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Learning Center - Oil of Oregano

Oregano is a member of the mint family. It is light green in color with strong, aromatic odor and pleasantly bitter taste. Oregano goes well with tomato sauces, pizza, and vegetable and fish salads.

Compounds in Oregano
Thymol, Sabinene hydrate, Aristolochic acid, and Carvacol. 

The warm, balsamic and aromatic flavor of oregano makes it the perfect addition to Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines. This popular herb whose name means “mountain joy” is available throughout the year.

Oregano is known botanically as Origanum vulgare and is called wild marjoram in many parts of Europe since it is closely related to the herb that we know as sweet marjoram. It is a small shrub with multi-branched stems covered with small grayish-green oval leaves and small white or pink flowers. In Mediterranean climates oregano grows as a perennial plant, but in the harsher climates of North America, they grow as annuals.

Oil of oregano is a completely natural substance derived from wild oregano species. The plant grows in remote mountainous regions free of pollution. Only the leaves of the flowering plant are used. They are picked precisely when the plant is highest in essential oil. Being wild, it is grown chemical-free and the oil is extracted via a completely natural process - no chemicals or solvents are used. The oil is the source of virtually all of the plant's active ingredients.

Oil of oregano is a potent germ killer. Jean Valnet, in his book The "Practice of Aromatherapy", describes how oil of oregano superceded anti-inflammatory drugs in reversing pain and inflammation and is nearly as powerful as morphine as a painkiller. The oil also possesses significant antioxidant power. Furthermore, it stimulates the flow of bile, which greatly aids digestion.

An Effective Anti-Bacterial

The volatile oils in this spice include thymol and carvacrol , both of which have been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus . In Mexico, researchers have compared oregano to tinidazol, a commonly used prescription drug to treat infection from the amoeba Giardia lamblia . These researchers found oregano to be more effective against Giardia than the commonly used prescription drug.

Potent Anti-Oxidant Activity

Oregano contains numerous phytonutrients - including thymol and rosmarinic acid - that have also been shown to function as potent antioxidants that can prevent oxygen-based damage to cell structures throughout the body. In laboratory studies, oregano has demonstrated stronger anti-oxidant capacity than either of the two synthetic anti-oxidants commonly added to processed food – BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and BHA (butylated bydroxyanisole). Additionally, on a per gram fresh weight basis, oregano has demonstrated 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges and 4 times more than blueberries.

A Nutrient-Dense Spice

Our food ranking system qualified oregano as a very good source of fiber. Fiber works in the body to bind to bile salts and cancer-causing toxins in the colon and remove them from the body. This forces the body to break down cholesterol to make more bile salts. These are just some of the reasons that diets high in fiber have been shown to lower high cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of colon cancer

Oregano also emerged from our food ranking system as a bountiful source of many nutrients. It qualified within our system as a very good source of iron, manganese and dietary fiber, as well as a good source of calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A (through its concentration pro-vitamin A carotenoidsl ike beta-carotene) and omega-3 fatty acids.

Description

While many people think of pizza when they think of oregano, this wonderful herb can add a warm, balsamic and aromatic flavor to many different dishes, especially those of the Mediterranean cuisine.

Oregano is known botanically as Origanum vulgare and is called wild marjoram in many parts of Europe since it is closely related to the herb that we know as sweet marjoram. Its name is derived from the Greek words “ oros ” (mountain) and “ ganos ” (joy) since not only was it a symbol of happiness, but it made the hillsides on which it grew look beautiful.

History

Oregano is native to northern Europe, although it grows throughout many regions of the world. It has been recognized for its aromatic properties since ancient times, with the Greeks and Romans holding oregano as a symbol of joy and happiness. In fact, it was a tradition for Greek and Roman brides and grooms to be crowned with a laurel of oregano.

Oregano has been cultivated in France since the Middle Ages and has come to be an important herb in Mediterranean cooking. Oregano was hardly known in the United States until the early 20th century when GIs returning from Italy brought word of this fragrant and delicious herb back to the United States.

How to Select and Store

Whenever possible, choose fresh oregano over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor. The leaves of fresh oregano should look fresh and be a vibrant green in color, while the stems should be firm. They should be free from darks spots or yellowing.

Even through dried herbs and spices like oregano are widely available in supermarkets, you may want to explore the local spice stores in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness compared to those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried herbs, when purchasing dried oregano, try to buy that which has been organically grown since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.

