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Oil of Oregano: A Powerful Addition to Your Natural Pharmacy

Angie Mohr

If you were to peek into the medicine cabinets of most naturopaths, you would find, along with the usual assortment of immune boosters and vitamins, several natural extracts and oils, but the most prominent would be oil of oregano.

The Greeks have known about the power of oregano for thousands of years, using it for everything from aches and pains to cuts and bruises. More recently, the active ingredient in oregano, carvacrol, has been isolated and tested for its healing powers.

Oregano is a Mediterranean herb commonly used in Greek and Italian cooking. There are many different kinds of oregano but it is the Oreganum vulgare, wild oregano, species that shows the most promise in medicine.

Oil of oregano is derived from wild oregano and is concentrated into liquid form. Oil of oregano is a powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial. A clinical study concluded that oregano oil worked just as well as antibiotics like penicillin and vancomycin against the Staphylococcus bacteria.(1) The added benefit of using the natural anti-bacterial properties of oregano is that it cannot produce a resistance in the body. Currently, the drug vancomycin is the most powerful antibiotic on the market and is reserved for those cases of bacterial disease that does not respond to other drugs. Doctors fear that over-use of vancomycin will lead to resistant bacterial strains which will then have no other cures. Oil of oregano is showing promise as a safe alternative.

A microbial study also supports oil of oregano's power against anthrax spores - an issue that has increased interest recently as anthrax may be in development as a biological weapon.(2)

With day-to-day usage, oil of oregano may help prevent and lessen the effects of colds and flu, and its anti-inflammatory properties help with inflammation-based conditions such as asthma and arthritis. Oil of oregano is also a popular weight loss aid with the theory that obesity is an inflammation-based condition. There are many anecdotal reports of oil of oregano's benefit in helping to break through weight loss plateaus however, there have been no conclusive clinical studies to support this.

While carvacrol is being studied on its own with the intent of synthesizing it, several studies have shown that oil of oregano is far more effective than just the carvacrol. This shows that other substances in oregano work in harmony with carvacrol to produce its medicinal effects.

Oil of oregano can be purchased in two forms: a liquid mixed with olive oil and caplets. The dose for the liquid is usually between 1 and 4 drops per day. It can be taken under the tongue or mixed into juice or food. One of my favourite methods Oil of oregano tastes just as one would expect, although its flavour is strong. The caplets contain oil of oregano but deliver it directly into the stomach for those sensitive to the taste.

When purchasing oil of oregano, make sure that it is derived from wild oregano - the species OrIganum vulgare. Most oil of oregano products from reliable sources will provide the carvacrol concentration which is usually between 60% and 80%. Any amount lower than 60% may not provide the same benefits as higher concentrations.

Science is finding out what cultures have known for millennia - that herbs and spices not only improve the taste of foods but also improve health. Oil of oregano should be in everyone's medicine cabinet and on everyone's dinner table.


(1) Science Daily 10/11/2001
(2) Archives Microbiology, Volume 174, October 2000; Quarterly Review Biology, Volume 73, March 1998.

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