Oregano—A Botanical with Benefits
A modest flowering plant stemming from the mint family, oregano has woven itself into the cuisine and cultural fabric of Mediterranean life. Many of its more than fifty species have also been adopted and naturalized worldwide; indeed, oregano is a hearty herb and a mainstay of many a Canadian windowsill herb garden.
Oregano is a multitasking herb that’s indispensable for your spice cabinet and even better for your health. Oregano owes its full spectrum of antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory action to its roster of biologically active volatile oils.
For therapeutic use, carvacrol has been identified as the most potent and well-researched of the volatile oils present in oregano leaves and flower buds. Origanum vulgare is the most common species targeted for commercial production and marketing of steam-distilled oil of oregano blends; however, Origanum minutiflorum is recognized as the most potent source of naturally occurring carvacrol. This rare and wild species thrives at altitudes exceeding 1500 m in the harsh environment of the Anatolian mountain range of Turkey. Once hand-picked, steam distillation gently extracts the carvacrol within a mosaic of biologically active compounds.
The antioxidant activity of carvacrol-rich oregano oil is among its main attributes. It helps neutralize free radicals, compounds which can gradually weaken healthy tissue throughout the body, leaving us more susceptible to many age-related degenerative diseases.
For cases of bacterial infection, carvacrol has been proven to break down proteins which serve as the structural scaffolding for biofilm, a protective gel that harmful bacteria secrete. Once carvacrol penetrates this protective biofilm, it proceeds to break down bacterial cell walls, leading to their demise.
In fact, research published in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology demonstrates the natural antimicrobial action of carvacrol as being as effective as commercial-grade sanitizing agents for inhibiting biofilm formation of pathogenic bacteria. Carvacrol works in a similar fashion as an antifungal, as it disrupts the integrity of fungal cell membranes, leading to their destruction.
Clinical trials have also proven carvacrol effective for Candida albicans species resistant to the prescription antifungal fluconazole.
Exciting research published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology has shown carvacrol to deteriorate the capsid shell, a protein layer which protects the genetic information (DNA) of many forms of the human norovirus responsible for human illness. A few drops of wild oregano oil could perhaps even amplify the healing power of a bowl of homemade chicken soup! Promising research has also shown the potential of carvacrol for interrupting the signaling cascade that drives the process of chronic inflammation.
Carvacrol ranks among the most researched naturally occurring compounds in the wellness industry. The popularity of oregano, Origanum minutiflorum in particular, has earned oregano a therapeutic niche that spans a wide range of health concerns—perhaps even a few of yours!
Gordon Raza, BSc
As the technical writer for Flourish, Gord shares his
unique perspective on natural health products, nutrition,
and active living.