oregano benefits

Oregano is a popular herb that is used in various cuisines all around the world. You can use it fresh, dried, or as an essential oil. This popular herb is rich in antioxidants, which help to neutralize free radicals and help prevent diseases.

Its health benefits include reducing infection, improving heart health, reducing the risk of cancer, and treating menstrual cramps.

What is oregano?

Oregano is a perennial aromatic herb that belongs to the Lamiaceae family. This herb, which has been used in cooking and as a medicine for thousands of years, is native to the mountain regions of Greece and other Mediterranean countries.

The word oregano comes from the Greek words ‘oros’ which means mountain and ‘ganos’ which means joy. The ancients Greek considered it to be the joy of the mountains.

Oregano typically grows around 50 cm tall and has purple leaves that are two to three centimeters in length.

Also known as wild marjoram, oregano contains thymol, pinene, limonene, carvacrol, ocimene, and caryophyllene, which provide many health benefits. Oregano also contains vitamins A, C, E and K, folate, iron, magnesium, vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, and fiber.

Nutritional facts

One teaspoon of oregano (dried) contains (1):

  • Calories: 5
  • Fiber: 0.8 grams
  • Calcium: 29 mg
  • Iron: .66 mg
  • Magnesium: 5 mg
  • Manganese: .09mg
  • Potassium: 23 mg
  • Vitamin E: .33 mg
  • Vitamin K: 11.2 mcg

Health benefits of oregano

1. Prevents bacterial infection

Oregano has natural antibacterial properties. Several studies have shown that it is highly effective in combating various bacterial infections. In fact, when researchers studied the antimicrobial efficiency of oregano, sage, and thyme essential oils, they found oregano to be the most efficient (2).

A 2012 study showed that essential oregano oil was effective against clinical strains of E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (3).

2. Reduces viral infections

Oregano is rich in antioxidants that play an essential role in protecting the body against various viruses. Oregano contains carvacrol and thymol, which are effective against viral infections.

According to a 2014 study, carvacrol, a primary component of oregano, inactivated nonenveloped murine norovirus (MNV) within one hour of the treatment (4).

Another study from Chung Shan Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan, discovered that thymol and carvacrol, both possessed significant antiviral activity and can inactivate 90 percent of herpes simplex virus in an hour (5).

3. Rich in antioxidants

Oregano is a rich source of antioxidants. Antioxidants help fight damage-causing free radicals that have been linked to heart disease and cancer.

Carvacrol and thymol are the main antioxidant components of oregano oil. Studies have shown that carvacrol and thymol, the two main antioxidant compounds in oregano can help prevent damage caused by free radicals (6).

Experts recommend using oregano along with highly nutritious food to prevent free radical damage. Thanks to its rich content of antioxidants, oregano will help your body function smoothly.

4. May help prevent cancer

The high antioxidant content of oregano helps in cancer prevention. Oregano is widely used in the Mediterranean diet, which is linked to low risk for colon cancer. 

According to a 2009 study from Italy, oregano extract leads to growth arrest and cell death of cancerous cells in a dose and time-dependent manner (7).

Another study from China showed that carvacrol, the primary component of oregano, has anti-tumor properties.  The study showed that carvacrol inhibited the proliferation and migration of two colon cancer cell lines (8).

These test tube studies use high amounts of oregano extracts. Further human trials are needed to be done to see their effect on humans.

5. Has anti-inflammatory properties

Inflammation is the typical response of the human body to an injury or illness. However, chronic inflammation can be harmful to the body can lead to autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and heart conditions.

Oregano is an excellent source of antioxidants, so it is effective in preventing inflammation. According to a study from Brazil, carvacrol, a monoterpene present in the essential oil of oregano, helped reduce edema in the ear and paw of mice significantly (9).

Another study showed that the combined treatment of thyme and oregano essential oils could reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and thereby attenuate TNBS-induced colitis in mice (9).

According to scientists from Germany and Switzerland beta-caryophyllin, an active component of oregano can treat disorders such as osteoporosis and arteriosclerosis.

