The Health Benefits of Carvacrol
You may not have heard about carvacrol but I am certain that you are familiar with some of the herbs in which it is found.
Carvacrol is one of the main reasons that so many people benefit from using oregano oil but it is also found in other essential oils including thyme and wild bergamot. Oregano is probably the best known source of carvacrol and research has demonstrated that the herb is not just a tasty cooking ingredient.
It also confers an array of health benefits including antioxidant properties, liver protection, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory abilities.
One interesting fact is that pure carvacrol has only around half the ability to destroy pathogens as pure oregano oil according to laboratory tests.
The reason that oregano oil is so much more effective is the synergism between its naturally occurring compounds. The majority of the testing on oregano oil’s anti-fungal, antiviral and other properties has been done on oregano oil with between 62 and 85% carvacrol.
What is Carvacrol?
Carvacrol or 5-Isopropyl-2-methylphenol, to give it its full name, is a compound found in a number of essential oils as well as black walnut oil. While oregano is the best known source of the compound, it is typically present in plants belonging to the Labiatae family including mint, basil, hyssop, marjoram, rosemary, lavender and sage.
Other very rich sources of carvacrol are oregano essential oil (around 80%) and thyme essential oil (around 70%). Carvacrol is a thick liquid which is colorless or pale yellow. Carvacrol is soluble in ether and ethanol and is also slightly water soluble.
Oregano and Carvacrol
The best-known source of carvacrol is the wild oregano plant or Origanum vulgare. Oregano contains the highest known concentration of carvacrol at around 80%. A cultivated thyme plant (thyme ct carvacrol) is also produced to express very high levels of the compound.
Oregano essential oil has been well-researched regarding its antimicrobial benefits. researchers have typically used high quality oregano essential oil containing up to 82% carvacrol. This implies that the quality of your essential oil is key to getting the many benefits that the compound has to offer.
When it comes to essential oil quality, a number of factors come into play including growing conditions, the parts of the plant used and the distillation process itself. Because of these variable factors, the level of carvacrol found in oregano essential oil can vary widely from as little as 30% to as much as 87%.
How Carvacrol Can Benefit your Health
There is a growing body of scientific research into the incredible potential of carvacrol. In particular, there have been a number of interesting findings regarding its anti-cancer potential. But that is not all. Carvacrol has also demonstrated antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and heart health benefits. Some of its main benefits of the compound include treating the following conditions :
- Common cold
- High cholesterol
- Pneumonia and other infections
- Urinary tract infection
- Candida albicans
- Nail fungus
- Bacterial infections of the blood
- Arthritis and joint inflammation
Carvacrol and Cancer
The search for a cure to cancer does not appear to be nearing an end and it would be foolish to claim that carvacrol holds all the answers. Having said that, carvacrol is demonstrating some excellent early signs of potential and has piqued the interest of the scientific community more than many other natural remedies have managed.
So far, it has demonstrated promising results when tested against various types of cancer including breast cancer, prostate, lung and mouth cancer cells.
A study published in 2010 found that carvacrol was effective in expediting the death of breast cancer cells. (1) In a study which recently made headlines, researchers at Long island University found that it had similar effects when it was tested for its effects on prostate cancer in 2012. (2)
A spate of recent research activity seems to indicate that its anti-cancer abilities may be equally effective whatever form the cancer takes and studies have confirmed that it can help kill cancerous cells in the lungs, the mouth and the brain. (3) (4) (5)
While it is important to point out that these studies were carried out in the laboratory and that very high potency doses were used, the findings are nevertheless very encouraging and it is difficult not to be excited about the future potential.
Another major way in which carvacrol can benefit your health is its powerful effect against harmful bacteria. It is able to destroy or at least inhibit the growth of numerous known pathogens that can produce dangerous toxins in the stomach.
These pathogens can cause a variety of illnesses including gastroenteritis, enteritis, diarrhea, and even kidney failure.
Carvacrol is effective because of its known ability to damage the integrity of the bacterial cell membrane which inhibits the effectiveness of the bacteria and prevents it from growing.
Of course, eating a small amount of oregano or applying a little oil is unlikely to cure any of these sicknesses on its own but the evidence that carvacrol helps to balance one’s digestive system is strong and a healthy digestive system is linked to overall well-being and also better immunity.
