Feb. 13, 2014 at 11:50 AM ET
If you feel guilty after eating a slice of pizza, a new study may help you feel better.
An ingredient in oregano has been found to boost immunity, at least in laboratory cells. That’s no excuse to scarf a whole pie, but it adds to a growing body of scientific evidence linking many herbs and spices to disease-fighting health benefits.
When oregano’s active ingredient carvacrol was added directly to a mouse norovirus, the viral infection was inactivated. Norovirus, recently blamed for mass illness on a cruise ship, is a common cause of stomach illness and is notoriously difficult to avoid in the winter.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona and published this week in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.
While this result can’t be readily translated to how much oregano to add to your pizza sauce to boost your immune response, it’s consistent with promising studies on other herbs and spices done in humans.
After all, seasonings come from plants: herbs are typically leaves and stems, while spices usually seeds, berries or roots.
Other herbs and spices have been studied with consistent results, although it’s still unknown exactly how much we’d need to fight any kind of disease. A range of herbs and spices have been studied in addition to oregano, including basil, thyme, rosemary and garlic.
Other seasonings worth adding to your regular diet:
Fresh or dried herbs? Remember that you need roughly twice the amount of a fresh herb to equal the seasoning power (potential health benefits) of the dried variety.
And using herbs and spices not only flavors your foods, but may also help to cut back on your use of added salt — another health plus.