Love Oregano? Make Sure You Know How to Maximize its Health BenefitsSupplements
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Oregano is one of the “largest selling” culinary herbs. It is a fragrant herb which is native to the Mediterranean and is commonly used in Italian cooking. Reportedly, Americans consume 379,000 metric tons of oregano per year, and the majority of that is imported.
But this perennial herb isn’t just for spicing up your pizza and elevating your pasta sauce. Oregano, as an essential oil, has a wealth of medicinal properties and can be used both orally and topically.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) published findings that tout oregano as one of the most effective essential oils and supports it as a therapeutic topical medicine to treat acne, skin cancer and other dermal problems.
“These findings along with existing studies largely support the anti-inflammatory, tissue remodeling, immunomodulatory, and anticancer activities of oregano essential oil (OEO). In conclusion, this study provides the first evidence of the biological activity of OEO in human dermal fibroblasts. We suggest that OEO, with carvacrol as the major active component, is a promising candidate for use in skin care products with anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.”
Oregano oil can be taken orally as a spray, in pill or capsule form, topically on the skin, or as a steam inhalant by adding a few drop of OEO a small pot of boiling water and wafting the steam towards your face and nasal passage. It is recommended that you dilute 1 drop of concentrated OEO to 1 teaspoon of either water or olive oil.
Celebrities are huge oregano oil proponents. When asked what her medicine cabinet mainstays were, actress Kristen Bell responded, “Oregano oil. I take it whenever I feel like I'm coming down with a cold.”
Actress Emily Blunt concurs, saying, “I would say if you feel yourself coming down with a cold… You sort of just throw a few drops down there. It’s disgusting, you burn your throat but I do tend to find it shortens the cold.”
“Based on notable research studies, the volatile oils in oregano (thymol and carvacrol) have antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties,” according to one source. These protective benefits may help ward off the common cold and flu.
Celebrities aside, it seems that eating oregano and/or using it in oil form has benefits that date back thousands of years.
The Historically Solid Health Benefits of Oregano
Oregano contains various nutrients like vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, vitamin B6, calcium, and potassium. When administered orally, OEO is said to improve gut health, which in turn boosts the immune system.
Some of the earliest records of using oregano (origanum vulgare) date back to 1600-1200 B.C., when images of the plants were inscribed on tablets by the Hittites of Asia Minor. Sometimes called the “prince of herbs”, the name origanum was first used by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 B.C.).
Historically speaking, oregano seems to have some serious bragging rights. But what about the recent research that has led to its resurgence in modern day health culture?
- Antifungal, antibacterial and may help combat MRSA. Carvacol and thymol, two phytochemicals in oregano, are powerful antimicrobials. Professor Vyv Salisbury shares, "We have done a few preliminary tests and have found that the essential oil from the oregano kills MRSA at a dilution 1 to 1,000. The tests show that the oil kills MRSA both as a liquid and as a vapor and its antimicrobial activity is not diminished by heating in boiling water."
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTI). Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common urinary pathogen and the third-leading cause of UTIs. Oregano oil benefits patients who suffer from UTIs due to its high content of carvacrol, which eradicates the primary pathogen. Wild oregano oil contains 75-85 percent carvacrol. It also inhibits growth of E. Coli.
- Upper Respiratory Infections. Oregano also has potential antiviral benefits. Throat sprays that contain oregano oil may significantly relieve symptoms. The higher the carvacrol concentration, the more effective it is. Interestingly, oregano encourages sweat production as a mode of detox, and ingesting it may help your body get rid of unwanted phlegm in your lungs.
- Cancer-Fighting Benefits. A phytochemical in oregano, carnosol, has also been "evaluated for anti-cancer property in prostate, breast, skin, leukemia, and colon cancer with promising results,” NCBI reports. “There has been a considerable interest in the identification of natural plant foods for developing effective agents against cancer. Thus, the anti-tumor effects of oregano in the in vivo and in vitro breast cancer model were evaluated.”
Any Downsides to Oregano?
While cooking with oregano may not result in any dosage issues or side effects, using it in concentrated form should be taken more seriously. Commercial grade oregano oil is highly concentrated and should be diluted before use.
When used as directed, oregano oil should be safe, but shouldn’t be consumed in high doses. This may be due in part to thymol, one of the phenols it contains. In high doses, thymol is a mild irritant which might affect the skin or internal organs. It can cause:
- Gastric distress
- Central hyperactivity (inappropriate talkativeness)
Oregano oil may cause an allergic reaction in some people. If you’re allergic to oregano or to other plants in the Lamiaceae family, such as mint, sage, basil, and lavender, don’t use oregano oil.
There’s been no medical research done on oregano oil’s safety for pregnant or breastfeeding women. It is advised that women should avoid oregano oil when pregnant or breastfeeding. It is always advised that you consult with a healthcare professional before using any supplement or essential oil for medicinal purposes.
And if you are currently taking any medications, both prescription or over-the counter, speak with your doctor about using oil of oregano oil or including this herb in your diet. You always want to avoid drug interactions.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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