Oregano is considered a staple herb in many cuisines around the world.
It has a strong flavor and brings warmth to dishes, along with a subtle hint of sweetness.
It can be found fresh, dried or as an oil, and all are believed to have significant health benefits.
Although often used in small amounts, oregano contains several important nutrients. Just one tablespoon of dried oregano leaves can meet about 8% of your daily vitamin K needs.
From helping fight bacteria to reducing inflammation, studies have uncovered some of its impressive potential benefits.
This article looks at 6 evidence-based health benefits of oregano.
Easy to add to your diet
While you can think of oregano leaves as a topping just for pizza and pasta dishes, this versatile herb can be used in many ways.
Try mixing whole oregano leaves into other greens for a nutrient-packed salad or sprinkling the leaves into chili, soups or stews.
You can also use it to make fresh pesto or salad dressing, spice up meat dishes, or enhance the flavor of homemade sauces.
Oregano is available fresh, dried, or as an oil, making it easy to add to your diet.
Oregano is available fresh, dried, or oiled, and it can be added to stews, marinades, sauces, meats, and more.
May reduce inflammation
Inflammation is a normal immune response that occurs due to disease or injury.
However, chronic inflammation is thought to contribute to the development of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions.
Oregano is rich in antioxidants, which can help neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation.
It also contains compounds like carvacrol that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. In an animal study, carvacrol reduced swelling in the paws of rats by 57%.
Another animal study found that a mixture of thyme and oregano essential oils reduced the number of inflammatory markers in mice with colitis or inflamed colon.
Keep in mind that these studies have looked at the effects of oregano and its ingredients in concentrated amounts. Studies are needed to determine how normal doses may affect inflammation in humans.
Oregano is high in antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation. Animal studies show that oregano oil and its components may help reduce inflammation.
Rich in antioxidants
Oregano is rich in antioxidants, which are compounds that help fight damage from harmful free radicals in the body.
The accumulation of free radicals has been linked to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Several test-tube studies have found that oregano leaves and oregano oil are high in antioxidants.
Oregano essential oil is especially high in carvacrol and thymol, two antioxidants that may help prevent cell damage caused by free radicals.
Combined with other antioxidant-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, oregano can provide a large dose of antioxidants that can help improve your health.
Oregano is high in antioxidants, which may help prevent damage by neutralizing disease-causing free radicals.
May have anti-cancer properties
Oregano is high in antioxidants. These compounds can not only neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals, but may also aid in cancer prevention.
Several test-tube studies have shown that oregano leaf and its components may help kill cancer cells.
One test-tube study treated human colon cancer cells with oregano extract and found that it stopped the growth of cancer cells and helped kill them.
Another test-tube study found that carvacrol, one of the ingredients in oregano, also helped stop the growth and spread of colon cancer cells.
However, keep in mind that these are test-tube studies using large amounts of the herb and its compounds. Human studies using typical dosages are needed to determine its effects.
Oregano is high in antioxidants and contains compounds that have been shown to reduce cancer cell growth in some test-tube studies.
May help fight bacteria
One test-tube study found that oregano essential oil helped prevent the growth of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, two strains of bacteria that can cause infections.
Another test-tube study found that oregano leaves were effective against 23 species of bacteria.
Furthermore, one test-tube study compared the antibacterial activity of oregano, sage, and thyme essential oils. Oregano is one of the most effective anti-bacterial essential oils, second only to thyme.
Current research is limited to test-tube studies that have used concentrated amounts of this herb. Therefore, more research is needed to determine how these results might affect humans.
Oregano contains several compounds with potent antibacterial properties.
Test-tube studies have found that oregano leaf and its components may be effective against certain strains of bacteria.
May help reduce viral infections
In addition to fighting bacteria, some test-tube studies have found that oregano leaf and its components may also protect against certain viruses.
In particular, carvacrol and thymol are two compounds in oregano that have been associated with antiviral properties.
In one test-tube study, carvacrol inactivated norovirus, a viral infection that causes diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain, within an hour of treatment.
Another test-tube study found that thymol and carvacrol inactivated 90% of the herpes simplex virus within an hour.
Although these results are promising, additional research is still needed on how oregano might affect viral infections in humans.
In Brief: Carvacrol and thymol are two compounds found in oregano that have been shown to decrease the activity of viruses in some test-tube studies.
The Bottom Line
Oregano is an herb that boasts a number of significant benefits to your health.
It is packed with antioxidants and may help fight bacteria and viruses, potentially reducing cancer cell growth and helping to reduce inflammation.
However, current research is limited to animal and test-tube studies. Further research is needed to determine its potential effects in humans.
Fortunately, oregano is versatile, easy to add to your diet, and can be incorporated into many recipes in its fresh, dried, or oil form.