The Ancient Antibiotic Oregano Vulgare

Many viruses and bacteria have become immune to the current arsenal of antibiotics. There is no drug available that is guaranteed to cure any major infectious diseases. In fact, drugs, particular antibiotics, have aggravated the dilemma. The widespread use of antibiotics has created mutant resistant microbes and because these microbes alter their genetics, they have become immune to antibiotic.

These mutants are a major cause of severe illness in our pigeons. These genetically altered microbes are not only able to resist the antibiotic but they are also able to invade the immune system. "Young Bird Sickness" falls into this category.

Understanding Young-Bird Sickness

Symptoms, Causes, Control and Treatment

Speculation and opinion

There can be no doubt that effected lofts suffer heavy losses at any distance. It seems that the disease affects the homing faculty; birds fly aimlessly or in the wrong direction. Undoubtedly, the recent hot summers have not helped the situation. Dehydration has been mentioned and the importance of a water supply and opportunity to drink before liberation should be self-evident.

Symptoms in individual Birds

Sudden death – stress of the performance weaken the bird resulting in sudden death.

Holding food in the crop – some birds hold food in the crop for longer than normal.

Crop contractions – after eating birds may be seen to make yawning and swallowing movements.

Watery crop – some very sick birds, although off their food, continue to drink but hold water in the crop. Build up of water and gas can overflow when the bird is handled.

Vomiting – This is common but variable symptom. It usually occurs overnight and often loft mates have eaten the evidence by morning.

Dirty tails – sick birds spend more time on the floor and are compounded by the failure to preen and clean normally.

Loss of body – both diarrhoea and vomiting causes loss of body fluids, which can progress to dehydration.

Slow pulse – This is always the sign of a very sick pigeon.

Feather defects – recovered birds may show "flagging", a straggling secondary growth, particularly in hackle feathers.

Behaviour in individual birds – Normal, intelligent youngsters can seem addled and even apparently forget the way back into the loft.

Cause(s) of the Young-bird Sickness

The outstanding feature of the disease is a picture of immune suppression, i.e. a reduction or failure of the bird's ability to resist infections. Although a weakened immune system can be due to environmental pollutants, or be a result of medication and drug use, in the present context the most likely cause is a virus.


Infection with adenovirus in pigeons is a known cause of vomiting. This indicates that the virus is involved in the symptoms, if not the primary cause. It is significant that adenovirus infection in birds follows a pattern of prolonged, if not lifelong, infection with a carrier state and later flares up of disease under stress. Possibly there are other viruses involved, which predispose the birds to the adenovirus or cause simultaneous infections.


Infections are known to produce immune suppression and secondary disease problems in other bird species. Circovirus infection of pigeons has been recently, affecting youngsters of two to three months of age, showing diarrhoea and poor thrift. However their significance has not yet been established.


Rotavirus are the cause of diarrhoea in many species and certainly affect pigeons. Diagnosis depends on special testing rather than microscope examination and, in the absence of such tests; the role of rotavirus in young bird sickness is speculative.

It seems that the early, uncomplicated, viral infection causes the early signs – those of reduced exercise and digestive symptoms. At this stage there may also be a mild respiratory involvement. In many lofts these early, mild symptoms do not develop further and pass over. Even in these state there maybe heavy training losses and the odd sudden death.

Secondary infections – Many of the more serious symptoms are caused by secondary infections.

Infected birds show a massive overgrowth of mixed bacteria in the droppings and of these, the most significant are disease-producing strains of the intestinal bacteria known as Eschericha coli (E.coli). The presence of these particular strains is such a common finding that the disease is referred to by some as "ee colly" disease. In the present state of knowledge, the condition is best described as the adenovirus/E.Coli complex although the young bird sickness is a useful working term. E.coli is by no means the only complication and any background infection in a loft may emerge to be the major cause of symptoms and this, in large part, explains the great differences and the variation experienced between different pigeons and between different lofts.

Considerations and control measures

Training and racing stress – Many outbreaks follow the start of training and often this is blamed on "catching something in the transporter". This may sometimes be true, but equally it may be that this new stress precipitates illness. Once affected the birds should be rested. Rested birds make more complete recovery.

Vaccination – Vaccines against Paramyxovirus have no protective value against the young-bird sickness.

Injudicious use of medicines and drugs – Canker treatment and several antibiotics lower the immune system. There is much discussion about steroid abuse within the sport; one of the major side effects of cortisones is a lowering of the immune system.

Unhealthy pigeons – To be more specific, birds living with too many trichomanads, too many hexamatids, those with unhealthy bowel conditions (bacterial, yeast overgrowth and to many coccidian), low grade respiratory disease and other viral infections.

Any background infection a loft may emerge to be the major cause of symptoms and this, in large part, explains the great differences and the variation experienced between different pigeons and between different lofts.

General Management – By this we mean healthy pigeons, specifically in the context of young-bird sickness one must look at a healthy gut environment. There are several natural supplements and non-antibiotics preparations available such as:

Green leaf vegetables – markedly influence the maintenance of gut and should be part of the diet. Plant infusions and herbal teas can also play a useful part in this.

