The healthy eating/whole and living foods movement is gaining more ground by the day. More people are more often choosing to eat natural, unprocessed. It’s a wonderful thing! For a while it was all about salads, green smoothies, (my personal favorite, as you know), and other unadulterated vegetables and fruits. Now we are learning benefits beyond taste of herbs that we heretofore have thought of as “minor” recipe ingredients.
For example, most of us know that oregano is an almost essential ingredient in good marinara sauce, even the raw-served-with-zucchini-noodles variety. It’s a popular taste enhancer with many Italian foods, and is also a very powerful herb with unique and multiple healing properties. It has more than eight times the antioxidants of apples and three times as much as the often touted blueberries. Because antioxidants improve our immune system and fight against free radicals, those little agents of premature aging and disease, getting as many of them into our body as we can is definitely a good idea. It turn out that oregano and its oil, then, is a very powerful plant for healing.
Oregano, along with other foods that are gaining attention for their health benefits, has a long history. The Greeks named it oregano, which means “joy of the mountains,” and were the first people to use oregano oil for medicinal purposes. Hippocrates, well known as the father of modern medicine, used it in his medical practice.
Before talking about some of the other health benefits of oregano, let me offer a word of caution. All the benefits available in oregano oil are available in the fresh or dried leaf of the plant itself, but in lower doses. The active ingredient in oregano is carvacrol, so if you venture into shopping for the oil, make sure that you get the brand that has the highest concentration of that substance. Not all essential oils are equal in their potency, nor are all brands equal in quality, so it’s good to visit with someone who knows something about them. Meanwhile, continuing to add more organic, preferably fresh oregano to your diet is always a good thing.
The health-seeking boom in this country continues to expand, and we look more and more to alternative healing methods to keep us free from diseases, flu viruses, and other illnesses. There are plenty of internet sites selling all kinds of “cure alls”. Oregano oil just might be the wave of the future when it comes to a one size fits all cure all. Here are some of the benefits that have been documented so far. As with the whole idea of using whole foods for healing, more and more nutrients and phytonutrients are being recognized all the time for their ability to prevent illness before it comes, and to restore good health after illness. There may be more benefits that we hear of as we move forward. In addition to the anti-oxidant capabilities of oregano mentioned above, here are more, which, no doubt, still do not exhaust the list.
Super Antibacterial and Antifungal. Research has shown that oregano oil can even kill the superbug MRSA, and the foodborne pathogen Listeria4. Some studies show that it may also fight certain species of the fungus Candida.
Anti-Viral Compounds. Oregano oil is a great way to fight upper respiratory infections such as the ones from the cold or flu. A spray made from oregano can relieve the symptoms of respiratory problems almost immediately. Oregano also encourages sweating, a good detoxer, so eating some oregano could also help expel mucus from the lungs.
Cancer Fighter. Oregano oil has been shown to kill cancer cells and stop the growth of colon cancer cells. It has also been tested for it fighter abilities with ski, breast, prostate, and colon cancer, and leukemia.
Natural Insect Repellant. Try a few drops on your patio furniture and in candles to repel insects naturally. A spray of the oil with some water can keep the bugs off your skin.
Healthy Skin and Muscle Support. Oregano is terrific for common skin issues such as muscle aches, toenail fungus, dandruff, joint pain, and cold sores. Since it is so very strong, it should be diluted with a carrier oil such as grape seed, jojoba, sweet almond, or olive oil. A good ratio may be one ounce of carrier oil and 12 drops of oregano oil.
Headache Killer. Although there are no published studies in this area, many people report almost instant relief from both smelling oregano oil as well as from rubbing some directly on the affected area. Others say that nothing kills an earache faster than a few drips of oregano oil placed directly in the ear.
Oregano oil is quite strong. If it doesn’t solve a health issue in ten days, discontinue use. It also is not tasty at all, even if you love fresh oregano. It is not a good thing for infants, children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers, or for people with hypertension or heart issues.
It’s worth repeating that many diseases and discomforts can be prevented by eating a diet rich in dark leafy greens, other fresh raw vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, that includes as much oregano as you like. The oil, however, is more potent, and calls for some caution and knowledge with its use.
Enjoy this Joy of the Mountain!