Pat Curry, HealthScoutNews
(HealthScoutNews) -- The
herb that gives your pizza its kick also may have what it takes
to zap the toughest disease-causing bacteria, suggests new research.
Oil of oregano fought off the dangerous bacteria Staphylococcus
aureus, at least in the lab, as well as the most common antibiotic
treatments, says a study presented at the recent annual meeting
of the American College of Nutrition.
Staphylococcus bacteria cause a wide variety of infections,
including wound infections after surgery and life-threatening
meningitis, pneumonia and inflammation of the heart lining.
"Microorganisms are incredibly wily," says Paul Doering,
professor of pharmacy at the University of Florida School of Medicine
in Gainesville, Fla. "No matter what we throw at them, they
find ways to dodge, weave and duck, exchanging genetic material
between other bacteria. Almost as quickly as man identified and
isolated these [antibiotics], bacteria were already resistant
to them. That's the constant battle that we have."
In the test tube study, oil of oregano inhibited the growth
of Staphylococcus aureus about as well as penicillin and
streptomycin, the standard drugs used to fight the bacteria, and
the antibiotic of last-resort, vancomycin. Two years ago the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cited increasing reports
of staph bacteria resistant to even vancomycin.
"Doctors use vancomycin as the gold standard," says
Dr. Harry Preuss, professor of physiology and biophysics at Georgetown
University, who conducted the study for North American Herb and
Spice. "If you've tried everything else, and you're down
to your last attempt, you use that. Now, you have staph that's
resistant to that. That's why we're looking at [alternatives]."
In the study, Preuss' research team infected 18 mice with staph
bacteria and compared the benefits of oregano oil and carvacrol,
considered to be the major antibacterial component of the oil.
As a control, six mice received olive oil with no active ingredients;
they all died within three days. Six other mice received carvacrol
in olive oil; all died within 21 days. A third group of six mice
received two to three drops of oregano oil per day, a relatively
low dose; three survived the 30-day treatment.
Preuss says oil of oregano may have other antibacterial properties,
in addition to the carvacrol, that should be studied.
"It's worth checking out. If someone were very, very ill,
and you were running out of options, this could be a good possibility,"
Doering says the antibiotic properties of carvacrol and thymol,
another component of oil of oregano, are well known. He called
the research "incredibly interesting," but very preliminary,
with a minimum of another 10 years of study needed before it could
be considered for government approval.
"I'm happy people are looking high and low for new sources
of new drugs," he says. "For the past 20 years, we've
sat back fat and sassy because of the accomplishments we'd made
in antibiotic therapy. As soon as they developed penicillin, they
should have started looking for 'Son of Penicillin.' I wouldn't
bet the farm on oil of oregano as being the answer for drug-resistant
staphylococcal bacteria. This research is very important, though,
along with hundreds and thousands of others. It's a small step
on the path to finding some new and better drugs."
What To Do
For more information on drug-resistant bacteria, check this
CDC report. (You'll need
Adobe Acrobat to read it.)
Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics has a wealth of
information on antibiotics, including when and how to take these
And the Spice Pages have everything you ever wanted to know about
Reference Source 101