Oregano, an herb from the mint family, is best known for its use in traditional Italian cuisine. If you love pizza, pasta, and garlic bread, you are probably already familiar with this culinary herb, but a little more information doesn’t hurt! Something you may not know is that the oregano herb is available in two forms: there is Mediterranean oregano and there is Mexican oregano. Despite being very similar, these herbs are actually two different species!
Mediterranean oregano, also known as wild marjoram, includes Greek oregano, Italian, Spanish, and Turkish, as well as versions from Egypt and Morocco. Italian oregano is more mild than its savory Greek counterpart, and the Turkish version has a more sharp taste. Leaves from this region are what you normally find in sauces, on pizza, and other Italian or Mediterranean dishes. The leaves can be used dry or fresh, but are surprisingly more flavorful when dried.
Mexican oregano is native to Mexico but also grows in Central and South America. With the same savory and earthy taste as its Mediterranean counterparts, Mexican oregano also contains mild citrus and licorice flavors.
With its distinct herbaceous flavor and earthy aroma, oregano is a must-have for any kitchen, but it also has uses that go beyond adding flavor to your favorite foods. In fact, this unique herb is a highly potent source of phytochemicals, specifically carvacrol and thymol, which offer a variety of health benefits.
Oregano Oil Benefits Beyond Food
Carvacrol and thymol are the two key compounds of oregano that provide most of the herb’s potential health benefits.1
They can be found in any form of the herb, including dried leaves, fresh leaves, and oregano oil. No matter how you choose to use oregano, its positive effects on your health may include any of these benefits:
Gastrointestinal Bacterial Balance.
Did you know that every day there are an estimated 100 trillion living bacteria that make their home in your gastrointestinal (GI) system? While it may sound like science fiction, researchers have found that these trillions of microbacteria play a vital role in your digestive function, immune system, and your overall health.2
Within your GI system, there are many different strains that make up this ecosystem of microbacteria. Some of them are considered “good,” and others “bad.” If you are suffering from an overgrowth of “bad” microbacterial strains, your health could suffer. Studies have shown that people with bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine may experience chronic symptoms which negatively affect their quality of life.3
Oregano oil was shown in one clinical trial to be a potential botanical therapy able to strongly inhibit or even stop the growth of certain microbes.4
Additionally, a study revealed that a possible health benefit of oregano was due to the herb’s antibacterial activity, which has the potential to kill off species of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.5
Used topically, oregano oil (rather than the leaves) is thought to help reduce common infections, fungal conditions, and skin conditions, including athlete’s foot and acne.6-8 Just make sure to combine the oil with a carrier oil such as olive oil before applying to your skin.
For those with a cholesterol imbalance, oregano oil may help. In one study, 48 people with slightly high cholesterol levels were given diet and lifestyle tips as to how to lower their cholesterol. 32 of the study’s participants were given an oregano oil supplement at a dose of 25 ml to be taken after each meal.
After 3 months,researchers evaluated the participants and found that those who took the oil had lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and higher “good” HDL cholesterol levels when compared to the people who just followed the dietary and lifestyle advice.9
How Exactly Can Oregano Oil Fight off a Cold Virus?
When you come in contact with a pathogenic germ that triggers an infection or ailment, it is best to nip the illness in the bud as soon as you feel the first signs. These symptoms may include muscle aches and pains, runny nose, a sore throat, itchy, watery eyes, and sneezing. As well as seeking professional medical advice, some evidence suggests that oregano oil may be a good addition to your wellness arsenal.