6. Improves digestion

Oregano is rich in fiber, which is very helpful in boosting the digestive process. It helps prevent constipation by stimulating peristaltic motion, which helps to move the food through the digestive tract.

Fiber also helps increase the bulk of the stool. The rich fiber content of oregano also helps to improve the nutrient uptake.

7.  Treats menstrual cramps

Oregano is an effective pain reliever, so it works well to treat menstrual cramps. It also helps regulate the menstrual cycle and reduce the effects of menopause. Some studies also suggest that oregano can prevent premature menopause.

To reduce pain and discomfort during menopause, chew on the leaves of fresh oregano two or three times a day.

8. Improves heart health

The high antioxidant content of oregano helps to prevent and treat several heart diseases. Oregano contains omega-3 fatty acids which help to lower inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease. This herb is also rich in potassium, which helps to reduce blood pressure and relieve a rapid heart rate.

9. Improves bone health

Oregano leaves contain a healthy dose of vitamin K, which helps maintain bone health. It is also rich in calcium, iron, and manganese, which are crucial for bone health. This herb is excellent for people who want to protect themselves from osteoporosis.

10. Kills intestinal parasites

Oregano oil can kill parasites in the gastrointestinal tracts. It is effective against Blastocystis hominis, Entamoeba hartmanni, and Endolimax nana. Intestinal parasites can cause discomfort and lead to serious diseases. Oregano oil kills these parasites without causing any severe side effects.

Ways to use oregano

You can eat oregano fresh, or dried and add it to recipes. Oregano oil can also be diluted used for treating infections.

  1. Use fresh oregano leaves in salads, sautéed vegetables, and meat dishes. Always add this herb towards the end of the cooking process to retain the nutrients and flavor.
  2. Chop and mix oregano leaves in bread dough to make nutritious bread rolls.
  3. Put dried oregano in soups, stews, and bone broths. One teaspoon of dried oregano is equal to one tablespoon of fresh oregano.
  4. Chop and add oregano to marinades. The more finely you chop, and better is the flavor.
  5. Oregano makes a great addition to grilled or barbecued meat. It improves the taste and reduces the effects of free radicals in the dish.
  6. Add a drop of oregano essential oil in water and drink it to prevent sore throat and respiratory infections.
  7. Add two drops of oregano oil to half a teaspoon of coconut oil in your mouth and swish it around for 10 minutes before you spit it out. It helps prevent oral infections and boosts the immune system.
  8. Mix a drop of oregano oil with coconut oil and apply on cuts and burns to prevent infections.
  9. Add a few drops of essential oregano oil to your laundry to sanitize your clothes.
  10. Using diluted oregano oil on acne helps get rid of bacteria and reduces inflammation.

Side effects of oregano

Oregano is generally considered safe when it is used in small amounts in food or applied on the skin. However, it can sometimes cause allergic reactions in some people. Avoid using oregano if you are allergic to plants in the Lamiaceae family.

This herb is known to lower blood sugar levels, so people with diabetes should use oregano cautiously.

Oregano is also known to increase the risk of bleeding. People with bleeding disorders should not use it. You must stop using oregano two weeks before you are scheduled for surgery.

Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should avoid using oregano.

Oregano also works as a diuretic, so taking oregano can affect how the body gets rid of lithium. This herb can increase the levels of lithium in the body and cause side effects.

Final thoughts

Oregano is an aromatic herb that belongs to the mint family. This herb is the mainstay of the Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern and Latin cuisine.  Oregano is an excellent source of phytonutrient antioxidants, various vitamins, and minerals. 

Also known as wild marjoram, oregano typically grows around 50 cm tall and has purple leaves that are two to three centimeters in length.

It helps prevent bacterial infections, treats viral infections, prevents cancer, reduces the risk of heart disease, improves digestions, treats menstrual cramps, kills intestinal parasites, and improves bone health.

You can use fresh or dread oregano in various recipes. Oregano oil can also be used to internally or topically to treat infections.

Though it is generally regarded as safe, some people can develop an allergic reaction to this herb. People with diabetes, bleeding disorders, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should consult with their doctor before using oregano.