Oregano is a member of the mint family. It has a dark-green colored small leaf and produces tiny white, pink, or purple flowers which are very attractive to pollinating bees. The stems can also grow up to 2 feet high and will often lay down on the ground, particularly when it is young or in the shade.
This plant is one of the most commonly used herbs in the world. It brings warmth to dishes along with a hint of subtle sweetness and strong flavor. Beyond this, oregano has been found to be the nature’s perfect antibiotics as it is packed with many vitamins, antioxidants and other beneficial compounds that provide nutritional and medicinal benefits.
When it comes to overall antioxidant content, oregano, which is a plant native to higher altitudes and normally grows in the mountains, is ranked near the top of the list.
Dried oregano ranks fifth overall on the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) scale, which measures the antioxidant density of foods and herbs, according to PreventiveDisease.com. As compared to sumac and acai berry, oregano is actually higher on the list.
Oregano essential oil, an oil extracted from oregano leaves, is high in carvacrol and thymol, two antioxidants that can help prevent damage to cells caused by free radicals. Moreover, it has also been shown to have a potent antiviral, antiparasitic, antibiotic, antifungal, antihistamine and yeast-inhibiting properties.
Furthermore, oregano has flavonoids and polyphenols like limonene, ocimene, thymol, pinene, carvacrol, and caryophyllene, which collectively give the herb its enticing and pleasant aroma. These compounds are the reason behind oregano’s many health benefits.
As written by Karen Foster for PreventDisease.com:
“Oregano contains at least four compounds that soothe coughs and 19 chemicals with antibacterial action that may help reduce body odor. The ingredients in oregano that soothe coughs may also help un-knot muscles in the digestive tract, making oregano a digestive aid.”
There were many studies showing how flavonoids and polyphenols in oregano can help with chronic inflammation, dirty colons, headaches, chronic fatigue, allergies, and osteoporosis. It has also been found that oregano is also a highly effective preventative food against cancer.
A study in the United Arab Emirates revealed that consumption of oregano can help get rid of malignant cancer cells while protecting healthy cells. Oregano targets cancer by specifically triggering cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, which is another way of saying cancer cell suicide.
Moreover, the active compounds present in oregano can also protect the body against chronic illness as they help prevent oxidative stress. An individual with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease may benefit from including oregano in their diets.
Foster added that:
“Whenever possible, choose fresh oregano over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor. Just like with dried oregano, try to buy that which has been organically grown since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.”