Food consumers and industries urged the need of natural alternatives to assure food safety and quality. As a response, the use of natural compounds from herbs and spices is an alternative to synthetic additives associated with toxic problems. This review discusses the antimicrobial and antioxidant activity of oregano essential oil (OEO) and its potential as a food additive. Oregano is a plant that has been used as a food seasoning since ancient times. The common name of oregano is given to several species: Origanum (family: Lamiaceae) and Lippia (family: Verbenaceae), amongst others. The main compounds identified in the different OEOs are carvacrol and thymol, which are responsible for the characteristic odor, antimicrobial, and antioxidant activity; however, their content may vary according to the species, harvesting season, and geographical sources. These substances as antibacterial agents make the cell membrane permeable due to its impregnation in the hydrophobic domains, this effect is higher against gram positive bacteria. In addition, the OEO has antioxidant properties effective in retarding the process of lipid peroxidation in fatty foods, and scavenging free radicals. In this perspective, the present review analyzes and discusses the state of the art about the actual and potential uses of OEO as an antimicrobial and antioxidant food additives.
Keywords: Carvacrol; food safety and quality; natural products; thymol.