From pasta sauce to soup, oregano is a staple herb that’s used around the world. You can find it growing all over the Mediterranean region. But, in America, it graces the spice cabinet of almost every household. You might even have a live plant or two in your home garden!
Oregano isn’t just a tasty ingredient that’s tossed on top of a pizza. This nutritious herb can boost your health tremendously even when consumed in small amounts. The herb, which is sometimes called “wild marjoram,” is easy to find in modern day supermarkets. Even the essential oil form has some perks.
Do you use oregano on a regular basis? After learning about these science-backed benefits, you’ll surely be reaching for more.
1. Increases Vitamin K Intake
As a fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin K is stored by the body. The large intestine can even produce small amounts, so a deficiency of the nutrient is rare in healthy adults. However, getting enough is vital for healthy blood clotting, especially if you don’t eat a lot of vitamin K-rich leafy greens.1
Oregano happens to have some vitamin K. Just 1 tsp of the ground herb has 11.2 g, giving a boost to your overall intake.2
2. Fights Bacterial Activity
Many herbs have antibacterial activity, and oregano is no exception. Its essential oil has been shown to fight 23 different species of bacteria!3 A 2015 study in Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease also found that when compared to sage and thyme, oregano’s antimicrobial abilities came out on top.
About 78–85% of oregano essential oil is made of carvacrol and thymol. According to research, these are the compounds that give oregano oil its antibacterial properties.4
3. Combats Viruses
In addition to fighting bacteria, carvacrol and thymol may also work against viruses. In a 2014 test-tube study, carvacrol inactivated norovirus, the microbe known for causing the stomach flu.5 And yes, this is the same microbe that causes diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. Meanwhile, a separate 2013 study in Planta Medica found that carvacrol and thymol inactivated herpes simplex viruses within one hour.6
Despite these outcomes, keep in mind that these experiments were done in test tubes. More research is needed to solidify the effect in humans.
4. Boosts Antioxidant Intake
Want another way to fight oxidative stress? Look no further than the spice cabinet. The carvacrol and thymol in oregano are actually antioxidants, so they can find and destroy free radicals.7 This, in turn, saves DNA from damage and gene mutations.8
Such activity shows major potential against cancer cells. For instance, in a 2009 study, oregano extract stopped human colon cancer cells from growing and killed them off completely.9
5. Reduces Inflammation
Like oxidative stress, inflammation is the reason behind countless chronic diseases. It literally fuels the development of conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.10 But with the antioxidant content of oregano, inflammation can be managed, too.
These effects were seen in a 2007 animal study involving mice with colitis, or an inflamed colon. After they were given a mix of thyme and oregano essential oils, inflammatory markers took a nosedive.11
Oregano is extremely versatile, and adding more to your diet is really easy. Fresh oregano will spruce up a salad, while the dried version is tasty in hummus or pesto. You can also use it to season quinoa, fish, or even omelets.
|↑1||Vitamin K. Oregon State University.|
|↑2||Basic Report: 02027, Spices, oregano, dried. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑3||Saeed, Sabahat, and Perween Tariq. “Antibacterial activity of oregano (Origanum vulgare Linn.) against gram positive bacteria.” Pakistan journal of pharmaceutical sciences 22, no. 4 (2009): 421-424.|
|↑4, ↑7||Fournomiti, Maria, Athanasios Kimbaris, Ioanna Mantzourani, Stavros Plessas, Irene Theodoridou, Virginia Papaemmanouil, Ioannis Kapsiotis et al. “Antimicrobial activity of essential oils of cultivated oregano (Origanum vulgare), sage (Salvia officinalis), and thyme (Thymus vulgaris) against clinical isolates of Escherichia coli, Klebsiella oxytoca, and Klebsiella pneumoniae.” Microbial ecology in health and disease 26, no. 1 (2015): 23289.|
|↑5||Gilling, D. H., Masaaki Kitajima, J. R. Torrey, and K. R. Bright. “Antiviral efficacy and mechanisms of action of oregano essential oil and its primary component carvacrol against murine norovirus.” Journal of applied microbiology 116, no. 5 (2014): 1149-1163.|
|↑6||Lai, Wen-Lin, He-Shing Chuang, Meng-Hwan Lee, Chia-Li Wei, Chin-Fu Lin, and Ying-Chieh Tsai. “Inhibition of herpes simplex virus type 1 by thymol-related monoterpenoids.” Planta medica 78, no. 15 (2012): 1636-1638.|
|↑8, ↑10||Khansari, Nemat, Yadollah Shakiba, and Mahdi Mahmoudi. “Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress as a major cause of age-related diseases and cancer.” Recent patents on inflammation & allergy drug discovery 3, no. 1 (2009): 73-80.|
|↑9||Savini, Isabella, Rosaria Arnone, Maria Valeria Catani, and Luciana Avigliano. “Origanum vulgare induces apoptosis in human colon cancer caco2 cells.” Nutrition and cancer 61, no. 3 (2009): 381-389.|
|↑11||Bukovská, Alexandra, Štefan Cikoš, Štefan Juhás, Gabriela Il’ková, Pavol Rehák, and Juraj Koppel. “Effects of a combination of thyme and oregano essential oils on TNBS-induced colitis in mice.” Mediators of inflammation 2007 (2007).|