Clay soil - is eaten by many birds in the wild, it is a natural binding agent, which absorbs toxins from the bowl and should be provided except when on medication. Sick pigeons may over-eat black minerals however and these, being heavy metal salts are best removed during an outbreak.

Herbs (with specific reference to the wild Oregano Vulgare) – Essential Oil and powder of oregano is a completely natural substance derived from wild oregano species. The plant grows in remote mountains regions in the Mediterranean free of pollution. Only the leaves of the plants are used. Oil of oregano is a potent germ killer. Jean Valnet, in his book "Practice of Aromatherapy", he describes how oil of oregano superseded anti-inflammatory drugs in reversing pain and inflammation and is nearly as powerful as morphine as a painkiller. The oil possesses significant antioxidant power. Furthermore it stimulates the flow of bile, which greatly aids digestion. Oregano oil is well known in the Mediterranean world for its ability to slow down food spoilage through its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-parasitic and anti-oxidant activity.

How it works

Isomeric phenols (primary carvacrol) in oregano oil in dilutions as low as 1/50 000 destroys Candida albicans, the Aspergillus mold, Staphylocaccus, Campylobacter, Klebsiella, E.Coli, Giardia, Pseudomonas, and Proteus. Another phenol constituent, thymol, boosts the immune system. These compounds also act as free radical scavengers (shield against toxins) thus preventing further tissue damage while encouraging healing.

Researchers such as A Fotios from the United States have uncovered numerous benefits to using oregano and extracted oil of oregano. In his patent, registration No: 981946 he claims that the present invention relates to the preparation of various forms of pharmaceuticals for medical and veterinary uses, said pharmaceuticals comprising as active ingredients special herbal essences (wild oregano vulgare), capable of substituting antibiotics and sulphamide based drugs, due to their important activity germs causing inflammations, infections and diarrhoea in humans and animals.

The presently used methods for treatment of inflammations, infections and diarrhoea in humans and animals rely on the use of pharmaceuticals that contain antibiotics and sulphamides. It is known that these pharmaceuticals are often the cause of severe short and long-term side effects, for example the accumulation of bioresidues. In addition, micro organisms that are to be combated by these pharmaceuticals develop with time a resistance to these drugs, thus reducing the efficiency of the treatment.

This is because the living organism of humans or animals is incapable of fully assimilating or rejecting these chemicals, resulting in accumulation of chemical in the organism and causing serious side effects exemplified by hereditary changes or sensitivity to micro organisms against which these chemicals had been used.

The present invention refers to compositions containing essential oils (oregano) that are as effective against inflammations, infections and diarrhoea as antibiotics, but differ essentially from the latter (and this due to the herbal origin of these essential oil) in that they are fully assimilable or rejectable by the living organism, thus avoiding bio residues and side effects.

A high content of thymol, carvacol and tannin in the essential oil of oregano is of great significance and have the advantage that the essential oil may be used in small quantities to obtain the desirable effects. According to one aspect of the present invention, there is provided a substitute for antibiotics to be regularly administrated on a daily basis to poultry, in order to prevent diarrhoea and coccidiosis.

The pharmaceutical composition can also be used for the treatment of diseases caused by micro organisms of the abdominal region such as salmonella, pasteurella and Escherichia cola.

In another aspect of the present invention, the pharmaceutical composition can be successfully used for the prevention and treatment of Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, dermal fungal infections, and inflammations of lungs, inflammation of kidneys, typhus, mycoplasma, and herpes.

The pharmaceutical composition can also be used for the purification of water. In a concentration of about 10 to 20ml of a aqueous solution of the essential oil per cubic meter of water, the ingredients of oregano according to the present invention provide bacteriostatic effect without imparing the odour and taste of the drinking water. It can therefore be applied as a substitute for chlorine.

The wild oregano is rich in a long list of minerals that includes calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium, copper, boron, and manganese. Vitamin C and A (beta carotene) and niacin also, are contained in oregano. In his book "The cure is in the Cupboard" Dr. Cas Ingram notes that "wild oregano is a veritable a natural treasure-house, containing a density of minerals that would rival virtually any food."

In his book "Natures Healer" Dr. Cas Ingram explains the astonishing discovery that "oil of oregano destroys all variety of fungi and yeasts, regardless of where they reside." Oregano is such a potent antifungal agent that it is capable of destroying even resistant fungal forms such as the mutated fungi which result from antibiotic therapy. As asserts, "oil of oregano's antiseptic powers are immense. ... It inhibits the growth of the majority of bacteria, something that prescription antibiotics fail to accomplish." In the case of parasites, oil of oregano has had success neutralizing worms, amoeba and protozoan.

In his capacity as senior pharmaceutical professor at the University of Potchefstroom, Pro. Lotter assisted us in developing oil of the wild oregano as a pharmaceutical composition, soluble in water, for the use in animals. This significant product can now be obtained as a water-soluble composition and in a powder for the administration over food and is available in leading pigeon product stores in South Africa.

The benefits of oregano has gone largely unnoticed and under publicized for far too long. As Ingram notes, "one of the world's finest natural medicines, that if its true oregano."

Judging its mineral, vitamin and medicinal content, it is not hard to figure out why oregano is such a valuable commodity. Consider some of oregano's other useful purposes and it becomes even more obvious.

By WA Coetzee

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