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Oregano might be primarily associated in our minds with pizza and Italian food, but it’s also a powerful medicine.
A member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family which also includes basil, lavender, marjoram, and sage, oregano is a hearty plant that doesn’t require a lot of water or even especially fertile soil. It’s an easy one to grow on a sunny kitchen windowsill.
While the fresh or dried herbs will certainly confer additional nutrition to your dishes, most of the studies on oregano as medicine have been done using its powerfully concentrated essential oil. The active constituents are called thymol and carvacrol. Here are some of the medicinal properties of these compounds.
Oregano essential oil has been shown to be effective against a wide variety of different species of bacteria, and is one of the most effective antibacterial essential oils.
In test tube studies, it has been shown to neutralize multiple viruses within a single hour of treatment.
Oregano has also been recognized for its antifungal properties as well.
Oregano as an Anti-Inflammatory
Inflammation is always a secondary process, so I suspect that given oregano’s other properties, it’s natural that it also acts as an anti-inflammatory. Yet it may have a direct anti-inflammatory effects as well; animal studies have shown reduction in inflammation for a variety of different lesions, as well as for colitis.
Oregano as an Antioxidant
The active constituents thymol and carvacrol have been shown to have high antioxidant activity (1, 2). This goes hand in hand with decreased inflammation, as oxidative damage produces inflammation.
Oregano for Metabolic Support
Oregano has recently been studied for its metabolic support as well. It has been shown to assist in lowering blood sugar and in elevated lipids, which go hand in hand.
Hypertension is also part of this picture, and oregano also helps in regulating blood pressure.
While you might not notice dramatic effects from adding more oregano leaves to your meals, they certainly have enough beneficial properties to contribute to an overall healthy and nutrient dense diet.
To enjoy some of the medicinal benefits, choose oil of oregano in capsules, or as an essential oil diluted in a carrier oil such as olive or jojoba for topical use. Note that oil of oregano is contraindicated in pregnancy.