Fact Check: NO Definitive Proof Oregano In Its Natural Form 'Protects Against Cancer'

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich
Fact Check: NO Definitive Proof Oregano In Its Natural Form 'Protects Against Cancer' Fact Check: NO Definitive Proof Oregano In Its Natural Form 'Protects Against Cancer' Not Proven

Is oregano in its natural form known to definitively "protect against cancer?" No, that's not true: The herb itself has anti-cancer properties, and herbal extracts have been shown to inhibit -- and even kill -- cancerous cells in laboratory studies using human cells, a dietician confirmed to Lead Stories. However, we found no evidence that clinical studies have occurred in human populations, nor have laboratory findings in living organisms confirmed that eating oregano in its natural form will prevent the disease. In short, more research is needed to determine whether consuming oregano in any form may "protect against cancer." A video shared to Facebook claiming as much appeared to be generated using artificial intelligence. The clip was not supported by a medical expert or doctor, nor was evidence given to support the claim.

A version of the claim claim originated in a video shared to TikTok on November 5, 2023, (archived here) with a caption that read:

THIRTY TIMES STRONGER THAN LEMON #oregano#health#immunity#salud#science

Below is how the video appeared at the time of this publication:

Screenshot 2023-12-04 at 10.42.05 AM.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Mon Dec 4 20:42:05 2023 UTC)

The video was likely created using AI

Based on unnatural movements in the mouth and blinking of the eyes, as well as the illustration-like resemblance of a person in the video, it appears that the clip does not feature a genuine human. Clues, including the appearance of a lime every time a "lemon" is mentioned, suggest that the video may have been generated using artificial intelligence.

This human likeness appeared to state the following:

It's 30 times stronger than lemon and 30 times stronger than garlic. It kills bacteria and fungi. We all have this plant at home. It protects cancer, strengthens the immune system, and preserves vision. Do you know what plant this is? This powerful plant is oregano.

Scientists have confirmed that oregano is the most effective natural antibiotic in the world, and oregano oil is 37 times more powerful as an antioxidant than green tea.

The likeness shown in the video was not identified as a doctor or medical professional. Furthermore, the post cited no scientific research or credible evidence to support their claims about oregano, particularly that it protects against cancer.

Oregano has anti-cancer properties, not proven to "protect" against the disease

Lead Stories contacted Melissa Prest (archived here), a Chicago-based registered dietician nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics regarding the claim. She responded in an email received on December 1, 2023, writing:

Oregano metabolites have been noted to have antitumor and antioxidant properties that are important for anticancer activity. However, the actual amount of these metabolites in oregano is not enough to be an effective anticancer therapy. Researchers are studying the properties of oregano to better understand how they can synthesize or engineer a plant that could be effective at tumor suppression and used as an anticancer therapeutic agent.

Oregano, scientific name Origanum vulgare, is an herb native to the Mediterranean region belonging to the mint family. The popular seasoning is known to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, but there is limited data to support its effect on cancer prevention -- though there is promise.

In a synthesized form, oregano extract has been shown to have anti-cancer properties in laboratory settings using human cells. This, however, is entirely separate from humans consuming oregano in its natural form.

For example, some research suggests that oregano extracts can, in the lab, induce apoptosis (the death of cells) in human colon cancer cells, (archived here). Again, that's a lab sample study, not an experiment on humans. Oregano extract has been similarly shown to cause cell death in melanoma cells (archived here) in a lab setting.

There is a host of scientific literature that provides important context for oregano and sets the stage for future areas of exploration. In 2021, for instance, researchers at Purdue University mapped the biosynthetic pathway of the herb and determined that it possessed an anti-cancer compound that suppresses tumor development. Although the plant contains important compounds, the amount in its natural form is very low, and extraction itself isn't enough to protect against cancer. This work, the scientists concluded, laid the ground for future research possibly engineering plants with higher levels or synthesizing its compounds for medical use.

Oregano essential oil has also exhibited anti-proliferative activity in stomach cancer, meaning that it prevented metastasis in in vitro studies. Again, this isn't proof that oregano itself can stop the growth of cancer cells but rather provides a rationale for further studying the effect of herbal extracts on humans.

Lead Stories has debunked other pseudo-health claims related to oregano, including that drinking a mix of garlic, mint and oregano will improve eyesight and repair vision loss, that mixing four drops of oregano oil in water is a natural antibiotic, and that a tea made of oregano, turmeric and ginger will cure women of cancer, fibroids and cysts.

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  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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