Most of us have only ever reached for the oregano when we’re making a pasta sauce, or want to pep up a pizza. But the traditional herbal remedy has a whole host of health benefits to be discovered.
What makes oregano effective?
Oregano is a good source of vitamins A, C, E, K and B6, not to mention fibre, folate, iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. But its real health benefits come from a potent blend of plant compounds – namely carvacrol, thymol, eugenol and beta-caryophyllin – that can take on almost anything life throws at them.
Carvacrol and thymol are powerful antioxidants. This means they help to prevent free radicals from causing oxidative damage to our cells, which is linked to conditions such as heart disease and dementia.
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It’s an anti-fungal too
It’s not just an antioxidant – oregano is also a prize fungal fighter. Candida albicans is a yeast found in the guts and mouths of 40-60% of healthy adults. In some people, this fungal yeast grows too quickly and leads to candidiasis. Candidiasis may cause oral or vaginal thrush, and can have serious health implications for people whose immune systems are already compromised.
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Researchers think that oregano oil may be a promising complementary therapy for those with candidiasis. A US study published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry in 2001 reported that oregano oil inhibited the growth of C. albicans by up to 75%.
Topical application of oregano oil may also help with fungal nail and skin infections. In 2007, Japanese researchers tested the effectiveness of 11 different essential oils against the fungi that cause athlete’s foot. Oregano oil was the most successful.
An effective anti-bacterial
Oregano can battle bacteria and other little nasties. In a 2009 lab study, researchers from the University of Karachi in Pakistan pitted oregano against 23 different types of bacteria, including staphylococcus saprophyticus, and oregano won.
In a US study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2000, patients infected with intestinal parasites were given a 600mg dose of emulsified oregano oil every day. After six weeks of oregano oil supplementation, all signs of parasites had disappeared in 10 out of 13 cases.
Your go-to anti-viral?
Viruses aren’t safe from oregano either. In a 2014 US laboratory study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, carvacrol inactivated the norovirus within an hour, while a Taiwanese study published in Planta Medica in 2012 found that a combination of thymol and carvacrol could disable the herpes simplex type 1 virus by 90% within the same time.
Oregano may also help with the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. Israeli researchers discovered that a spray containing oregano oil significantly improved symptoms of sore throat, hoarseness and coughing for 60 patients within 20 minutes.
How to use oregano
- add fresh or dried oregano to sauces, soups and roasts
- take it as a liquid tincture – ask a medical herbalist for advice on dosage
- put a few drops of oregano oil in a bowl of hot water and inhale the vapours.
- try oregano supplements
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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