Life Extension Magazine®

Sprig of oregano rich in antiviral benefits


The USDA found that oregano has the highest free-radical-scavenging activity of all 39 herbs tested. Its aromatic and flavorful compounds deliver potent antiviral and antibacterial effects.

Scientifically reviewed by: Holli Ryan, RD, LD/N, in August 2023. Written by: Life Extension Editorial Staff.

Oregano is an herb from the mint family that plays a prominent role in the Mediterranean diet.

It has been used for hundreds of years to treat conditions ranging from diarrhea and indigestion to colds and muscle aches.

More recently, when researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture compared 39 commonly used herbs, they found that oregano had higher free-radical scavenging activity than the other herbs tested.1

The same compounds that give oregano its distinctive flavor and aroma—like thymol and carvacrol—are also responsible for many of its health benefits. These include potent antiviral and antibacterial activity.

As scientists are exploring the health benefits of oregano, adding this unique herb to your diet can spice up any menu.


Several in-vitro studies have shown that two components of oregano have potential antiviral actions.

In one study, carvacrol inactivated norovirus within one hour. Norovirus is a highly contagious viral infection that is the main cause of the stomach flu.2

Another study showed that carvacrol and thymol inactivated herpes simplex virus—also within one hour.3

Oregano oil, which is a concentrated oil extracted from oregano leaves, has also been found to have antiviral activity against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a virus that causes respiratory infections.4


Oregano has promising antibacterial properties. In one in-vitro study, oregano was found to have activity against 23 species of bacteria related to three genera (Staphylococcus, Micrococcus, and Bacillus).5

Another study showed that oregano essential oil was effective against different strains of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas.6

One exciting study showed that oregano oil has significant antibacterial activity against 11 microbes that are resistant to drugs.7

Incorporating Oregano in Your Diet

When you add oregano to dishes like pasta sauce and salads, you’ll not only be adding a burst of flavor, you’ll be sprinkling in small amounts of beneficial nutrients like vitamin C, arginine, and minerals like calcium and potassium.

It could be especially beneficial when added to cooked meat, as one of the active ingredients in oregano—carvacrol—has been shown to reduce the formation of potentially cancer-causing heterocyclic amines, chemicals that form in cooked meat, by up to 78%.8


  1. J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Nov;49(11):5165-70.
  2. J Appl Microbiol. 2014 May;116(5):1149-63.
  3. Planta Med. 2012 Oct;78(15):1636-8.
  4. Braz J Microbiol. 2011 Oct;42(4):1616-24.
  5. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2009 Oct;22(4):421-4.
  6. Med Dosw Mikrobiol. 2012;64(4):297-307.
  7. Front Microbiol. 2018;9:2329.
  8. J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Mar 11;57(5):1848-53.