The Spartan Guide to Oregano
It makes your lemon chicken sing, sure. But it’s more than a culinary powerhouse; oregano has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years. It’s been long celebrated for its potent antibacterial and antioxidant properties.
A number of studies have shown the herb’s antimicrobial activity. Portuguese researchers found that oregano oil effectively took out 41 strains of Listeria monocytogeneses (a serious food pathogen), and a team of Indian and British scientists showed that oregano oil can even kill MRSA, the hospital superbug. They credit a compound called carvacrol, which is responsible for oregano’s warm, pungent smell—and its kick-butt germ-killing skills.
“I love using oregano for treating dysbiosis in the gut,” says Susan Blum, M.D., an integrative physician and founder of the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, New York. Dysbiosis is an imbalance in the gut flora, which stems from an overgrowth of harmful microbes (yeast, bacteria, parasites) or a dearth of friendly, health-promoting bacteria. “Oregano is especially good for treating yeast, and I always add it to the treatment program when I am treating candida,” Dr. Blum says.
Researchers have also identified beta-caryophyllin, an active ingredient in oregano, as a potential mechanism for easing conditions as diverse as osteoporosis and arteriosclerosis. But more research is needed.
How to Use It
If you don’t already cook with oregano, start now. It’s extremely versatile and makes vegetables and lean meat more flavorful. For a more potent punch, try a supplement, says Dr. Blum. Just avoid taking it on an empty stomach—the concentrated dose can cause upset stomachs.
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