A member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, oregano has several potential health benefits. It could, however, be dangerous for people with certain conditions (see below).
The term “oregano” is somewhat of a misnomer as it can refer to several varieties of oregano. However, the form most Americans are familiar with is the Greek oregano used in Greek and Italian cuisines. Let’s start with the good news. Using a bit of oregano in your food is a great way to lower cholesterol, due to its high fiber content. LDL cholesterol binds to dietary fiber and is then taken out of the body. Also aiding the digestive system are compounds that stimulate gastrointestinal juices necessary for digestion. Like other herbs, oregano has an abundant supply of antioxidants, including flavonoids such as vitamin A, carotenes, and lutein. These help rid the body of free radicals that might otherwise cause heart disease, cancer, and other diseases resulting from damage done to the DNA. Also assisting in the fight against free radicals is vitamin C, another vitamin found in large quantities in oregano. Besides its role in collagen formation, vitamin C boosts the immune system and increases the body’s resistance to free radicals.
Oregano is also an excellent brain food. Folic acid, a B-vitamin, helps prevent neural tube defects in unborn babies and vitamin K works to limit neuronal damage in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease. Iron, besides its duties in red blood cell production, also works to carry oxygen to the cells, including those in the brain. Laboratory research has also shown that oregano may be effective in killing some parasites.
With anti-bacterial and anti-oxidative properties and its ability to aid in digestion and brain function, what could possibly be wrong with oregano? For most people, oregano is completely safe and beneficial. However, there are risks that need to be addressed. People with bleeding disorders may find that oregano increases the risk of bleeding. Furthermore, like other members of the mint family, oregano may lower blood sugar levels and be unsafe for people on diabetes medication. Another risk concerns people who are taking lithium. Oregano may decrease how well the body excretes lithium, causing excess amounts to be left in the body and thus leading to serious side effects. Further, people allergic to members of the Lamiaceae family may suffer an allergic reaction from oregano.
Possible short-term side effects
- allergic reaction
- bleeding (for people with hemophilia)
- interaction with lithium
- decreased blood sugar levels
- anti-bacterial properties
- aids the digestive system
- reduces cholesterol
- boosts immunity
- promotes healthy vision
- helps prevent and fight free radical damage
- aids in healthy brain function
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Written by Jeff Volling | 02-27-2016
Written by Jeff Volling
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