The use of oregano (Origanum vulgare) essential oil (OEO) has become popular in skin care products. However, scientific research regarding its effects on human skin cells is scarce. In this study, we investigated the biological activity of a commercially available OEO, which is high in carvacrol content, in a human skin cell disease model. OEO induced marked antiproliferative effects and significantly inhibited several inflammatory biomarkers, including monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP-1), vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM-1), intracellular cell adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1), interferon gamma-induced protein 10 (IP-10), interferon-inducible T-cell alpha chemoattractant (I-TAC), and monokine induced by gamma interferon (MIG). OEO also significantly inhibited tissue remodeling biomarkers, namely collagen I, collagen III, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), matrix metalloproteinase 1 (MMP-1), plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 (PAI-1), tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP) 1 and 2. An immunomodulatory biomarker, macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF), was also strongly inhibited by OEO treatment. In addition, OEO significantly modulated global gene expression and altered signaling pathways, many of which are critical in inflammation, tissue remodeling, and cancer signaling processes. These findings along with existing studies largely support the anti-inflammatory, tissue remodeling, immunomodulatory, and anticancer activities of OEO. In conclusion, this study provides the first evidence of the biological activity of OEO in human dermal fibroblasts. We suggest that OEO, with carvacrol as the major active component, is a promising candidate for use in skin care products with anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.
Keywords: Anticancer; Antiproliferation; Carvacrol; Monokine induced by gamma interferon; Skin health; Vascular cell adhesion molecule-1.