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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.
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:
Antioxidants help protect your cells against the effects of free radicals and improve your ability to fight infection.
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."
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.
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.
According to The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database4, oregano is also used for the following illnesses and conditions:
However, it's important to note that further high quality study results are necessary to confirm these claims.
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.
Written by Joseph Nordqvist
Copyright: Medical News Today
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Nordqvist, Joseph. "What are the health benefits of oregano?." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 15 Oct. 2013. Web.
13 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266259>
Nordqvist, J. (2013, October 15). "What are the health benefits of oregano?." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
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