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Pizza and Pasta Herb Could Treat Prostate Cancer

prostate cancer, oil of oregano, herbal medicine

For prostate health, men are often told to eat foods that contain lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes. New research finds that adding a popular Italian herb to your pizza and pasta can give men a double whammy approach to protection from prostate cancer.

Oregano is an herb known botanically as Origanum vulgare. The volatile oils in this spice include one known as carvacrol, believed to be able to inhibit the growth of bacteria and possibly effective to treat certain infections. It is also a carotenoid with anti-inflammaory properties. Researchers at Long Island University are now studying carvacrol for its ability to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells.

Dr. Supriya Bavadekar PhD RPh, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at LIU’s Arnold and Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, is testing carvacrol specifically on prostate cancer cells. The results have demonstrated that the compound can bring about “cell suicide”, but is now presently trying to determine the signaling pathways that the compound employs for this action.

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“We know that oregano possesses anti-bacterial as well as anti-inflammatory properties, but its effects on cancer cells really elevate the spice to the level of a super-spice like turmeric,” said Dr. Bavadekar. Though the study is at its preliminary stage, she believes that the initial data indicates a huge potential in terms of carvacrol’s use as an anti-cancer agent. “A significant advantage is that oregano is commonly used in food and has a ‘Generally Recognized As Safe’ status in the US. We expect this to translate into a decreased risk of severe toxic effects.”

Oregano spice is also rich in vitamin K, manganese, iron, fiber, calcium, vitamin E and tryptophan. When choosing fresh oregano, choose those leaves that look fresh and vibrant green. Add it as a garnish to pizza, salads or omelets. When cooking, both dried and fresh oregano should be added toward the end of the cooking process since heat can easily cause a loss of its delicate flavor.

The oil of oregano can be found in health food stores and typically contains between 60 to 80% carvacrol. Oil of Thyme also contains the ingredient. However, these are meant to be used as a dietary supplement or topically – not in cooking.

Other potential benefits of oregano oils include digestive health, promoting immune system function, respiratory health, joint and muscle flexibility and smooth skin.

The results of the study were presented at the Experimental Biology 2012 poster session on Tuesday, April 24. The societies represented at the conference are: American Association of Anatomists (AAA), American Physiological Society (APS), American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), American Society for Investigative Pathology (ASIP), American Society for Nutrition (ASN) and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET).