Carvacrol (chemical formula C10H14O) is basically a monoterpenoid phenol. The odour of this substance is typically pungent and warm similar to that of oregano. This chemical is present in several plants as well as herbs like wild bergamot, pepperwort and thyme. However, oregano contains maximum amount of carvacrol. This plant chemical (phytochemical) imparts a warm feeling on the tongue. Apart from resulting in a tough tickly feeling, carvacrol also offers several health benefits.

It is especially interesting to note that the impact of carvacrol on probiotic species present in the intestines is minimal. The concentrations at which carvacrol causes 97% to 100% pathogen inhibition, it only causes 3% to 5% reticence of probiotics. This is the main reason why carvacrol is considered to be excellent for the health of our digestive system.

Health benefits

Carvacrol offers a number of important health benefits, especially in treating Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter jejuni and E. coli. Several studies have time and again asserted the effectiveness of this substance against these infectious health conditions. The success of carvacrol against these diseases borne by microbes has been so successful that researchers decided to use this substance for treating even more severe conditions, such as antibiotic resistant Salmonella. When experiments were undertaken with carvacrol on celery infected by Salmonella, it was found that this plant chemical was effective in immediately eliminating Salmonella colonies. The success of the experiments has made the scientists believe that carvacrol may be effectively used as an alternative to prevent such harmful organisms from invading foods.

Often, several people are afflicted by yeast infections and usually Candida albicans is responsible for such problems. Such infections may take place in the mouth, digestive system or any other place that may be hosting fungus. Scientists have tested carvacrol on Candida samples obtained from denture wearers and found that the substance was highly effectual in eliminating the pathogen. Hence, it is not surprising that people have been traditionally using oregano oil, which contains a high concentration of carvacrol, in the form of a natural remedy to treat Candida.

When the low density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol is oxidized, it results in plaque build-up inside the arterial walls. Since long, it has been found that oregano oil along with other essential plant oils are effective in protecting the arteries from the impact of LDL cholesterol against oxidation induced by copper. The most prominent effect was seen with the oil of oregano and the protective action of this oil was attributed to carvacrol.

Nearly all types of irritation or injury are accompanied with redness and swellings. There is clinical support suggesting that carvacrol may protect us from such redness of the skin and swellings at the sites of injuries and irritations. Experiments with carvacrol have revealed that it helps to hold back COX-2 expression, which is considered to be the main reason for redness of the skin. Although several essential oils derived from plants possess this particular property, it has been found that carvacrol is the best among them. Studies have hinted that carvacrol is most effective in dealing with such conditions.

Aside from the above mentioned health benefits, carvacrol also possesses the aptitude to cleanse the body externally. One particular study explored the efficacy of carvacrol in cleansing the outside of the body. It has been reported that specific concentrations of the oil of oregano is effective in eliminating Listeria biofilms from stainless steel and plastic surfaces. This has established the effectiveness of carvacrol as a cleansing agent in environments that are basically non-organic.

There is no doubt that oregano and the oil of oregano are the two best sources of carvacrol. While oregano enhances the flavour of a food, the oil of oregano offers the most powerful health benefits and, at the same time, helps in dealing with various health disorders.

Various produces are usually rinsed prior to marketing them. This is wonderful and healthy, provided the producers do not use harmful chemicals such as chlorine. A study was undertaken to evaluate the antimicrobial actions of carvacrol compared to chlorine as a washing agent, especially for grape tomatoes. During the experiment, scientists first contaminated the grape tomatoes using Salmonella and, subsequently, washed them with carvacrol or chlorine. It was found that the carvacrol solution used to wash the grape tomatoes significantly reduced the presence of Salmonella compared to the chlorine solution. Scientists also observed that the natural solution containing carvacrol had no adverse effect on the nutritional value of the grape tomatoes. Even the appearance, antioxidant content and flavour of the grape tomatoes remained unchanged after they were washed with the natural solution.

Findings of several researches undertaken to explore the health benefits of carvacrol have shown that this substance possesses the ability to hold back the production and release of an enzyme known as COX-2, which is very much akin to curcuminoids present in turmeric. It has been found that inflammations accompanying injuries and itching are caused by COX-2. However, severe inflammation is basically a reaction of the immune system to promote healing and is usually considered to be beneficial, chronic inflammation is said to be a forerunner of several diseases. In fact, chronic inflammation is associated with inadequate healing of the joints, bowel discomfort and even cancer. It also has the potential to lead to severe ailments, provided it is unrelenting.

While consuming some amount of oregano will possibly not help in combating inflammation, it may help to alleviate mild inflammation, which is a widespread secondary problem related to several modern day diets as well as lifestyles.

It has been found that carvacrol also protects the DNA from harm, while preventing the growth of cancer cells. Several different studies have shown the cancer preventing attributes of carvacrol. Some studies have also demonstrated that carvacrol possesses the ability to stimulate self-destruction of the cells (apoptosis).

Many studies have shown that carvacrol is effective in holding back the growth of many different bacteria strains, such as Bacillus cereus and Escherichia coli (E. coli). The low toxicity of carvacrol coupled with the pleasing flavour and aroma makes it a popular food additive with a view to prevent the contamination of food caused by bacterial contamination. When pitted against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, carvacrol damages the bacteria's cell membrane. Different from various other terpenes, this substance also restrains the proliferation of these bacteria. It is believed that its ability to disrupt the cell membrane of bacteria is the reason behind the antimicrobial properties of carvacrol.

Thus far, scientists have been able to identify a variety of anti-carcinogenic chemicals in oregano oil. These natural compounds may work to prevent and/ or control development of cancer. The cancer preventing compounds contained by carvacrol possess the ability to work as chemoprotective agents, thereby being effective in restraining the DNA from being mutated. In addition, apparently these compounds also put off or obstruct the pathways for cancer cell growth and promote the detoxification mechanism of the human body.

It has been found and established that the anti-bacterial properties of carvacrol are considerable. Ingesting this herb directly or taking a therapeutic carvacrol extract has the potential to kill antibiotic resistant bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) within just an hour. This herb or carvacrol can be employed for treating urinary tract infections, Staphylococcal bladder infections and even strep throat.

Carvacrol has a reputation for its anti-fungal properties. It has been proved that both carvacrol and eugenol are very effective in checking fungal infections. Precisely speaking, researchers are of the view that the efficacy of both these plant-based compounds is similar to the anti-fungal pharmaceutical drug nystatin.

Carvacrol is also said to be effective as a weight loss agent, but this attribute of the compound is yet to be proven scientifically. However, currently a number of studies are underway to examine the weight loss properties of this plant-based compound.

It is believed that carvacrol is highly beneficial in augmenting digestion and also lessening dietary problems as well as flatulence. Nevertheless, scientists are still trying to ascertain the manner in which carvacrol functions inside the stomach to provide these favourable effects.

Side effects and cautions

Carvacrol is considered to be safe for use by most people, as there is no known adverse effects of this phytochemical. People have been consuming carvacrol for several hundred years hinting that it does not have any toxic effect. Findings of several scientific studies have revealed that our body metabolizes carvacrol and excretes it in just 24 hours after consuming it. This is proof of the fact that the risks of it accumulating in the body are very less. Even if the substance does build-up inside the body, it is never up to a level that can potentially be harmful.


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