Fresh oregano should be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. It may also be frozen, either whole or chopped, in airtight containers. Alternatively, you can freeze the oregano in ice cube trays covered with either water or stock that can be added when preparing soups or stews. Dried oregano should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place where it will keep fresh for about six months.

Oil of Oregano benefit
Many studies have been done with oregano over the years, but I could only find one involving a human trial. Numerous laboratory and animal studies indicate oregano has immune stimulating effects, blood sugar control properties, antioxidant, and anti-fungal, anti-parasite, and anti-bacterial activities.

Oregano Research Update
Oregano: properties, composition and biological activity
Arch Latinoam Nutr. 2004 Mar;54(1):100-11.
The oregano spice includes various plant species. The most common are the genus Origanum, native of Europe, and the Lippia, native of Mexico. Among the species of Origanum. their most important components are the limonene, gamma-cariofilene, rho-cymenene, canfor, linalol, alpha-pinene, carvacrol and thymol. In the genus Lippia, the same compounds can be found. The oregano composition depends on the specie, climate, altitude, time of recollection and the stage of growth. Some of the properties of this plant's extracts are being currently studied due to the growing interest for substituting synthetic additives commonly found in foods. Oregano has a good antioxidant capacity and also presents antimicrobial activity against pathogenic microorganisms like Salmonella typhimurium, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, among others. These are all characteristics of interest for the food industry because they may enhance the safety and stability of foods. There are also some reports regarding the antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic effect of oregano; representing an alternative for the potential treatment and/or prevention of certain chronic ailments, like cancer. Oregano oil.

Performance of rabbits and oxidative stability of muscle tissues as affected by dietary supplementation with oregano essential oil.
Arch Anim Nutr. 2004 Jun;58(3):209-18.
The effect of dietary supplementation with oregano essential oil on the performance of rabbits, and the susceptibility of the produced raw and thermally treated muscle tissue to lipid oxidation during refrigerated storage, were investigated. A total of 96 weaned rabbits were separated into four equal groups with three subgroups each. One group was given the basal diet and served as control, two groups were administered diets supplemented with oregano essential oil at levels of 100 and 200 mg/kg diet, whereas the remaining group was given a diet supplemented with alpha-tocopheryl acetate at 200 mg/kg. During the 42-day experimental period, body weight and feed intake were recorded weekly and the feed conversion ratio was calculated. Feeding the experimental diets to rabbits, performance parameters were not affected. Therefore, dietary oregano essential oil exerted no growth-promoting effect on rabbits. With increased supplementation of oregano essential oil, malondialdehyde values decreased in both raw and thermally treated muscles during refrigerated storage. This finding suggests that dietary oregano essential oil exerted a significant antioxidant effect. Dietary supplementation of oregano essential oil at the level of 200 mg/kg was more effective in delaying lipid oxidation compared with the level of 100 mg/kg, but inferior to dietary supplementation of 200 mg alpha-tocopheryl acetate per kg. This study indirectly provides evidence that antioxidant compounds occurring in oregano essential oil were absorbed by the rabbit and increased the antioxidative capacity of tissues.

Anti-hyperglycaemic activity of the aqueous extract of Origanum vulgare (Oregano) growing wild in Tafilalet region.
J Ethnopharmacol. 2004 Jun;92(2-3):251-6.
The effect of an aqueous extract of Oregano leaves on blood glucose levels was investigated in normal and streptozotocin (STZ) diabetic rats. In normal rats, the blood glucose levels were slightly decreased 6 h after a single oral administration as well as 15 days after once daily repeated oral administration of aqueous Oregano extract (20 mg/kg). After a single dose or 15 daily doses, oral administration of the aqueous extract (20 mg/kg) produced a significant decrease on blood glucose levels in STZ diabetic rats. In STZ rats, the blood glucose levels were normalised from the fourth day after daily repeated oral administration of aqueous Oregano extract (20 mg/kg). However, this effect was less pronounced 2 weeks after daily repeated oral administration of oregano extract. In addition, no changes were observed in basal plasma insulin concentrations after treatment in either normal or STZ diabetic rats indicating that the aqueous Oregano extract acted without changing insulin secretion. We conclude that an aqueous extract of Oregano exhibits an anti-hyperglycaemic activity in STZ rats without affecting basal plasma insulin concentrations.

