Most of us are familiar with the cooking herb oregano—its delicious flavor enhances many foods like spaghetti sauce, chicken, and bread. But did you know that there is another version of oregano that may help keep us all healthy during cold and flu season?
The oregano that you might have in your kitchen cupboard right now is usually the origanum marjoram form, but the form that is used medicinally is origanum vulgare. In supplement form, it’s typically sold as oil of oregano. It can be purchased in either capsule/tablet form or as a liquid. No matter which one you prefer, please check the label first to make sure it’s the vulgare form and that the concentration of a substance called “carvacrol” is at least 70 percent.
The reason the carvacrol amount is important is that it is one of the key compounds found in oil of oregano; the other one is called “thymol”. Research has found that both of these substances have an impact on many of the germs that typically make us ill.
For example, a group of researchers from Poland once tested 70 types of plants and found that oregano had the biggest positive impact on the immune system. In addition to enhancing immunity, oregano also appears to work as an antiviral, antifungal, and antibiotic. What makes this especially exciting news is that traditional prescription antibiotics do not work on viruses, so you can be quite ill with a viral-based bug and even if your physician prescribes an antibiotic for you (as many do), it won’t have any effect on the actual thing that is making you sick. Oil of oregano, with its antiviral properties, has been found to work on just about any type of microorganism that makes us sick.
Oil of oregano appears to have other uses as well. For example, it may be diluted with another type of oil (the label will advise you which one to use but olive oil or coconut oil tend to be good choices) applied topically to the skin to help treat an infection, irritated gums, or itchy skin. The substances carvacrol and thymol may have a positive impact on upset stomach and may also help with digestion—usually by adding a few drops of the oil to a beverage like juice and drinking it down.