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 antifungal, antiviral and other properties has been done on oregano oil with between 62 and 90% carvacrol.
How Carvacrol can Benefit your Health
There is a growing body of scientific research into the incredible potential of carvacrol. Some of its main benefits include the following:
1. Anti-cancer effects
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.
2. Antimicrobial ability
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 wellbeing 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.
3. For 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)
4. 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)
5. 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 protected effect to the presence of carvacrol. (8)
6. 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)
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.