Indiscriminate and excessive use of antibiotic has given rise to superbugs that are drug resistant. New resistances develop faster than new antibiotics are being discovered. In fact, pharma companies have given up on making new antibiotics. Drug discovery is a long and costly process, but returns are low.
Essential oils, derived from aromatic plants, are a potential alternative to synthetic antibiotics. They have antimicrobial activity against various microorganisms. Most of these aromatic plants include herbs that are widely used in cooking.
Oregano: More Than A Culinary Herb
Oregano is a popular herb used fresh or dried in Italian, Greek and Mexican dishes. You probably think of pizza or pasta when you hear the word oregano. Besides being a culinary herb, did you know that oil of oregano is highly beneficial for health?
Oregano was used in folk medicine to treat skin sores, rheumatoid arthritis, colds, stomach upset, asthma, diarrhea, indigestion and as an antiseptic. Oregano oil is distilled from the leaves or shoots of the plant.
Research has shown that oregano oil is a potent antimicrobial and antioxidant agent.
Bioactive Constituents of Oregano Oil
The two primary phenols, carvacrol and thymol, make up 78-85% of oregano oil. Both these and other compounds, albeit in lower conventrations, are responsible for the antimicrobial effects against bacteria and fungi.
Anti-Bacterial Effects Of Oregano Oil
The compounds in oregano oil have been shown to inhibit bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Clostridium and Staphylococcus (ie. the superbug, MRSA). Since oregano oil is effective against several food-borne pathogens, it may help to alleviate symptoms of food poisoning.
Tests by SGS laboratory in Delhi showed that Himalayan oregano oil killed the superbug, MRSA more effectively than all 18 antibotics that it was compared against. A research team from the University of the West of England (UWE) confirmed that oregano oil is a potent antibacterial agent and is very effective at killing MRSA at low doses. Their preliminary tests showed that oregano oil, in both liquid and vapour forms, kills MRSA. UWE is working with SGS and other partners to conduct further tests, and develop anti-bacterial products (such as hand soaps, wipes, washing powders, etc) for hospital and home use.
Farmers are also turning to oregano and other essential oils as an alternative to antibiotics to keep their livestock healthy. Farm animals consume 80% of the antibiotics used in the U.S. Antibiotics are added to animals’ feed to increase growth and prevent illnesses. Unfortunately, this indiscriminate use is causing antibiotic resistance not only in animals, but also humans. Instead of antibiotics, oregano oil is given to animals as a feed additive to support and boost their immune health.
Anti-Fungal Effects Of Oregano Oil
Researchers found that oregano oil is one of the best natural anti-fungal agents due to the presence of the main phenolic compounds, carvacrol and thymol, that disrupt fungal cell membranes. It is effective against candida, Trichophyton and Aspergillus. Trichophyton infects the skin and nail, resulting in conditions such as ringworm, athlete’s foot and jock itch.
How To Use Oregano Oil
Oregano oil can be applied topically, taken orally and as a diffusion.
Bear in mind that this is a strong and hot oil. It MUST be diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut, jojoba and olive oil before applying to the affected area. Never use full strength oregano oil as it can irritate or burn your skin.
You may want to do a spot test first to determine if you are allergic to oregano oil. Do not apply to broken skin (cuts, scrapes) and open wounds. Keep away from the eyes and sensitive areas.
For oral intake, oregano oil should be diluted with liquid. You may find oregano oil is unpalatable (pungent and spicy). So, consider taking it in a capsule form.
Oregano oil can be added to bowl of streaming water. Inhaling the steam may help to relieve respiratory conditions such as sinus, congestion and cold.
You can also add oregano oil to a diffuser or vaporiser.
Make sure you follow the instructions and recommended dosage for each oregano oil product.
Oregano oil should not be taken for the long term.
Who should avoid oregano oil?
- pregnant and breastfeeding women
- infants and children
- anyone with an allergy to oregano
Which Oregano Oil To Choose?
There are several factors that determine the chemical constituents of oregano oil: plant species, growing location, environment and method of extraction.
It’s crucial to choose a high quality oregano oil for maximum benefits. I like oregano oil by North American Herb & Spice (NAHS) for the following reasons:
- wild oregano grown in the remote mountaineous regions of the Mediterranean
- oil is extracted by steam distillation with pure, underground spring water
- no chemicals, solvents or fillers
NAHS oregano oil products are available in liquid and soft gel formulations.