Oregano oil is extracted from the oregano plant (Origanum vulgare), a perennial herb from the flowering plant family Lamiaceae. Thanks to its high concentration of antioxidants, carvacrol, and other critical vitamins and nutrients, the health benefits of oregano oil are truly staggering. Oregano oil may support gastrointestinal, respiratory, and skin health. Additionally, its chemical makeup is a powerful force against harmful organisms.
Unlike the dried leaves used in cooking, organic oregano oil provides the health benefits of both the leaf and flower in a few concentrated drops. The potency of oregano oil is due to carvacrol, the compound in the leaves and flowers that is responsible for most of oregano’s positive health benefits. There are over fifty different types of oregano. Mediterranean varieties of oregano, like those grown in Turkey, usually have the highest amount of carvacrol. These varieties include Origanum heracleoticum and Origanum vulgare, among others.
According to Greek myth, oregano was a beloved and cherished herb of the goddess Aphrodite. She grew it in her garden atop Mount Olympus. Given this history, it’s no surprise that oregano has been studied intensely and its benefits for human health are well known. Below are the top nine you should know about.
1. Calms Lip Blemishes
Many people apply oregano oil to lip blemishes with the belief it will help soothe the area and accelerate healing time. Research is ongoing to pinpoint the validity of this use. Carvacrol may promote resistance against the harmful organisms that cause lip blemishes.
2. Helps with Food Preservation
Spices and herbs, like oregano, have a long history of food preservation and safety. Many types of food, especially raw meat, are a haven for harmful bacteria. Oregano oil may help resist harmful organisms. In one study, a concentrated application of carvacrol slowed the growth of lab cultures or caused them to stop multiplying altogether. Other studies show that essential oils, including oregano, halt the spread of organisms in spoiled fruit juice and aged meat.
3. Soothes Muscle Discomfort
Oregano itself is tremendously soothing and research shows that oregano oil may be helpful for reducing muscle discomfort. In one study, carvacrol was administered orally to mice and measured against opioid-based pain medication. The study concluded that carvacrol offered benefits similar to opioid drugs while being safer.
4. Promotes Intestinal Balance
Maintaining a proper balance of healthy bacteria in your intestines and gut is crucial for supporting good health. A healthy colony of intestinal flora encourages proper digestion and boosts the immune system. Good bacteria also support the immune system and help balance mood. Carvacrol may help promote gut health by creating an appropriate balance of good bacteria and bad bacteria.
5. Eases Bone and Joint Discomfort
Swelling and redness of the joints is an uncomfortable ailment that affects many people. Preliminary studies suggest that carvacrol may offer hope for soothing bones and joints.
6. Resists Harmful Organisms
If you travel to underdeveloped areas of the world, you’ll be exposed to organisms that can wreak havoc on your health. Avoiding the water may be insufficient. Harmful organisms in the natural environment carry a high risk, especially if the body is already in poor health. Research has shown that carvacrol may support the body’s natural response to toxic invaders.
7. Encourages Normal Yeast Balance
Yeast and fungus exist everywhere, even on and in the human body; total eradication is next to impossible. Balance, however, is both desirable and achievable with the help of carvacrol. In a study that examined the use of essential oils as a means to address fungus, carvacrol was among the most effective. Likewise, oregano oil is helpful for promoting balanced candida, a fungus that commonly falls out of balance from poor diet, stress, or antibiotics.
8. Supports Liver Health
Toxins exist in our water, food, and even the air we breathe. The ever-present barrage of toxins in our environment is extraordinary, and the burden it places on the liver is equally mind boggling. Carvacrol may support normal function of the liver, the body’s primary detoxifying organ.
9. Boosts the Immune System
Gut health, toxins, and lifestyle all play a role in your body’s ability to stay healthy. Oregano oil supports many of the critical factors that ultimately contribute to a strong immune system. In addition to oregano oil’s ability to encourage better gut health, it supplies the body with powerful antioxidants. Eating a healthy diet rich in plants, like oregano, encourages a balanced, healthy environment within your body.
What About Fresh or Dried Oregano?
Like oregano oil, fresh or dried oregano is packed full of nutritional benefits. Oregano leaf is a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, iron, calcium, and potassium. Fresh oregano is loaded with beneficial antioxidants. Oregano blended with other herbs can contain as many or more antioxidants as fruit, berries, and vegetables.
Tips for Growing Your Own Oregano
Can’t find the right organic, non-GMO oregano? Then maybe it’s time to grow your own. Like many herbs, it’s easy. With a little bit of work, you’ll be harvesting home-grown oregano in no time.
To start growing oregano, you need some oregano seeds (if you are using cuttings or container plants you can skip these first steps). The variety you should choose depends on your intended use. For a high carvacrol content, Mediterranean varieties are your best bet. Search for the Origanum vulgare variety, which is sometimes referred to as “Greek” oregano. Shop around for a trusted seed supplier who can provide organic, non-GMO seeds. The designation of “heirloom seeds” may assure that the seeds are non-GMO.
Once you have found your seeds, plant this perennial herb in early spring following the last frost of the year. Oregano does best in full sunlight. Check your soil and make sure it’s well drained and has a good mixture of sand, clay, and decaying organic material. If you are not sure if your soil is right, ask a local greenery for compost and fertilizer suggestions.
When your planting location is prepared, it’s time to plant. Place small groups of seeds approximately ¼ inch down and 10 inches apart. Next, cover the seeds with soil and water. Check your plants often. When the soil is dry to the touch, it’s time to water thoroughly.
You may see sprouting after just five days, but exact timing may vary. Oregano leaves will be ready to harvest once the plant reaches about four inches in height, but you may want to wait until they are around eight inches high before taking the leaves. Don’t wait too long to harvest. The best flavors for culinary use come from the leaves before the plant flowers, usually sometime in early July (in the northern hemisphere.) Instead of taking off individual leaves, harvesting may be done by cutting off whole stems with the leaves still attached.
After harvesting, tie the stems together and hang upside down in a cool, dry environment — preferably indoors — to dry. After 5-7 days, the oregano leaves should be ready. Remove the leaves and store them in an airtight, glass container for up to one year.