Oregano is the common name for many plants belonging to more than 61 different species that share a particular flavor and odor. In this article, we summarize the benefits of three species of oregano: Mediterranean oregano, Mexican oregano, and Indian borage.
Oregano has been traditionally used in folk medicine. Some version of oregano is mentioned as a medicinal plant in the Bible (1). It was also used by the Ancient Greeks, who believed the Goddess Aphrodite created oregano. In Greek, oregano means “joy of the mountains” (2).
Nutritionally, fresh herbs are powerhouses. Oregano contains vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, fiber, vitamin K, B vitamins, iron, and manganese (3). It comes in different forms: fresh herb, dried herb, essential oil, tea, and the supplement oregano oil.
Carvacrol is responsible for most of the oregano’s biological activities, including antimicrobial, antitumor, pain-relieving, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic, insecticidal, liver-protective, and other properties(6).
Oregano can help address many conditions such as respiratory asthma, bronchitis, coughs, diarrhea, indigestion, stomach ache, menstrual disorders, infections, and inflammation-related illnesses (4).
The Key Benefits of Oregano
Oregano is an excellent antioxidant source, with high phenolic compounds (7). Compared to nine common herbs (basil, chili, cilantro, dill, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, oregano, and parsley), oregano has the highest antioxidant capacity in both dry and fresh forms (8).
Oregano is antibacterial and can inhibit pathogenic bacteria. Each active component of oregano (thymol, carvacrol, and others) has antibacterial properties, and these components act synergistically with each other (9). Check out the “13 Best Prebiotic Food to Eat.”
In one study, Mexican oregano inhibited five of the eight viruses’ researchers looked at, indicating high antiviral benefits. The essential oil can inhibit both human and animal viruses in vitro, i.e., when tested in a test tube, culture dish, outside of a living organism (10).
Indian borage can reduce inflammatory immune system molecules, thereby reducing inflammation in rats (11). To control our body inflammation it is essential to keep a balanced Omega 3:6 ratio. “What’s the Best Omega 3:6 Ratio?”
In vitro, oregano extract activates apoptosis or programmed cell death in cancer cells. Apoptosis is a form of cell death that happens in damaged, potentially cancerous, and virus-infected cells. Oregano can slow down cell growth to slow and promote cell death selectively in cancer cells (12).
In vitro, extracts of Mexican oregano can block two diabetes-related enzymes involved in insulin secretion and insulin signaling. Inhibiting these enzymes can decrease the risk of Type 2 Diabetes (13).
Health benefits of oregano
Oregano promotes the growth of the good gut bacteria strains, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, and inhibits Ruminococcus and Fusobacterium strains (14). Both Ruminococcus and Fusobacterium are positively associated with Type 2 Diabetes (15). In the gut, oregano acts like a prebiotic by supporting the good gut bacteria’s growth, suppressing harmful pathogenic bacteria, and regulating a healthy gut microbiome (14).
Mexican oregano has a significant protective effect on the kidney and liver and can inhibit the inflammation associated with liver toxemia, allowing the elimination of toxins from the body (11).
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, oregano essential oil may indirectly protect against heart disease. Heart disease involves inflammation, and oregano can help reduce inflammation. Individual components of oregano (carvacrol, thymol, and γ-terpinene) can lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, contributing to heart disease. This research was done on the components and not directly on oregano (16).
Adding fresh or dried oregano to your diet is an excellent idea for its numerous health benefits. Herbs are even more healthy than vegetables in some cases, given their concentrated phytochemical content.
However, oregano essential oil or the oil of oregano supplement can be quite strong. They are powerful killing agents, so don’t take too much. As with any medicinal herb, oregano may interact with medication, so it is always best to check with your doctor if you are on certain medications.
It is best to buy organic oregano, as herbs are often contaminated with pesticides, which are very harmful to health and will negate some of the benefits of oregano.
It is easy to appreciate a little ‘Joy of the Mountains’ and its health benefits by adding fresh or dried oregano to your cooking!