Who Knew Oregano Could Help Curb Climate Change?

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Climate change is a big problem, so curbing it even by stopping cow burps, can help.

Cows make milk. They also make a lot of burps. And those burps affect all of us because of climate change.

According to NPR, human activity--including livestock farming--accounts for more than a third of methane production. All those cows produce a lot of gas via belching. This is a big problem because “methane is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat,” NPR reports.

Concerned? So was a team of Danish researchers. So, they decided to see if something could help curb the cows’ burps. And the substance they found that worked was something found in almost any kitchen: oregano.

"Oregano has essential oils with a mild antimicrobial called carvacrol, which can kill some of the bacteria in the cow's rumen that produce methane," Kai Grevsen, a senior researcher at Aarhus University who specializes in crop science, says.

This is a great discovery for organic farmers who can’t use conventional methods to help reduce cow belches as most of those methods are banned.

This study builds on the research study known as “3NOP.” During the 3NOP study, a team of researchers at Penn State added the chemical 3-nitrooxypropanol (3NOP) to cattle feed to help reduce methane emissions. They were able to reduce emissions by 30 percent.

“But while previous studies on oregano have been short and sweet, the Danish research, which kicked off earlier this year, will run through 2019,” NPR explains. “And it will include both a technical phase (think cows in little booths with lots of sensors) and a real-world phase on several organic dairy farms.”

This study also was different because it used Greek oregano. It “has a significantly higher concentration of belch-suppressing essential oil than oregano used in earlier research,” NPR adds. “They hope this oregano feed could reduce methane emissions by up to 25 percent.”

While the scientists' main goal is to reduce methane, reducing the amount of times a cow burps also is helpful to the cow. Belching takes a lot of energy—energy that could be used to produce milk. And the scientists know what you’re thinking—the added oregano to the cows’ diets shouldn’t affect the taste of milk.

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Image of cows via Shutterstock

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