7 Benefits and Uses of Oregano

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

Oregano is an important part of the Mediterranean diet. While it does make your recipes tasty, it also has many health benefits. It may have potential antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Moreover, oregano may help improve digestion. It may also have the potential to manage diabetes, relieve the symptoms of depression, and improve heart health.

What is Oregano?

Oregano is a popular herb and its scientific name is Origanum vulgare. It helps to enhance the flavor of your food and also boost your overall health.

Oregano is native to southwest Eurasia and the Mediterranean area. It has been a culinary ingredient and an alternative medicine option for thousands of years. Interestingly, it is closely related to mint as it belongs to the same family- Lamiaceae.

The leaves are the most commonly used part of the plant. Its taste ranges from bitter, zesty, and astringent to sweet and mild. The flavor depends on the climate it grows in. The aroma and flavor of the herb are better in its dried form rather than the fresh one.

Aside from being used as an herb, it is also available in other forms like essential oil and capsules. Oregano oil is an extremely concentrated form of oregano and as it is very potent, it should always be diluted. [1]

Nutrition Facts

Spices, oregano, dried
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]9.93
Energy 265
Energy [kJ]1107
Protein [g]9
Total lipid (fat) [g]4.28
Ash [g]7.87
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]68.92
Fiber, total dietary [g]42.5
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]4.09
Sucrose [g]0.91
Glucose (dextrose) [g]1.9
Fructose [g]1.13
Galactose [g]0.15
Calcium, Ca [mg]1597
Iron, Fe [mg]36.8
Magnesium, Mg [mg]270
Phosphorus, P [mg]148
Potassium, K [mg]1260
Sodium, Na [mg]25
Zinc, Zn [mg]2.69
Copper, Cu [mg]0.63
Manganese, Mn [mg]4.99
Selenium, Se [µg]4.5
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]2.3
Thiamin [mg]0.18
Riboflavin [mg]0.53
Niacin [mg]4.64
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.92
Vitamin B-6 [mg]1.04
Folate, total [µg]237
Folate, food [µg]237
Folate, DFE [µg]237
Choline, total [mg]32.3
Betaine [mg]9.8
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]85
Carotene, beta [µg]1007
Carotene, alpha [µg]20
Cryptoxanthin, beta [µg]7
Vitamin A, IU [IU]1701
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]1895
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]18.26
Tocopherol, gamma [mg]24.42
Tocopherol, delta [mg]0.92
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]621.7
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]1.55
10:0 [g]0
12:0 [g]0.25
14:0 [g]0
16:0 [g]0.79
18:0 [g]0.51
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.72
16:1 [g]0
18:1 [g]0.71
18:1 c [g]0.71
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]1.37
18:2 [g]0.75
18:3 [g]0.62
18:3 n-3 c,c,c (ALA) [g]0.62
Phytosterols [mg]203
Tryptophan [g]0.2
Threonine [g]0.32
Isoleucine [g]0.44
Leucine [g]0.78
Lysine [g]0.5
Methionine [g]0.13
Cystine [g]0.11
Phenylalanine [g]0.45
Tyrosine [g]0.3
Valine [g]0.59
Arginine [g]0.45
Histidine [g]0.14
Alanine [g]0.5
Aspartic acid [g]1.01
Glutamic acid [g]0.98
Glycine [g]0.52
Proline [g]1.71
Serine [g]0.31
Sources include : USDA [2]

Nutrition in Oregano

Oregano is packed with some interesting and healthy nutrients. A teaspoon of dried oregano leaves contains protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. It is a good source of minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron. It contains many other nutrients and compounds like vitamin K, lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, and folate. [3]

The essential oils in this herb contain terpenes like thymol, ocimene, carvacrol, limonene, caryophyllene, and terpinene. These compounds have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. [4]

Health Benefits of Oregano

The health benefits of oregano include:

Possibly Rich in Carvacrol

Oregano is a rich source of a compound called carvacrol. It is also found in many aromatic plants like thyme, bergamot, and pepperwort. Research suggests that it has therapeutic benefits and it has been used in folk medicine for many health conditions. [5]

Multiple studies show that carvacrol has potentially antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. It also helps in fighting lifestyle diseases and food-borne illnesses. [6] [7]

