Carvacrol-rich (67 per cent) essential oil of Origanum onites, collected at the Izmir locality (Turkey), showed a marked analgesic activity as assessed by the tail-flick method in male albino mice. The analgesic activity of O. onites essential oil was dose-dependent. When applied at 0.33 ml/kg, the activity of O. onites oil was comparable to that of morphine (applied at 1 mg/kg), but at 0.03 ml/kg more potent than the analgesic activity of fenoprofen (at 8 mg/kg) (Aydin et al, 1996). The sample of O. onites, that originated from the Turkish Antalya region and was found to contain linalool (91 per cent) as a major component, showed no analgesic effects. On the basis of these data and on reports on prostaglandin inhibitory effects of carvacrol (Wagner etal, 1986), Aydin and co-workers consider carvacrol content as related to the analgesic activity of essential oil of O. onites. The effects of methanol extracts of O. majorana on human platelet anti-aggregant activity, which is related to the well known mechanism of action of NSAID (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs) through inhibition of the prostaglandins' metabolic pathway, have been studied by Okazaki et al. (1998). They found that O. majorana extracts dose-dependently inhibited platelet aggregation induced by collagen (2.0 pg/ml) or ADP (2.0 pg/ml). Successive fractionation of methanol extracts leads to isolation of an active hydroquinon ^-D-glucopyranoside, identified as arbutin. This strongly inhibited platelet aggregation was induced by all tested stimulating agents (collagen, ADP, arachidonic acid, thrombin).
Only a few reports on the topical anti-inflammatory effects of O. vulgare refer to oregano-herbal mixtures or their decoctions, used in the treatment of inflammation as supporting therapies (Deryabin, 1990; Deryabin, 1991). Podkolzin etal. (1986) report on the favourable local effect of insufflation of fine powder mixture of Hypericum perforatum and O. vulgare (1:1) on the course of rhinitis, that was induced in an animal (rabbit) experiment. In the control animals the rhinitis symptoms were more pronounced and of longer duration, so the powder was proposed as an adjuvant therapy in treatment of rhinitis.
Origanum compactum Benth., a species native to North Africa and locally named 'za'atar , was used traditionally against affections of the respiratory organs as an antispasmodic and anticatarrhal drug and, especially in Morocco, as a spasmolytic drug in the gastrointestinal tract, as antacid, antidiarrhoeal agent, vermifuge and aphrodisiac (van den Brouke and Lemli, 1980; Bellakhdar et al, 1988; Hmamouchi et al., 2000). In order to scientifically validate the traditional medicine data, van den Brouke and Lemli (1980) surveyed extracts of O. compactum on antispasmodic effects in different smooth muscle preparations in vitro. It was found that water macerates of O. compactum significantly inhibited smooth muscle response induced by any of the tested spasmo-gens (acetylcholine, histamine, serotonine, BaCl2, nicotine . . . ) in the guinea-pig ileum. The structure—activity relationship revealed that the antispasmodic effect of O. compactum was almost completely explained by its essential oil content. Moreover, in the pharmacological inhibition of smooth muscular activity, non-specific and non-competitive mechanism of action was attributed to thymol and carvacrol: they caused both direct musculotropic (muscle relaxant activity) and indirect neurotropic action (inhibition of the nerve action potential) on the smooth muscle (van den Brouke and Lemli, 1980). The same results were obtained by testing the antispasmodic effects of pure active components, i.e. thymol (ED50 per cent = 0.86 X 10~4 M) and carvacrol (ED50 Der cent = 1.0 X 10-4 M). It was concluded that both phenols act as non-competitive Ca2+ antagonists, which block nerve fibre conduction and induce musculotropic and neurotropic spasmolyse (van den Brouke and Lemli, 1982).
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