The herb oregano is one of the best antioxidants in the kitchen, and as well as its culinary uses, it is also associated with preventing cancer, and has antimicrobial properties.
Oregano, also called wild marjoram, is a member of the mint family and is closely related to marjoram, which Ibn al-Qayyim described in his Prophetic Medicine as having benefits for headaches, inflammations and pain relief.
Oregano is available in its fresh or dried forms, although the fresh leaves are superior in flavor and have more beneficial effects than dried.
Oregano contains many vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that act as strong antioxidants. In fact, one tablespoon of oregano has about the same antioxidant capacity as one apple, a banana, a cup of string beans or one half cup of steamed carrots.
Oregano is also a good source of the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and Beta-carotene.
Oregano contains important phenolic acids that have strong free radical-scavenging activity, which can help prevent certain types of cancers from forming. Indian oregano was shown to have protective properties against radiation-induced DNA damage in an animal study/
Antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic activity
In a cell study, oregano oil caused damage to E. coli bacteria within one minute. Oregano was found in another study to cause irreparable damage to Giardia lamblia, a nasty little parasite that causes diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Combining cranberry extract and oregano extract was more effective in killing h.pylori than either cranberry or oregano extract alone. Researchers believe that therein lies a synergistic effect of oregano and cranberry phenolics, illustrating the benefits of combining certain foods.
Tips for Using Oregano
- Dried oregano is a kitchen essential, but ensure you replace it frequently, because it quickly loses its pungency.
- Garlic, thyme, parsley and olive oil complement the flavor of oregano.
- Grow oregano at home in the herb garden, so you have a fresh supply of it at hand.
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- Oussalah M, Caillet S, Lacroix M. Mechanism of action of Spanish oregano, Chinese cinnamon, and savory essential oils against cell membranes and walls of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes. J Food Prot. 2006 May;69(5):1046-55.
- Lin YT, Kwon YI, Labbe RG, Shetty K. Inhibition of Helicobacter pylori and associated urease by oregano and cranberry phytochemical synergies. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 Dec;71(12):8558-64.