Fresh oregano herb and a wooden bowl of dried oregano on a wooden table

Fresh as well as dried oregano is used in Mediterranean cuisine. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Potential Antibacterial Activity

Oregano is making waves not just for its flavor but also for its potential antibacterial prowess. Central to its defensive capabilities are compounds thymol and carvacrol, as highlighted in the Process Biochemistry journal [8]

These elements can potentially shield our body from diverse bacteria targeting areas like the skin and gut. [9]

Further insights from an animal study revealed that oregano oils can even stand up against 11 antibiotic-resistant microbes. [10]

When pitted against other essential oils like sage and thyme in a test-tube study, oregano emerged as a formidable contender, trailing only behind thyme in its bacterial defense.  [11]

While oregano’s properties hint at therapeutic benefits, it’s vital to remember that more research is on the horizon to determine the true impact of this herb on our diets.

May Relieve Depression

A study conducted on rats in 2019 showed that oregano essential oil may help in reducing depressive-like behavior which results from chronic unpredictable stress (CUS). [12]

Carvacrol, found in this herb, is linked to improving dopamine levels in mice. It is also found to help generate feelings of well-being when taken on a regular basis in a low concentration. [13] [14]

The British Journal of Nutrition [15] also suggests that extracts made from oregano leaves may help in enhancing mental well-being as per the research conducted on rats.

May Help Manage Diabetes

A 2019 study mentions some in-vitro and in-vivo antidiabetic effects of this herb. It found that oregano helps in lowering high blood sugar levels as per the research on animals. [16]

Type-1 diabetes is an autoimmune inflammatory disorder. Research on mice suggests that oregano extracts help to alleviate it through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. [17]

Conclusive human research is needed to confirm this claim.

May Aid in Digestion

A teaspoon of oregano packs about 0.5 grams of fiber, a small but impactful amount for digestive health. This fiber enhances stool bulk and stimulates peristaltic motion, aiding efficient food movement and excretion, while also improving gut health and nutrient uptake.  [18]

Furthermore, research on oregano essential oil (OEO) shows its benefits in boosting digestive enzymes and immune responses. In a study with Cyprinus carpio fish, varying OEO concentrations improved enzymes like protease, lipase, and amylase, and strengthened immune markers, highlighting OEO’s potential as a natural digestive health enhancer. [19]

More human research is needed on this topic to derive a concrete conclusion on the same.

May Improve Heart Health

Multiple research studies show that oregano extracts may help in regulating blood pressure. [20]

It is also helpful in reducing hyperlipidemia, which is a condition characterized by high levels of fat in the blood. [21]

While many essential oils from herbs help in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, not many studies have been conducted on oregano extracts or essential oils. Also, the studies mentioned are based on animal research and conclusive human research is required to validate this claim.

Possible Antioxidant Potential

According to a 2017 study published in the Plants journal by a team of Mexican researchers, herbs like oregano contain flavonoids and phenolic acids that help to alleviate chronic diseases. [22]

Oregano also contains rosmarinic acid and thymol. Both of these act as powerful antioxidants that help in reducing oxidative stress in the body. Thus, adding it to your diet may help improve your immune system! [23]

Oregano Uses

It is used to flavor everything from soups, sauces, and curries, to meat dishes, pizza, pasta, vegetables, and even salads. Oregano has a strong taste. So remember to add a small amount and gradually increase if required.

Simple ways to use oregano in different recipes are mentioned below.

  • Salads: Mix some fresh oregano leaves in your salads.
  • Sauces: You can use dried oregano in your sauces for an additional flavor.
  • Seasoning: Oregano is a great way to season your roasted dishes like roast chicken or Brussels sprouts.
  • Topping: You can chop oregano finely and add it to your pizza, curries, and soups.

Also, here are a few recipes that you can try.

Protip: 1 teaspoon of dried oregano = 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano

If you are looking for handy oregano substitutes, here are some.

Word of Caution: Oregano is likely safe for most people. However, if you are on medications for bleeding disorders or diabetes, we suggest you consult with your doctor before having it. [24]

People who are allergic to mint and other herbaceous perennial plants may experience some discomfort while eating or touching oregano. It is not commonly known as an allergenic substance. Also, the symptoms of an allergic reaction to this herb are very mild.

So toss some oregano into your next meal and reap its health benefits.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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