by Cass Ingram, D.O.
Carvacrol is one of the key active ingredients in oregano oil, largely responsible for its germ-killing and anti-inflammatory actions. In this regard the public is being taken advantage of by claims of superiority through extremely high carvacrol levels versus other brands with lover levels.
There are a wide range of oregano oil supplements on the market claiming extraordinarily high levels of carvacrol, reaching as high as 87% to 89% and even in the 90s, that is 90% and as high as 95%. Supplements with such high levels claim to be natural, or more correctly the claim is that these are naturally occurring levels of this substance.
This is fraudulent. There is no carvacrol in nature higher than 85%. Certain rare pockets of wild oregano in the higher evaluations reach carvacrol levels of 85%, but never 87% or higher.
Rather than proof of potency or superiority it is the opposite. The extraordinarily high carvacrol levels is evidence of fabrication and fraud. This is through cloning of cultivars, which are never then grown wild. Instead, they are farm-raised.
There are a number of these cultivars or clones available on the market. Companies can buy them raise them in greenhouses, then on farm land. These are then harvested and distilled to make farm-raised, not wild, sourced essential oil.
The seeds may have been wild originally, but these are corrupted by growing them outside of their natural environment: on dirt instead of within mountainous rock.
In Turkey species are repeatedly cloned to yield “85.02% in clone 7,” for instance, and “91.04% in clove 119.” In Greece this is being done extensively, for instance, the so-called Athos clone, which is registered in the government for producing 93% upon distillation.
In some cases the cloning includes the bizarre, which is the artificial induction of carvacrol levels through challenging the plant, in this case through injecting the clones with pseudomonas bacterial antigens.
Summary of methods to clone oregano for farm-raising (courtesy of “Conventional Breeding of Greek Oregano (Origanum Vulgare Ssp. Hirtum) and Development of Improved Cultivars for Yield Potential and Essential Oil Quality.”)
To raise oregano in this way is a violation of nature. Never environmentally friendly, the ecological profile, the lack of sustainability, is a negative. There is heating, the use of fertilizers, in some cases pesticide/herbicide application, and the use of combines other petrol-based harvesting equipment. This is never the case with wild oregano, which is fully sustainable and is entirely hand-harvested. Plus, this type of harvesting creates much-needed income for the village communities. Farm-raising oregano at lower elevations by industrial concerns robs them of this benefit.
Other methods for artificially raising the carvacrol include the following:
- double and triple distillation
- generalized heating of the oil
- the addition of synthetic carvacrol, which cannot be detected
- the use of fraudulent analysis which register the carvacrol higher than actual
Note: double and triple distillation and heating the oil disturbs the natural chemical profile and results in an inferior end-product despite the higher carvacrol levels.
Over the years careful analysis of batches has proved that carvacrol levels above 80% are rare. However, 73% to 80% is more the sufficient to meet the needs for immune support and also for the necessary antiseptic power, as well as anti-inflammatory actions, that wild oregano oil provides.
As well, in some cases the oregano oil, naturally moderate in carvacrol, is subject to much manipulation. It may start out as wild oregano oil but is commonly triple distilled to drive off other components, all to artificially raise carvacrol levels. As well, synthetic carvacrol from China and elsewhere may be added to artificially spike th3e levels.
So, stick with what nature provides in its own unique profile, without human corruption or alternation. No doubt, wild rock-grown oregano is infinitely superior to that grown on dirt, which is foreign to this plant.
Goilaris, A. H., et al. 2003. Production of New Greek Oregano Clones and Analysis of Their Essential Oils. J. Herbs, Spices, and Medicinal Plants. 10, Issue 1.
Sarrou, Eirini, et al. “Conventional Breeding of Greek Oregano (Origanum Vulgare Ssp. Hirtum) and Development of Improved Cultivars for Yield Potential and Essential Oil Quality.” Euphytica, vol. 213, no. 5, 2017, doi:10.1007/s10681-017-1889-1.