It is especially interesting that carvacrol has little impact on the beneficial bacteria that lives in the gut. While carvacrol is absolutely deadly to the majority of pathogens, it has minimal effect on the probiotic species that we need for good health.
Studies have found that carvacrol was effective in inhibiting between 97 and 100% of harmful pathogens while its effect on probitotic bacteria was only around a 3 to 5% inhibition.
The takeaway message is that carvacrol is great for your digestive health.
Carvacrol and Candida
Candida albicans is a common yeast infection caused by the overgrowth of the opportunistic fungus. It can lead to a variety of nasty symptoms including fatigue, joint pain, bloating and weight gain.
A Candida overgrowth typically occurs in the mouth, vagina or digestive tract but can occur anywhere in the body that fungus is likely to thrive.
A study conducted in 2011 examined the effects of carvacrol on oral Candida taken from people who wore dentures and found that it was a very effective treatment. (6)
For Inflammation and Pain Relief
When we think of inflammation, we usually think of inflammatory joint conditions like arthritis but inflammation goes much further. It is believed to be at the root of most major diseases including cancer, heart disease and chronic digestive disease.
A whole host of studies have demonstrated that carvacrol has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect by inhibiting an enzyme responsible for inflammation called COX-2. (7)
If you are suffering from inflammation of the joints, try massaging some diluted oregano oil into the affected area of your body. It is important to dilute oregano essential oil before applying it to the skin. it is a powerful oil that can cause a reaction when applied neat. Suitable carrier oils include coconut oil, sweet almond oil or apricot oil.
For Cholesterol Levels
Studies have shown that carvacrol may also be good for the heart by protecting against the effects of oxidized LDL cholesterol. When LDL cholesterol is oxidized, it accumulates on the artery walls and increases your risk of coronary disease and heart attack.
A study published in 2007 analyzed the effects of several beneficial plant oils against LDL oxidation and found that oregano oil was the most effective. The researchers credited its protective effect to the presence of carvacrol. (8)
Blood Sugar Control
Studies have showed that extracts containing carvacrol and thymol can help to bring blood sugar levels under control. Herbal remedies containing carvacrol have been approved in the the former Soviet country – Georgia as a therapy for blood sugar irregularities.
One study published in 2012 found that a savory plant called saturin which contains carvacrol was effective in reducing blood sugar levels with no risk of side effect. (9)
Antioxidant Benefits of Carvacrol
Carvacrol also has very powerful antioxidant benefits. Antioxidants are very important to human health in general. they can help protect us from disease and even reverse damage done by ‘free radicals’. The antioxidant effects of carvacrol are largely responsible for the compound’s ability to fight diseases like cancer and inflammation. (12)
Antioxidants like carvacrol also confer an anti-aging effect. Not only can this compound help boost your internal health but it may even help you to look younger for longer.
Other Uses of Carvacrol
As well as the major benefits listed above, carvacrol has a number of other potential health benefits. While research into these specific benefits is lacking, the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects of the compound suggest that it could help to treat a number of other complaints. It has been used to treat the following conditions :
- colds and flu
- nail fungus
- urinary tract infections
- common skin conditions like acne
Home Cleaning Uses
Apart from being extremely beneficial to your body, you may find that carvacrol can be put to good use around the home. It can actually be used to thoroughly clean those grimy areas of the kitchen or bathroom that are prone to harmful bacteria.
One recent study set out to examine the abilities of carvacrol as an alternative surface cleaning agent. The study demonstrated that oregano oil concentrations effectively destroyed listeria biofilms residing on stainless steel and plastic surfaces. (10)
Another study has found that carvacrol and thymol can clean just as thoroughly as chlorine. Many products are washed before being put on the shelves for purchase. This sounds great until you realize that unappetizing chemicals such as chlorine are used for the purpose.
It would be nice if a more natural product could be used to ensure that our food arrives on the table clean and healthy.
One study set out to compare the antimicrobial cleaning effects of thymol and carvacrol with chlorine when used to wash grape tomatoes. The researchers artificially contaminated the tomatoes with salmonella and either washed them with carvacrol or chlorine.
They found that the carvacrol and thymol solution was extremely effective against salmonella and also noted that it did not have any effect on the antioxidant or nutritional value of the produce and nor did it effect the taste. (11)
The Best Sources of Carvacrol
Although carvacrol is found in various plants and their oils, oregano and oregano oil is by far the best and most beneficial source. The amount of carvacrol in oregano oil can vary a great deal from as little as 5% all the way up to 75%.
