to be approximately as effective as medication and could be a useful alternative.
This research shows that oregano carries on the same tradition as several other herbs and spices. They all serve dual purposes as both a way to complement the flavor of food and as an effective medicinal alternative to pharmaceuticals to treat many illnesses.
- Preuss HG, Echard B, Dadgar A, et al. (2005). Effects of essential oils and monolaurin on Staphylococcus aureus: In vitro and in vivo studies. Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods, 15(4), 279-285.
- Zheng W, Wang SY. (2001) Antioxidant activity and phenolic compounds in selected herbs. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 49(11), 5165-5170.
- Cleff MB, Meinerz AR, Xavier M, et al. (2010). In vitro activity of Origanum vulgare essential oil against Candida species. Brazilian Journal of Microbiology, 41(1), 116-123.