Oregano is a fragrant herb that’s best known as an ingredient in Italian food.
However, it can also be concentrated into an essential oil that’s loaded with antioxidants and powerful compounds that have proven health benefits.
Oregano oil is the extract and, although it’s not as strong as the essential oil, it appears to be useful both when consumed or applied to the skin. Essential oils, on the other hand, are not meant to be consumed.
Interestingly, oregano oil is an effective natural antibiotic and antifungal agent, and it may help you lose weight and lower your cholesterol levels.
Botanically known as Origanum vulgare, oregano is a flowering plant from the same family as mint. It’s often used as an herb to flavor food.
Although it’s native to Europe, it now grows all over the world.
Oregano has been popular ever since the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations used it for medicinal purposes. In fact, the name oregano comes from the Greek words “oros,” meaning mountain, and “ganos,” meaning joy or delight.
The herb has also been used for centuries as a culinary spice.
Oregano essential oil is made by air-drying the leaves and shoots of the plant. Once they’re dried, the oil is extracted and concentrated by steam distillation.
Oregano essential oil can be mixed with a carrier oil and applied topically. However, it should not be consumed orally.
Oregano oil extract, on the other hand, can be produced via several extraction methods using compounds like carbon dioxide or alcohol. It’s widely available as a supplement and can often be found in pill or capsule form.
Oregano contains compounds called phenols, terpenes, and terpenoids. They have powerful antioxidant properties and are responsible for their fragrance.
- Carvacrol. The most abundant phenol in oregano, it has been shown to stop the growth of several different types of bacteria.
- Thymol. This natural antifungal can also support the immune system and protect against toxins.
- Rosmarinic acid. This powerful antioxidant helps protect against damage caused by free radicals.
These compounds are thought to underlie oregano’s many health benefits.
Here are 9 potential benefits and uses of oregano oil.
The Staphylococcus aureus bacterium is one of the most common causes of infection, resulting in ailments like food poisoning and skin infections.
One particular study looked at whether oregano essential oil improved the survival of 14 mice infected with Staphylococcus aureus.
It found that 43% of the mice given oregano essential oil lived past 30 days, a survival rate nearly as high as the 50% survival rate for mice that received regular antibiotics.
Research has also shown that oregano essential oil may be effective against some potentially antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
This includes Pseudomonas aeruginosa and E. coli, both of which are common causes of urinary and respiratory tract infections.
Although more human studies on the effects of oregano oil extract are needed, it contains many of the same compounds as oregano essential oil and may offer similar health benefits when used as a supplement.
May help lower cholesterol
In one study, 48 people with mildly high cholesterol were given diet and lifestyle advice to help lower their cholesterol. Thirty-two participants were also given 0.85 ounces (25 mL) of oregano oil extract after each meal.
After 3 months, those given the oregano oil had lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and higher HDL (good) cholesterol, compared with those who were just given diet and lifestyle advice.
Carvacrol, the main compound in oregano oil, has also been shown to help lower cholesterol in mice that were fed a high fat diet over 10 weeks.
The mice given carvacrol alongside the high-fat diet had significantly lower cholesterol at the end of the 10 weeks, compared with those that were just given a high-fat diet.
The cholesterol-lowering effect of oregano oil is thought to be the result of the phenols carvacrol and thymol.
Antioxidants help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.
It’s thought that free radical damage plays a role in aging and the development of some diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.
Free radicals are everywhere and a natural product of metabolism.
However, they can build up in the body through exposure to environmental factors, such as cigarette smoke and air pollutants.
One older test-tube study compared the antioxidant content of 39 commonly used herbs and found that oregano had the highest concentration of antioxidants.
It found that oregano contained 3–30 times the levels of antioxidants in the other herbs studied, which included thyme, marjoram, and St. John’s wort.
Gram per gram, oregano also has 42 times the antioxidant level of apples and 4 times that of blueberries. This is thought to be mostly due to its rosmarinic acid content.
Because oregano oil extract is very concentrated, you need much less oregano oil to reap the same antioxidant benefits as you would from fresh oregano.
Could help treat yeast infections
Yeast is a type of fungus. It can be harmless, but overgrowth can result in gut problems and infections, such as thrush.
The most well-known yeast is Candida, which is the most common cause of yeast infections worldwide.
In test-tube studies, oregano essential oil has been found to be effective against five different types of Candida, such as those that cause infections in the mouth and vagina. In fact, it was more effective than any other essential oil tested.
Test-tube studies have also found that carvacrol, one of the main compounds of oregano oil, is very effective against oral Candida.
High levels of the yeast Candida have also been associated with some gut conditions. Such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
A test-tube study on the effectiveness of oregano essential oil on 16 different strains of Candida concluded that oregano oil may be a good alternative treatment for Candida yeast infections. However, more research is needed. 🙂 🙂