Most studies done have used oil with a carvacrol content in the higher range. Because of the enormous variation in carvacrol content, it is difficult to establish an effective dose.
In vitro studies have showed that 0.1mg could effectively inhibit pathogens which is the equivalent of a gram of oregano leaf but digestion rates and dilution from your diet probably means that you would need to consume more of the fresh leaf.
Carvacrol and Thymol
As we have already mentioned, oregano essential oil is one of the best sources of carvacrol. Another reason that oregano and oregano oil is so effective is the presence of another compound called thymol. This compound, which is also present in a number of other herbs is also known to contain powerful antimicrobial properties.
Various studies have looked at the effects of carvacrol and thymol working together to treat a variety of viral, fungal and bacterial conditions. (13)
How to Use Carvacrol
The best source of carvacrol is oregano essential oil. Oregano oil is readily available in its liquid form but can also be bought in capsule form online and from many health stores.
Make sure that you read the labels carefully and buy from a reputable supplier. The amount of carvacrol found in oregano essential oil can vary wildly from as little as 30% to over 80%.
If you are using oregano oil capsules, make sure that you read the dosage instructions on the label carefully and speak with your health provider to determine the most appropriate dose for your condition.
You can also apply oregano oil topically to treat various ailment including inflammation and pain.Before applying it to your skin, make sure that you dilute the oregano oil with a suitable carrier oil.
If you have a diffuser machine, you can also diffuse the oil around the home.
Side Effects and Precautions
- Oregano oil is highly potent and you should not take it orally until you have dosage instructions from your doctor.
- Taking too much internally can cause internal tissues to burn.
- Always follow manufacturer’s guidelines.
- Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding should avoid using oregano oil internally.
- Children should not use oregano oil.
- If you are applying the oil topically, make sure that you dilute it well with a suitable carrier oil.
- After diluting your oil, it is good practice to conduct a patch test on a discrete area of your skin to make sure you are not allergic.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is carvacrol used for?
Carvacrol is a compound found in various herbs including oregano and oregano essential oil. It has powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. It is used to treat a wide range of conditions including fungal infections like Candida albicans, bacterial infection and viral complaints like herpes simples and the common cold. Studies have also revealed that carvacrol has anti-cancer potential, works as a powerful anti-inflammatory and may help reduce cholesterol levels.
Does oregano oil kill viruses?
According to research, the answer is yes. Oregano oil is effective against various types of virus and also has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. In fact, the oil of oregano is regarded as a broad spectrum antibacterial meaning it can kill gram positive bacteria as well as gram negative strains.
What is oregano oil used to treat?
Oregano and oregano essential oil is used to treat a range of conditions. These include respiratory tract conditions like bronchitis, asthma, coughs and croup. It is also used for common digestive complaints like bloating, heartburn and diarrhea. Other common uses include treating arthritis pain, urinary tract infections, headaches and menstrual cramping.
Oregano oil is sometimes taken orally to treat intestinal parasites, sinus pain, colds, flu and arthritis. However, taking essential oils by mouth can be dangerous. It is important that you speak to a doctor in advance.
Oregano oil is also applied topically to the skin to treat carious common skin conditions such as acne, oily skin, rosacea, psoriasis and dandruff. It is also applied to treat canker sores, gingivitis, insect bites and muscle pain
Is taking oil of oregano dangerous?
Very little is known about taking oregano oil in medicinal amounts. It is likely unsafe and could be toxic in large doses. You should consult your doctor before using any essential oil orally. Oregano oil may also cause allergies especially in people who are allergic to plants belonging to the Lamiaceae family.
Applying oregano oil to the skin may be safe as long as it is diluted well in a carrier oil. it should not be applied in concentrations larger than 1%.
Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding should not use oregano oil.
- Carvacrol is a compound found in various plants including thyme and bergamot but most abundantly present in oregano.
- The compound has a variety of beneficial properties including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- Recent studies suggest that carvacrol may be effective against certain types of cancer.
- It may also help reduce cholesterol levels and keep blood sugar levels in check.
- The best source of the compound is oregano and oregano essential oil, but it is also available in supplementary form.