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Terpene Profile: Carvacrol

5-Isopropyl-2-methylphenol Carvacrol is a constituent of numerous essential oils and found in black walnut oil. It is especially found in the Labiatae family of plants which includes basil , mint , rosemary , sage , savory , marjoram , hyssop , lavender . Other rich sources are thyme oil (70%) and oregano oil (80%) and are used as a flavoring agent in foods. It is a yellowish or colorless thick liquid with a thymol odor. It is soluble in ethanol, ether, and alkalis, slightly soluble in water, and very soluble in acetone. 1

Classification Within Terpenes: Monoterpene Carvacrol

Sources of Carvacrol:

The most potent forms of carvacrol are found in these species of oregano sources:

    • Origanum vulgare

    • Origanum compactum

    • Origanum dictamnus

    • Origanum microphyllum

    • Origanum glanulosus

    • Origanum onites

    • Origanum scabrum

One of the most common natural organic sources is Origanum vulgare, the wild oregano plant with the highest concentration (80%) of carvacrol in its composition. There is also a specific chemotype of thyme - thyme ct carvacrol - cultivated to express the carvacrol in high amounts (75%).

The quality of the essential oil of oregano has a direct impact on carvacrol’s antimicrobial qualities. This is mainly dependant on what part of the wild oregano plant is used, the quality of the distillation process, and the growing conditions. With these varied conditions, the concentration of carvacrol in oregano oil can range widely from 30% - 87%. The best quality oregano oils to be found in laboratory tests are naturally distilled with an average concentration of between 62% - 85% carvacrol present. Gas Chromatography testing results are always recorded in hundredths such as 72.28% and not in rounded numbers such as 75% or 85%. This is something to look out for on the labels of oregano oil bottles. 2

Carvacrol Uses of Carvacrol

The most common use is in alternative medicine due to the antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties that make it effective for the treatment of diseases such as:

    • Flu and fever

    • Common colds

    • Common infections such as pneumonia

    • Nail fungus

    • Urinary tract infections

    • Peritonitis

    • Bacteremia (presence of bacteria in the blood)

    • Inflammation and arthritis pain

    • Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder)

    • Cholangitis (inflammation of the bile duct) 3

Commercial Product Uses

Due to its antimicrobial properties, it is heavily utilized in the production of certain commercial products such as:

    • The manufacture of natural disinfectants. Since carvacrol is a natural organic substance it is not harmful to humans or the environment whereas synthetic disinfectants are often the cause of adverse side-effect on humans as well as their environment. As little as 0.07% of the substance acts as an effective disinfectant.

    • As a food preservative in the food industry due to its powerful germ-killing properties. Its subtle taste and sweet aroma make it ideal for this purpose. In vapor form, it can be used to kill harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E.coli to extend the shelf life of processed foods.

    • The production of fragrances, perfumes, facial cosmetics and soaps due to its organic nature. A maximum concentration of up to 0.5% can safely be used in cosmetics and personal care products.

    • In aromatherapy due to its anti-microbial and analgesic properties.

Uses of Carvacrol in Aromatherapy Carvacrol

Because of its powerful anti-microbial properties carvacrol is effective at inhibiting the growth of harmful microbes which makes it an effective substance for the following uses in aromatherapy treatments:

Heals and Prevents Disease

The anti-microbial properties of carvacrol are effective at inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria such as Bacillus cereus and E.Coli strains. For example, it is able to destroy the cell membranes of Pseudomonas aeruginosa which prevents them from multiplying. It is very suitable for the preservation of foods by preventing the growth of bacteria and has a very low toxicity to humans. 4

Reduces Inflammation

It inhibits COX-2 and activates PPAR. The COX-2 enzyme is what causes inflammation and pain and PPARs are nuclear receptor groups of protein that work as transcription factors to regulate gene expression.

Reduces Pain

Carvacrol is effective at managing and controlling inflammation and pain by activating V3 (human channels receptor potentials) and A1 (genes that assist in the efficient functioning of pain-sensing neurons).

Fights Candida

Carvacrol is very effective against candida, a yeast infection that plagues many. Candida albicans can occur in the digestive tract, the mouth, or anywhere that accommodates the growth of fungus. Oregano oil is a very effective natural remedy for the treatment of Candida albicans. 5

Heals Wounds and General Sickness

Oregano oil, diluted 3% in a carrier oil can be applied directly to a muscular or joint injury and when used in a diffuser it can assist in the rapid recovery from illness. Put a few drops in a diffuser to cleanse the air from germs or use a personal essential oil device specially formulated to include essential oils that contain carvacrol, like oregano, thyme or lavender.

For General Healing

Most essential oils with carvacrol are healing related. The oil can simply be applied while recovering from surgery or in the hospital to assist in faster healing. It can also prevent the growth of bacteria and protect against infection, especially when at risk in hospital situations. Inhaling the aroma from a room diffuser can help with a mental strain that often accompanies surgery or a prolonged injury.

Carvacrol Infographic

Additional Information About Carvacrol

Some interesting results have been demonstrated in preliminary research in the cure for cancer. 6 When tested against prostate and breast cancer cells it was found to expedite the death of cancer cells while being completely non-toxic. In these preliminary studies lung cancer cells, malignant brain tumors, and oral cancer cells have all been shown to lose the battle when pitted against the powerful properties of carvacrol.

Carvacrol has been shown to support blood sugar levels and is considered therapeutic for the treatment of blood sugar abnormalities. Although the type of carvacrol used in this drug trial did not come from oregano oil, it was reported that the substance lowered blood sugar levels without any side effects.


Chemical Formula: 6 C 10 H 14 O

Boiling Point: 237.7 °C (459.9 °F; 510.8 K)

Molecular Weight : 150.221 g/mol

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