Oregano Oil – Have Today’s Superbugs Met their Superhero Match?

Superbugs – increasingly antibiotic-resistant and multi-drug resistant bacteria and other germs – have been growing steadily over the last two decades, notably as a result of overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Some include the now-familiar MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staph. aureus), drug-resistant TB, and the notorious “flesh-eating disease” (necrotizing fasciitis, which can be caused a number of different organisms including MRSA).

Fortunately, help is at hand with our humble, but heroic, Oregano. Its fresh, distinctive aroma lends itself to more than just sauces and pasta!

Oregano’s volatile (essential) oil contains a compound called carvacrol, the main active phytochemical associated with its powerful infection-fighting abilities. All plants contain ‘phytochemicals,’ natural plant compounds which serve a unique purpose in the plant. Their type and amount is the product of various factors including climate, growing altitude, soil conditions, and plant genetics, all of which affect their potency.

Carvacrol is a phenol, and phenols are renowned for their antimicrobial power (think Lysol, Dettol, etc.) Only a few plants have a high phenolic content, though, including wild Mediterranean oregano (Origanum vulgare, plus over 40 other wild oregano species). Phenols including carvacrol (and thymol, also in oregano oil) are excellent disinfectants because they disrupt the outer protective coat of microorganisms (such as the cell wall in bacteria and fungi, or the protein coat surrounding viruses), causing leakage of contents from within the cell – effectively killing it.

Diffusing oil of oregano is a great way to help keep your home germ-free. Just add a few drops to your essential oil diffuser, or to a spray bottle of water for a nontoxic disinfecting household cleaner or air freshener.

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Paulina Nelega, MLT, RH

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