Himalayan Oregano

Wild Himalayan Oregano

The Himalayas are full of so many rare and valuable herbs that it is easy to overlook some important common herbs. Wild Himalayan oregano is one such herb that seems to have been neglected, both by local villagers and by scientists. In Kullu it is often referred to as ‘useless grass’: “so useless that even the cows and goats don’t eat it!”.

Initially we were also guilty of neglecting the wild oregano – probably because we were so focused on the more elusive high altitude Ayurvedic herbs. Yet it ended up, quite unexpectedly, playing the star role in perhaps our most celebrated project – ‘Himalayan Oregano and Sustainable Livelihoods against MRSA’.

For those who haven’t heard of MRSA, it stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a strain of bacteria that has developed resistance against antibiotics and causes very nasty – sometimes fatal – infections. It turns out that the essential oil of the Himalayan oregano has powerful antibacterial properties and is very effective at killing MRSA and other equally virulent ‘superbugs’.

So we put two and two together and came up with the idea of creating the world’s first sustainable superbug spray that not only kills potentially lethal bacteria, but also provides a sustainable source of income to herb collectors who would otherwise be collecting endangered species to make ends meet. Yes!

We were not the only ones to get excited about this idea – in 2008 our project was selected to win one of five SEED Awards, a UN funded programme that supports entrepreneurial partnerships that contribute towards sustainable development. This gave the project amazing exposure and tailor-made support for one year to support us in scaling up into a more viable enterprise.

In The Oregano Story, I tell the whole story of how we started working with oregano, and our journey of discovering its potent antimicrobial properties, winning the SEED award, scaling up the project and trying to develop a suitable product to generate enough income to support the enterprise.

Finally, in the page on Research Results, I have done my best to summarise the excellent research done by our partners at SGS in Delhi and the University of West of England.


A collation of different clips of harvesting oregano (no narration)