The overuse of antibiotics in the livestock industry is a growing crisis, sparking a rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria and health concerns among consumers. Fortunately, there may be a way to mitigate the problem using the power of essential oils.
Specifically, oil of oregano is showing enormous promise for keeping farm animals healthy without pumping them full of antibiotics. Oregano has numerous beneficial compounds, perhaps none more noteworthy than carvacrol, which helps combat various types of bacteria that infect both humans and animals.
A growing awareness of oregano essential oil couldn’t come at a better time, as our relationship with antibiotics becomes more strained and the stakes grow higher and higher.
About 80 percent of antibiotics used in the United States are consumed by livestock, according to The Atlantic. Meanwhile antibiotic resistance contributed to about 2 million human illnesses, 23,000 deaths and $20 billion in health care costs in 2013. And the situation is only getting more dire: Worldwide the phenomenon is poised to cause 10 million deaths and $100 trillion in costs by 2050, according to a report from the United Kingdom.
The World Health Organization calls antimicrobial resistance “an increasingly serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society.” But antibiotic abuse didn’t rise up in a vacuum. Farmers started using the drugs so that animals could survive in cramped, filthy conditions otherwise not conducive to the survival of large mammals. Antibiotics also help the animals grow bigger faster, so producers could realize larger profit from their stock.
Now consumers are left to face the consequences. “Food animals serve as a reservoir of resistant pathogens and resistance mechanisms that can directly or indirectly result in antibiotic resistant infections in humans,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes. “For example, resistant bacteria may be transmitted to humans through the foods we eat.”
Evidence is piling up that oregano can help solve the problem. One Bayer brand of oregano oil produced for livestock, By-O-Reg Plus, also known as Ropadiar, showed an impressive ability to control diarrhea in piglets in the 1990s.
“Compared to the various anti-infectives, with Ropadiar I have obtained much more effective and quicker results,” Bayer product manager Dr. Lucio Nisoli wrote of the trial, according to the New York Times. “Furthermore, piglets treated with Ropadiar look much more healthy and were not so dehydrated and wasted.”
Another test showed that oregano oil could help treat sheep and goats to prevent and reduce infestations of worms. And a trial at the Georgetown University Medical Center showed that mice who were given oregano oil had a greater staph infection survival rate than a control group.
A recent study published in Poultry Science found that chickens that took oregano oil were 59 percent less likely to die from a common parasite, and another from the Journal of Animal Science reported that oregano oil helps chickens grow just as big as those given a common antibiotic.
“There is some strong evidence that they are functioning by both an antibacterial action in the intestine and also some have an effect to stimulate the intestinal cells ability to recover from disease more quickly,” University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine professor Dr. Charles Hofacre told The Atlantic, “either by local immunity or helping keep the intestinal cells themselves healthier.”
Oregano oil isn’t as all-powerful as some antibiotics, so farmers who use it also have to take greater care to keep the animals in clean and hygienic conditions — which those interested in ethical treatment of livestock would see as a positive.
This essential oil is also effective in treating bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi in humans, and is useful for a wide array of illnesses and ailments. We may be killing the goose when it comes to antibiotics, but fortunately, nature has provided a substance that can help chickens to continue to lay healthy, golden eggs.