Oregano is a flowering plant in the mint family which, when dried, is well-known for adding an enhanced flavour to a variety of culinary dishes. Its numerous varieties, which range in taste from slightly bitter to pungent and peppery, are used in dishes from the Mediterranean to Mexico. The use of oregano for medicinal purposes dates back to the ancient Greeks, and its antibacterial properties have since been used to support healing worldwide.
While oregano can be prepared as a tea or used in aromatic therapy for the treatment of physical or psychological ailments, oil of oregano has been particularly noted by researchers in recent years for its ability to support immunity and prevent a great deal of illnesses.
Oil of oregano is made by steam distilling the flowers and leaves of the oregano plant—which produces oregano essential oils—then diluted in a carrier oil, such as olive oil. To disambiguate, oil of oregano differs from oregano oil which is oregano infused into an oil, though the two terms are at times used interchangeably.
Of its vast array of uses, oil of oregano is most commonly noted for its ability to support the prevention and healing of respiratory infections. The abundance of thymol and caravcrol in oregano inhibit the growth of bacteria such as, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus which are frequently responsible for respiratory issues. Therefore, those prone to or suffering from colds, flus, coughs, sore throats, or bronchitis can benefit from the consumption of oil of oregano.
Digestive disorders are often overlooked as health issues despite their prevalence in our society. Oil of oregano can improve the digestive process by stimulating the flow of bile into the digestive organs which also keeps cholesterol levels down and helps to prevent gallstones. Nutrient absorption increases as the body is better able to break foods down due to the increase in secretion of digestive enzymes. In turn, oil of oregano helps to alleviate bowel issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and bloating.
The presence of carvacrol is also key in promoting digestion since it suppresses between 97-to-100 per cent of harmful pathogens compared to a mere three-to-five per cent of probiotic species, also known as good bacteria. This advantage over antibiotics illustrates what is perhaps most notable about oil of oregano. Unlike antibiotics, bacteria are unable to grow resistant to oil of oregano since essential oils interfere with the bacteria’s ability to breathe. When bacteria grow resistant to an antibiotic, new generations need to be developed which wreak more havoc on the digestive system. Although antibiotics are arguably of use in certain medical situations, their side effects include the destruction of probiotics and the reduction of vitamin absorption as they damage the digestive lining.
Oil of oregano’s antibacterial properties allow it to inhibit the growth of bacteria which causes ailments ranging from athlete’s foot to urinary tract infections. Its addition to food can prevent food poisoning, and can be used to reduce existing food poisoning symptoms. Additionally, studies have shown its effectiveness against parasites, like Giardia, while also being more effective in treatment than antibiotics such as Tinidazol. Externally, the oil offers protection from parasites such as mosquitos and lice.
The rosmarinic acid present in the oil is an antioxidant that prevents free radical damage which is crucial to inhibiting the aging process. Rosmarinic acid is also beneficial for those suffering from allergies and works as an antihistamine to reduce symptoms of allergy attacks.
The two species of oregano effective for healing are Origanum vulgare and Thymus capitatus. Appropriate dosage amounts vary for chronic illnesses, however acute infections are typically treated for no more than 10 days in a row. As with any remedy, individuals are advised to seek the support of a healthcare practitioner and read the manufacturer’s instructions as active ingredients will vary.