Here are five ways that this herb can work to ease symptoms of the common cold or flu:
1. Antimicrobial power.
The phytochemicals found in oregano, including thymol and carvacrol, offer powerful antibacterial properties. These antimicrobial abilities have shown potential both when taken internally and applied topically.10,11
Science supports the idea that oregano oil may offer an effective tool in fighting the pathogenic germs that lead to common infections like the common cold and flu.12
Further, the combination of the two active phytochemicals found in oregano oil have been shown to work together to successfully help protect the body against multidrug-resistant bacteria.13
2. Anti-Fungal properties.
Sometimes, a fungus like candida can be the cause of a common infection of the cold or flu. And since oregano oil may have anti-fungal properties, adding it to your daily health regimen may help ward off the risk of infection.14
3. Anti-Inflammatory benefits.
This herb is a potent source of anti-inflammatory compounds that are thought to help soothe the body. This ability may also help to ease aches and pains associated with a cold – particularly when applied topically.15
4. Antioxidant protection.
The antioxidant capacity of the herb is due to its content of what’s called rosmarinic acid.16,17
Antioxidants like those found in oregano are an essential nutrient for overall health – including preventing cellular damage and supporting a strong immune system – potentially helping your body to beat a cold.18
Due to the powerful antimicrobial effects of oregano, taking any type of oregano oil as a supplement could have a strong influence on your immune system.19
One study revealed that oregano oil was effective against harmful bacteria strains such as E. coli, K. oxytoca, and K. pneumoniae inside the gut – strains that today have become resistant to common antibiotic medications.20
By using oregano oil internally, or applying the essential oil topically, you may be able to beat a cold, and reduce the symptoms these types of common infections cause faster than with pharmaceutical medications alone.
How Can I Get More Oregano Into My Daily Regimen?
Enjoy oregano oil benefits by first incorporating the herb into your lifestyle. Here are just a few ideas for including this awesome herb into your daily life:
Sweet Herbal Tea.
When you are sick, few things are as comforting as a warm cup of herbal tea. Make yours with a drizzle of honey for additional benefits to beat a cold – and a touch of sweetness of course!21
To make oregano tea:
Take 1 cup of water, and bring it to a boil. Add in 1 tsp of dry oregano leaves. Steep the herbs in the hot water for up to 10 minutes, and then pour the light brown tea through a strainer to remove the plant matter. Drizzle in a touch of honey, and drink it in to soothe common cold and flu symptoms like a sore throat, sneezing, and watery eyes.
Oregano Oil Vapor Rub.
At the first signs of a cold, try using this simple DIY vapor rub.
DIY Oregano Oil Vapor Rub Recipe:
1/2 cup coconut oil
5 drops of peppermint oil
5 drops oregano oil or essential oil
Spoon out ½ cup of coconut oil into a glass jar with a lid. Then, allow the oil to become liquid at room temperature. When it is liquefied, add in the peppermint essential oil and the oregano oil. Gently stir the ingredients together with a spoon. When they have been fully combined, allow the mixture to cool so that the coconut oil becomes solid (you may want to put it in the refrigerator). Then you can apply the soothing vapor rub to your chest and neck to help reduce cold symptoms.
To help reduce the symptoms and duration of a common cold or flu, place 3 drops of oregano oil into an 8-ounce glass of water or raw vegetable juice of your choice. You can drink this blend up to 3 times daily to gain the many health benefits. Another effective method is to administer a few drops under your tongue with coconut oil to dilute it.
Where Can I Buy Oregano?
Oregano is a very popular herb cultivated worldwide, so you should be able to find it in just about any grocery store. It is also available as an essential oil and in capsule form in many specialty stores. Herbal teas and tinctures may also be found in the natural section of your favorite local market.
How Else Can I Use Oregano to Boost My Health?
Oregano oil capsules are available. These allow you to simply take the recommended dosage in the morning and at night to help boost your immunity against common infections, including the common cold. Capsules and the topical use of this herb in the form of essential oil are also a good way to reap the benefits of oregano without tasting it – as some might find the flavor offensive.
Not only that, but these options also allow you to take in more of the active phytochemicals of oregano into your body than you would get by simply consuming the raw herb alone. This is a preferred option for those looking to beat the symptoms of the common cold, like a sore throat, runny nose, and watery eyes.
If you are looking for the next superfood to boost your health … look no further!
Oregano is one of the best kept kitchen secrets that also works wonders for your health. Add this traditional healing herb to your spice rack, and enjoy its potential abilities to help beat a cold – and all of the many other potential health benefits it provides.
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