Need an excuse to order pizza? Scientists have found that carvacrol — the substance in oregano oil that gives the pizza herb its distinctive warm, aromatic smell and flavour — is effective against the winter vomiting bug.
Winter vomiting is caused by a virus called norovirus. The virus is highly contagious. It can affect people of all ages and causes vomiting and diarrhea.
There is no cure for norovirus. However, some new research suggests that carvacrol can cause the breakdown of the virus’ tough outer coat. Experiments, the Daily Mail summarizes, showed that carvacrol acts directly on the capsid, the tough shell of proteins surrounding the virus that encloses its genetic material. Because carvacrol attacks external elements of norovirus, it is unlikely to trigger the development of resistance.
Carvacrol is a chemical, a type of phenol. It has a characteristic pungent, warm odor of oregano. As well as oregano, it is found in a number of other plants and herbs such as wild bergamot, thyme and pepperwort.
Commenting on the finding, Dr Kelly Bright, who led the research at the University of Arizona, said in a research note: “Carvacrol could potentially be used as a food sanitizer and possibly as a surface sanitizer, particularly in conjunction with other antimicrobials. We have some work to do to assess its potential but carvacrol has a unique way of attacking the virus, which makes it an interesting prospect.”
The research into the remarkable properties of the herb has been published this week in the Society for Applied Microbiology’s Journal of Applied Microbiology. The paper is titled "Antiviral efficacy and mechanisms of action of oregano essential oil and its primary component carvacrol against murine norovirus."