Oregano is an important culinary and medicinal herb that has been used in medicine and cooking for thousands of years - with a number of potential health benefits. It is a species of Origanum, belonging to the mint family (Lamiaceae).
Its name comes from the Greek words oros (mountain) and ganos (joy).
Oregano typically grows 50 cm tall and has purple leaves around 2 to 3 centimeters in length.
The chemicals that give the herb its unique and pleasant smell are thymol, pinene, limonene, carvacrol, ocimene, and caryophyllene
Not only does oregano provide food flavor, there are also a substantial number of health claims associated with its potent antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties.
Possible health benefits of Oregano
Oregano has a very pleasant aromatic scent.
The herb is used to treat respiratory tract disorders, gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, menstrual cramps, and urinary tract disorders.
Oregano is also a rich source of:
- Vitamin K - an important vitamin which promotes bone growth, the maintenance of bone density, and the production of blood clotting proteins.
- Dietary antioxidants - a report published in the Journal of Nutrition revealed that oregano contains very high concentrations of antioxidants1 (i.e., >75 mmol/100 g).
Antioxidants help protect your cells against the effects of free radicals and improve your ability to fight infection.
1) Antibacterial propertiesOregano has shown antimicrobial activity in a number of studies. A group of Portuguese researchers found that Origanum vulgare essential oils were effective against 41 strains of the food pathogen Listeria monocytogenes2.
Oregano oil is a powerful antimicrobial, because it contains an essential compound called carvacol.
A team of British and Indian researchers reported that the essential oil of Himalayan oregano has strong antibacterial properties that can even kill the hospital superbug MRSA.
Professor Vyv Salisbury, who was part of the research, said
"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."
2) Anti-inflammatory properties
Scientists at Bonn University, Germany, and the ETH Zurich, Switzerland, identified an active ingredient in oregano - known as beta-caryophyllin (E-BCP) - which may possibly be of use against disorders such as osteoporosis and arteriosclerosis.
3) Protecting against cancerBiologists at the United Arab Emirates University reported in the journal PLoS ONE that oregano exhibits anticancer activity by encouraging cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (cancer cells commit suicide) of the MDA-MB-231 breast cancer line.
The scientists concluded "Our findings identify Origanum majorana as a promising chemopreventive and therapeutic candidate that modulate breast cancer growth and metastasis." Put simply, they believe components in oregano may help slow down or prevent the progression of cancer3 in patients with breast cancer.
Other possible health benefits of oregano
According to The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database4, oregano is also used for the following illnesses and conditions:
- Muscle pain
- Heart Conditions
- Intestinal parasites
- Repelling insects
- Menstrual cramps
However, it's important to note that further high quality study results are necessary to confirm these claims.
Recent developments on health benefits of oregano from MNT news
Diabetes-fighting potential spotted in culinary herbs - Food scientists have discovered that the popular culinary herbs rosemary, oregano and marjoram contain compounds that may have the potential to manage type 2 diabetes in a similar way to some currently prescribed drugs.
Side effects and precautions
Eating oregano can cause stomach upsets in some people. In addition, those who are allergic to plants belonging to the Lamiaceae family (such as including basil, lavender, mint, and sage) should be cautious, as they may also develop an allergic reaction to oregano.
Have you enjoyed reading about the potential health benefits of oregano? Take a look at our collection of articles about other fruits and vegetables.
Alternatively, read our article about the top 10 healthy foods for your daily diet.