Oregano Is New CO2-Cutting Drug of Choice (For Cows)

Cow Chewing Grass closeup photo
Migrated Image

Photo credit foxypar4 via flickr.

You weren't one of those teenagers that tried to smoke oregano straight from your mom's spice rack, were you? The urban lore of the 70's held that smoking oregano would get you high, and yes, I tried it. It definitely didn't work.

But though oregano may not be a great high, it turns out that this common herb has a lot of other medicinal properties, including curbing cows methane production by as much 40%. As cows are such a potent contributor to CO2 emissions, this is good news.A study by Alexander Hristov of Penn State's dairy cows found that feeding them oregano along with their regular rations caused the cows to produce up to 40 percent less methane in their belches. (Contrary to earlier belief, it seems to be the burps, not the farts, that produce the most methane in ruminants.) In addition, the oregano supplement Hristov fed the cows increased their milk production by a few pounds over the course of the trials.

Grass-fed cows (who tend to eat a lot of herbs)have already been thought to be less methane-producing.

According to this LiveScience report, Hristov screened hundreds of essentials oils and plant compounds before settling on oregano as the supplement most effective at reducting methane while causing no negative effects on the cows.

Oregano is a mainstay of Italian, Greek, and other cuisines. Wikipedia says oregano became popular in the U.S. after World War II when returning soldiers brought back a taste for the "pizza spice."

But interestingly, this hearty herb also has health benefits due to its strong antioxidant properties and antimicrobial action. Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic as well as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments. Oregano has recently been found to have extremely effective properties against methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), showing a higher effectiveness than 18 pharmaceuticals it was compared with.

One company, Biolaya, is trying to develop oregano-based soaps and compounds. In the meantime, Hristov will continue his research to try to determine exactly which element in oregano makes it a superior methane-suppressant, in order, he said, to create a stronger feed supplement for cows.