In many scientific studies, the compounds in oregano have shown great promise for the treatment and prevention of a variety of health issues. Much of the studies have focussed on the compound, carvacrol which abundantly exists in high-quality oregano. Carvacrol is a phenolic compound that is responsible for the sensation of warmth in your mouth and tongue when you eat good quality oregano. The stronger the sensation is a sign of higher concentrations of the compound.
Carvacrol has been known to be an effective anti-bacterial agent and this is perhaps one of the reasons why oregano has been used in food preservation in some cultures where the herb has been known for centuries and has grown natively. It is known to inhibit the growth of E. Coli, the bacteria responsible for many cases of food poisoning.
The concentrations of carvacrol in Greek Oregano can vary and appears to be climate dependent. While many suggest that mountain-grown oregano is preferred, a paper that explored the carvacrol concentrations in Greek oregano found that higher concentrations of the compound were found in oregano plants grown at lower altitudes and in a warmer climate. Regardless of where it is grown, oregano samples that have a more bold aroma and flavour are likely to contain higher levels of carvacrol. Oregano that contains lower amounts of this phenol have inversely, higher amounts of the compound thymol (which also has many health benefits of its own).
In addition to its anti-bacterial properties, there has been interest in the possibility that carvacrol could also be used in the prevention or treatment of cancer. In the journal Cytotechnology, a paper authored by A. Tansu Koparal et al at Anadolu University showed that carvacrol could possibly cure non-small cell lung cancer. Lung cancer cells were treated with various concentrations of carvacrol for 24 hours. These concentrations ranged from 100 µM to 1000 µM. Treatment at 100 µM had no effect on the cancer cells, but at the next level, 250 µM, the paper authors reported that remarkable changes in the cancer cells were observed.
At this treatment level, changes in the cell shape were reported within 24 hours of carvacrol treatment. In addition, carvacrol treatment decreased the cell count, decreased the protein content within the cells, and caused lung cancer cells to die off. The authors concluded, “it can be suggested that carvacrol may have an anticancerogenic effect and it could be used as a drug substance to cure cancer.”
We cannot make any health claims about oregano and whether or not regular consumption will have beneficial or preventative effects for you, however, the study does leave some intriguing ideas about whether there could be links between increased consumption of the herb and reduced risks of some diseases. Whether or not there is a link, we do know that if you enjoy oregano, you’ll love the full-bodied aroma and bold taste of Kirian Greek oregano!
Koparal AT, Zeytinoglu M. Effects of Carvacrol on a Human Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) Cell Line, A549. Cytotechnology. 2003;43(1-3):149-154. doi:10.1023/B:CYTO.0000039917.60348.45.
Vokou D, Kokkini S, Bessiere JM. Geographic variation of Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare ssp. hirtum) essential oils. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. 1993;21(2):287-295.