The main focus of orthomolecular medicine is to treat the leading cause of the condition. Detecting the root cause is the cornerstone to determine the proper treatment. However, most diseases start in the gut, and treating the GI tract has become the pinnacle of orthomolecular therapy. Additionally, orthomolecular therapy focuses on using natural supplementation, including herbal extracts, on treating subclinical disease causes and support conventional medical treatment. Oregano extract and essential oils promise beneficial health effects by having anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties due to the vast array of phytochemicals in their chemical components. Oregano extract or its essential oil may support GI health by maintaining food freshness and reducing inflammation.
Oregano has a wide variety of species, reaching the number of 60 and 17 genera. However, the “original” oregano is the one labeled as Greek Oregano. Previously, oregano was used as medicine for respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and cough. Also, due to its anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory effects, oregano was used to ease diarrhea, indigestion, and stomach ache.
Oregano contains many phytochemicals, including elevated amounts of rosmarinic acid, a nutraceutical component found in rosemary. The oregano herb has been linked to many health benefits: lowering cardiovascular, cancer, and stroke risk. However, oregano is commonly found in the Mediterranean dietary pattern, which combines fish, vegetables, and fruits, a high intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidants. Therefore, it is only safe to say that combining this dietary pattern and the oregano intake is part of these health benefits.
The bioactive properties of oregano extract and oregano essential oil are the ones that provide them with multiple applications.
In oregano essential oil, the most abundant bioactive compounds are thymol and carvacrol. In turn, thymol and carvacrol are potent anti-microbial and antioxidant phytochemicals that comprise 92% of the total essential oil content.
On the other hand, the phytochemical components of oregano extract are more varied. One of the principal components of oregano extract is luteolin-7-O-glucoside, followed by rosmarinic acid and apigenin if the extraction is made by the hydroalcoholic method. However, there are multiple extraction methods, and with each one, a variation of the phytochemical components. Some of the other techniques report carvacrol as the primary component, with up to 60%.
The global population has elevated concerns in regards to food synthetic preservatives and their effects on health. The harmful effects of food preservatives such as butylated hydroxyanisole, butylated hydroxytoluene, tert-butylhydroquinone, and propyl gallate have detrimental consequences on food. Therefore, food chemists have focused on using oregano to inhibit protein and lipid oxidation. In turn, oregano extract has gotten good sensory acceptance and seems to preserve physiochemical components on chicken and lamb.
This food preservation application is mainly due to oregano’s anti-microbial and antioxidant properties. In a previous study, Teixeira et al. determined that the combination of oregano extract and hot water had the highest amount of antioxidant properties. In addition, an experiment to test the efficacy of oregano extract and oregano essential oils on bacterial strains determined their functionality against Brochothrix thermosphacta, Escherichia coli, L. innocua, Listeria monocytogenes, Pseudomonas putida, Salmonella typhimurium, and Shewanella putrefaciens.
Oregano’s essential oil and extract have been tested In vivo on mice models with positive results. However, the gastrointestinal benefits conferred by oregano are tightly linked to its antimicrobial effects on food. A better-preserved animal protein is less likely to harm the gastrointestinal environment. Besides this, In vivo studies report suppression of TNF-a expression in mice intervened with oregano extract.
Furthermore, in mice with streptozotocin-induced diabetes, ethyl acetate oregano extract intervention resulted in a reduced concentration of IL-1B and IL-6.
On the other hand, in a colitis mouse model, oregano and thyme essential oils intervention were reflected in preventing macroscopic colonic damage. Additionally, the use of these essential oils reduced the expression of proinflammatory cytokines IL-1B and IL-6.
The impact of the multiple uses of oregano benefit both the food we consume and reduce GI inflammation. These applications reflect oregano’s capacity to reduce pathogens and cytokines with its bioactive components. In turn, these powerful effects and the previous studies performed to determine their functionality ensure orthomolecular medicine treatment with herbal essential oils to prevent and reverse disease. – Ana Paola Rodríguez Arciniega, MS.
Veenstra, Jacob P, and Jeremy J Johnson. “Oregano (Origanum vulgare) extract for food preservation and improvement in gastrointestinal health.” International journal of nutrition vol. 3,4 (2019): 43-52. doi:10.14302/issn.2379-7835.ijn-19-2703
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