Immunostimulatory effect of dietary oregano etheric oils on lymphocytes from growth-retarded, low-weight growing-finishing pigs and productivity.
Tijdschr Diergeneeskd. 2004 Mar 15;129(6):178-81.
The present study was designed to evaluate the possible effect of dietary oregano etheric oils as non-specific immunostimulating agents in growth-retarded, low-weight growing-finishing pigs. Forty-nine growth-retarded (> 10% under average weight in a group) growing-finishing pigs of the same age were assigned to two groups and treated as follows: Group 1 (n = 25): the animals weighed 58 kg and were fed until slaughter ad libitum with a commercial fattening diet supplemented with 3000 ppm commercial oregano feed additive (Oregpig Pecs, Hungary). Oregpig is dried leaf and flower of oregano, enriched with 500 g/kg cold-pressed essential oils of the leaf and flower of oregano. Analysis of Oregpig: 60 g carvacrol and 55 g thymol/kilogram. Group 2 (n = 24): the animals weighed 57.9 kg and were fed until slaughter with the same diet without Oregpig supplementation. Oregano-receiving pigs showed a significantly better average daily gain and feed conversion rate than the non-treated animals (Oregpig group 788.1 +/- 31.3 g, control animals 709 g; 2.96, vs. 3.08, respectively). Mortality was significantly higher in the non-treated animals (oregano group, 1 animal = 4%; control, 8 animals = 33.3%). The proportion of CD4, CD8, MHC class II antigen, and non-T/non-B cells in peripheral blood lymphocytes was significantly higher in the oregano-receiving pigs than in the control animals. The proportion of CD4+ CD8+ double-positive T lymphocytes in peripheral blood and mesenteric lymph nodes was higher in the oregano-receiving pigs than in the control animals. Implication: Dietary oregano improves growth in growth-retarded growing-finishing pigs and has non-specific immunostimulatory effects on porcine immune cells.

Effect of dietary supplementation with oregano essential oil on performance of broilers after experimental infection with Eimeria tenella.
Arch Tierernahr. 2003 Apr;57(2):99-106.
A study was carried out to examine the effect of dietary supplementation of oregano essential oil on performance of broiler chickens experimentally infected with Eimeria tenella at 14 days of age. A total of 120 day-old Cobb-500 chicks separated into 4 equal groups with three replicates each, were used in this study. Two groups, one infected with 5 x 10(4) sporulated oocysts of E. tenella and the other not, were given a basal diet and served as controls. The other two groups also infected with E. tenella were administered diets supplemented with oregano essential oil at a level of 300 mg/kg, or with the anticoccidial lasalocid at 75 mg/kg. Following this infection, survival rate, bloody diarrhoea and oocysts excretion as well as lesion score were determined. Two weeks after the infection with E. tenella supplementation with dietary oregano oil resulted in body weight gains and feed conversion ratios not differing from the non-infected group, but higher than those of the infected control group and lower than those of the lasalocid group. These parameters correspond with the extent of bloody diarrhoea, survival rate, lesion score and oocyst numbers and indicated that oregano essential oil exerted an anticoccidial effect against E. tenella, which was, however, lower than that exhibited by lasalocid.

Antithrombin activity of some constituents from Origanum vulgare.
Goun E. University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL.
Fitoterapia. 2002 Dec;73(7-8):692-4.
Aristolochic acid I, aristolochic acid II, and D-(+)-raffinose were isolated from Oregano. Their inhibition of thrombin and activity against leukemia were evaluated. Aristolochic acid I and II have high inhibition of thrombin activity and were confirmed to possess activity against cancer.

Inhibition of enteric parasites by emulsified oil of oregano in vivo.
Phytother Res. 2000 May;14(3):213-4.
Oil of Mediterranean oregano Oreganum vulgare was orally administered to 14 adult patients whose stools tested positive for enteric parasites, Blastocystis hominis, Entamoeba hartmanni and Endolimax nana. After 6 weeks of supplementation with 600 mg emulsified oil of oregano daily, there was complete disappearance of Entamoeba hartmanni (four cases), Endolimax nana (one case), and Blastocystis hominis in eight cases. Also, Blastocystis hominis scores declined in three additional cases. Gastrointestinal symptoms improved in seven of the 11 patients who had tested positive for Blastocystis hominis. Oregano oil research wild oregano plant.

 


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Faculty of Dentistry, Montreal, Canada. February 2006

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Oregano Oil and Dentistry - Powerpoint Presentation

 

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