MANILA, PHILIPPINES – OREGANO, from the Greek “joy of the mountains,” has been celebrated in folklore as propitious plant grown near the home to shoo away evil forces, as herb used to invoke happiness, tranquillity, luck, and as additive to herbal bath to soothe sore muscles or as a drink to regulate the menstrual cycle.
Too, generous dashes of oregano—botanists call it Coleus aromaticus– oozing with natural antihistamines lend an exquisite smoky flavour to pork sausages that Lucban town in Quezon province has become famous for.
Oregano has been found to be child-friendly, too, after “a double-blind randomized controlled clinical trial” showed that herb extracts were effective against impetigo, a contagious skin infection that afflicts children with blisters or sores on the face, neck, hands, and diaper area. The disease can also be seen in adults and occur commonly “in the warm, humid atmosphere in crowded living spaces, in populations with poor skin hygiene.”
A topical anti-bacterial medication has been recommended in 2005 by the Infectious Disease Society of America for impetigo treatment in infants two months and above. But with increasing rates of anti-microbial resistance being recorded, health research has turned attention to natural medicinal plants for alternative ways to control disease, including impetigo.
Dr. Lou Jay Ortiz-Villareal of the Quezon City-based East Avenue Medical Center’s dermatology department notes in a presentation that in the Philippines, oregano leaves are “macerated and customarily applied to treat skin infections (and has been used in other countries) for sore throat, indigestion, fever, and cough.”[pq]Oregano’s anti-bacterial properties, celebrated in folk cures for ages, have yet to be affirmed in clinical studies.[/pq]
Dr. Ortiz-Villareal points out that the current two-part study involves “in-vitro testing and the clinical trial.”
For a “meaningful and ethical statistical analysis,” the sample size involved 18 patients per group. Too, “written informed consent was obtained from all patients while evaluation and documentation were done on baseline on days 2, 4 and 7 of the follow-up visits,” she notes.
Test subjects were randomly distributed in two groups, A and B in which “block randomization was done using a computer-generated set of random numbers.
After in-vitro analysis, oregano extract was compounded and repackaged into 95% (oregano) cream—both oregano and another medication were identically stored in 10-gram tubes. Patients and guardians were instructed to apply the medication thrice daily for seven days. If no sign of improvement was evidenced on Day 4 of the trial, or the lesions increased in number and severity, patients are classified under treatment failure, she explained.
At Day 4, patients who were given either oregano-based cream or mupirocin ointment “had very marked drop in the skin infection ratings scale. At the end of the seven-day treatment phase, the infections were markedly reduced,” she cites.
“On Day 4, 16 of the 18 patients in the oregano group had lesions which are at least 75% cleared while two had 100% clearance. For the mupirocin group, three of the 18 participants had their lesions 50% cleared, 12 evidenced 75% cleared, with three fully cleared,” she reports.
By Day 7, all of the lesions are cleared in both groups.
“Oregano was well tolerated as mupirocin during the study, and it can be concluded that it is a safe and efficacious treatment for mild impetigo. Moreover, with its availability and cost-effectiveness, one can consider oregano as a potential alternative to anti-bacterial medications available in the market,” she concludes.
– Dong Delos Reyes, Medical Observer