Origanum vulgare is the botanical name for the spice oregano. It is commonly used to flavor food or brew tea. The essential oil of oregano also has several alternate uses. It is made up primarily of carvacrol. The leaves of the plant contain a variety of antioxidant compounds, such as rosmarinic acid.
Traditionally, a leaf of Origanum vulgare is taken alongside a meal to aid digestion. One of the active components, thymol, is structurally similar to menthol, which is found in peppermint and is known to relax the soft tissue of the throat and stomach.
The oil of Oreganum vulgare is antibacterial, and has been used to prolong the shelf life of food products by reducing the rate of microbe growth and reducing the spoilage of fatty acids, which occurs when food products like meat go bad.
There is not much human evidence on supplementing either the leaf or oil form of Oreganum vulgare. The oil’s antioxidant aspect seems to be comparable to vitamin C ex vivo (outside the body). Origanum vulgare hinders bacterial replication, but further research is needed to pinpoint the exact mechanism.
The antibacterial properties of oregano oil suggest it is effective at warding off infection and boosting the human immune system, but human evidence for these effects is lacking. The lone study noting substantial efficacy against intestinal infection was funded by a manufacturer of oregano oil.