Any fan of Italian food knows the distinctive, vibrant taste of oregano. But oregano’s benefits go far beyond enhancing spaghetti sauce. This ancient Mediterranean herb has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat respiratory problems, stomach upset, urinary tract infections, and painful menstruation. And today, researchers are uncovering a wealth of new uses for oregano oil.
Highest Antioxidant Herb
While oregano leaves can be found in kitchens throughout the world, it’s the volatile oil extracted from the plant that could be right at home in your medicine cabinet. Oregano oil is a powerful antioxidant and antibacterial, thanks to high levels of the plant chemical carvacrol. Studies suggest that carvacrol kills bacteria, including some antibiotic-resistant strains. And researchers have discovered that oregano oil kills a variety of common infectious microbes, including E. coli and several types of staphylococcus.
When it comes to antioxidant power, this Mediterranean herb is off the charts. When researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture compared it with 27 culinary herbs and 12 medicinal herbs, they found that oregano had the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of all the herbs tested. ORAC indicates antioxidant power.
Oregano Oil May Prevent Nail Infections
Thanks to its stellar antifungal properties, oregano oil can help relieve athlete’s foot. In one study, blocks covered in the fungus that causes athlete’s foot were submerged in a bath containing essential oils of 11 different antifungal herbs. Oregano oil was one of the most effective, killing nearly 100 percent of the fungi.
Herbalists have long recommended oregano oil for nails afflicted by stubborn fungal infections. Even mainstream manicurists tell their clients who sport acrylic nails to dilute 1 teaspoon of the oil in 2 teaspoons of olive oil and apply it up to three times a day to prevent fungal growth between their real nails and the fake ones.
It Repels Insects and Can Ward Off Digestive Parasites and Infections
Along with oregano’s ability to kill microscopic bugs, it also appears to repel the bugs that can ruin your picnic. Several studies show that carvacrol can keep insects, including mosquitoes, at bay.
This bug-busting prowess could also prove useful for travelers who pick up a parasite while on the road. When 14 patients with digestive parasites took a daily dose of 600 mg of oregano oil, they found that the parasites had completely disappeared after six weeks in eight cases and decreased levels in three additional cases with improvement in digestive symptoms. Just be aware that oregano oil’s antibacterial action doesn’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria. If you are taking oregano supplements orally, make sure to also take a multistrain probiotic to replace your gut’s beneficial bugs.
Perhaps the biggest benefit oregano oil offers is to those suffering from yeast infections, especially candida, appearing as a vaginal yeast infection, thrush, or as a systemic condition that affects the whole body with symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, cognitive impairment, itchy skin, and intense sugar cravings. Lab tests show that oregano oil completely inhibits the growth of Candida albicans, the most common type of yeast infection.
The future may hold even more promise for oregano oil. Preliminary studies suggest that it may cause colon and lung cancer cells to commit suicide—a process called apoptosis. While more research on oregano oil’s anticancer potential is needed, it may prove to be yet another natural weapon in the war on cancer.
How to Use Oregano Oil
You can find oregano oil in capsule form or as a tincture. If using a tincture, take 1–4 drops diluted in a small amount of water two or three times daily. Look for the carvacrol content, which should be about 25 mg per 4 drops. Be sure to avoid taking oregano orally if you are pregnant or nursing.
Oregano oil is also available in cosmetics and topical skin treatments, and as a nasal spray to help promote healthy sinuses.
From Better Nutrition