Botanical Coolant

Oregano’s antioxidant powers help it stifle abnormal inflammatory reactions.

January 2014

by Lisa James


The more scientists examine chronic inflammation, the worse the story gets. In one study, this condition was linked to a reduced likelihood of disease-free aging (Canadian Medical Association Journal 9/16/13). Constant low-level inflammation has been associated with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, among other disorders.

Diet is the first step in taking the heat out of inflammation. But dietary effects can be magnified with help from supplements, including a high-quality oregano extract.

The Fire Inside

Inflammation isn’t always bad. The redness and swelling that accompanies a twisted knee or scraped finger indicates an immune response designed prevent further damage (you wouldn’t be walking on that knee for a while). Such normal inflammatory reactions dissipate once the injury heals.

The problem starts when inflammation, prompted by factors that range from stress to smoking to poor diet, arises when it isn’t needed and refuses to subside. This type of chronic inflammation is made even more dangerous because it is often silent, producing no symptoms to warn of the destruction it produces.

One cause of silent inflammation is the presence of free radicals, rogue molecules that injure membranes and other structures as they bounce around the cell. What’s more, inflammation can itself cause free radical production, which helps to perpetuate the inflammatory response.

Cooling Down

Because the cellular damage caused by inflammation is so strongly tied to age, it stands to reason that reducing a dysfunctional inflammatory response would help retard the aging process. This includes stopping the free radicals that contribute to, and are produced by, silent inflammation.

Like many other culinary plants, oregano (Origanum vulgare) has a long history of use in traditional medicine, which has employed this pungent herb to treat ailments that include gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory difficulties and menstrual irregularities. Now researchers have discovered that oregano contains compounds known as phenolics that can eliminate peroxides, one of the major classes of free radicals.

A Spanish study team found that oregano extracts could reduce substances produced by the immune system that promote inflammation while boosting those that eased this response (Food and Chemical Toxicology 6/10). One specific oregano extract, Origanox, provides the same amount of phenolics found in more than 50 teaspoons of dried oregano, making it an especially effective source of these healthful compounds.

Oregano can spice up health in other ways. Its traditional use in treating digestive ailments is backed by research demonstrating its effectiveness in fighting parasites and foiling food poisoning. In lab studies, oregano extracts have shown the ability to protect liver cells from toxins and immune cells from radiation (Protoplasma 4/13, Cancer Biotherapy & Radiopharma­ceuticals 4/13). And Origanox itself has shown an ability to slow the rise in blood sugar after meals, an important factor in diabetes management.

When used to cool inflammation, Origanox works best in combination with other botanicals such as olive hydroxytyrosol, enzymes derived from pineapples and other sources, and antioxidants such as grape seed and quercetin. This allows the body to fight inflammation on several different fronts at once.

Silent inflammation, fanned by free radical production, may pave the way to accelerated aging and obvious symptoms. Oregano can help smother that harmful inner fire.

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