Sure, oregano might be one of your go-to herbs when making a deliciously cheesy pasta (we heart cheat day!), but it offers a lot more than just flavor. In fact, this tasty herb can have major health and wellness benefits. Move over, Rosemary—your Italian cousin Oregano deserves some of the spotlight, too.
Oregano originates in southwestern Eurasia and the Mediterranean region. It’s super-popular in Italy, especially in the south, and it’s used in a wide variety of foods across global cuisines. It’s probably known to most as a spice, but it’s also a medicinal herb.
Oregano is filled with plenty of health-promoting goodies, like thymol (which has antibacterial properties), antioxidants (vitamin A, carotenes, lutein, and more), potassium, vitamin C, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and fiber.
Its benefits are wide-reaching:
According to a study done by Pharmacognosy Research, supplementing with oregano can improve immune system functions. Oregano, especially oil of oregano, boasts bioactive phytochemicals (good, plant-based compounds) with health-promoting properties. The antioxidant activity helps to stimulate our internal immune systems, kicking our disease-fighting abilities into overdrive.
According to Taylor C. Wallace, PhD, CFS, FACN, the herb may also help boost healthy cholesterol: “Emerging clinical research suggests that taking oregano after each meal for three months can reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol in people with high cholesterol.”
“There is evidence to suggest that taking oil of oregano for six weeks can kill the parasites Blastocystis hominis, Entamoeba hartmanni, and Endolimax nana, all of which live in your intestines and cause illness,” says Wallace. That’s because oil of oregano shows strong antimicrobial properties, according to Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease.
In fact, a study by Global Advances in Health and Medicine found that oil of oregano directly kills or strongly inhibits the growth of intestinal microbes. Here’s to a healthy gut!
Skin & Gums
The oil can also be used to help promote skin healing. According to the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, using 3 percent oregano extract may support the healing of superficial wounds.
And since we already know oregano offers a lot in the way of antioxidant activity (which fights skin-damaging free radicals), it can be placed in your toolkit for maintaining youthful skin, according to Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine.
Protection Against Insects
One unexpected usage? Oregano can help ward away insects! You can thank its main active ingredient, the antioxidant carvacol, for that. According to the Journal of Insect Science, oregano offers broad insecticidal and acaricidal (spider) activity against pests. To use, place a few drops of oil of oregano on your outdoor furniture (or on your skin, near your ankles, wrists, and neck).
Want in on some oregano stat? You can drink oregano tea, use oregano oil topically (be sure to mix with a carrier oil like coconut oil to prevent irritation) or internally (it should be diluted to one to four drops in a glass of water), or supplement with oil of oregano capsules.
Note: Most oregano oils are “standardized to 70 percent carvacol,” so be on the lookout for that on the label.