What Is It?
The leaves and flowering tops of more than two dozen fragrant plant species are endowed with a distinctive mildly minty flavor widely recognized as the herb oregano. The most popular of the Origanum species in North America is Origanum vulgare, otherwise known as European oregano or origanum. It’s actually a member of the mint family (Labiatae).
The leaves of the oregano plant provide a mild spicy taste that lends itself well to pizza toppings and pasta salads. Aside from its use as a culinary flavoring, the oregano plant also provides a concentrated aromatic oil with distinct healing properties. Texts from ancient times indicate the oil was used as a remedy for seizures and narcotic poisonings, albeit with unknown results.
The essential oil distilled from oregano contains varying amounts of thymol and carvacrol, compounds that can apparently inhibit the growth of fungi, worms, and possibly other organisms. In fact, some sources even recommend rubbing a drop or two of oregano oil into an area that is itching due to athlete’s foot, a common condition caused by the Tinea versicolor fungus.
Mild stomach-settling and cough-clearing qualities are attributed to oregano oil; they are likely due to the presence of thymol and carvacrol as well. (Another common culinary herb–thyme–also contains high concentrations of these compounds.) A drop or two of oregano oil mixed with milk or juice may well calm an upset stomach and aid digestion.
Disease-fighting antioxidants have been identified in oregano, although it’s not clear whether they appear in the oil as well as in the leaves and other above-ground parts of the plant. Oregano oil has been used as an antiseptic in hand cleansers and shampoos, and as a remedy for headaches when rubbed into the temples.
Specifically, oil of oregano may help to:
Alleviate toothaches. Diluted oregano oil rubbed gently into inflamed and aching gums around an ailing tooth may ease pain. The oregano oil may even help to stave off infection given its slight antiseptic properties.
Fight Candida overgrowth syndrome. Some nutritionally oriented doctors enlist oregano oil’s antifungal actions to fight this syndrome, a condition believed to be caused by an imbalance in the body’s fungi and bacteria levels.
Be sure to check out our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Oregano Oil, which lists therapeutic dosages for specific ailments at a glance.
For toothache: Dilute oregano oil in a small amount of water and dab onto the painful area three or four times a day, as needed for discomfort.
For Candida overgrowth syndrome: Place three drops of oregano oil into an empty gelatin capsule or mix the same amount of oil into juice and take three times a day. Several weeks of continuous use may be required for the anti-fungal properties of oil of oregano to clear up a deep-seated Candida infection.
Guidelines for Use
Try to purchase high-quality oregano oil because the concentration of its active ingredients can vary widely.
Oil of oregano may reduce the absorption of iron from iron supplements, so take the oregano oil at least two hours before or after consuming iron supplements.
Possible Side Effects
Side effects are minimal. However, allergic reactions to oregano oil and even a sensitivity to plants in the Labiatae family (thyme, basil, hyssop, marjoram, mint, sage) can occur. Stop taking oregano oil (and any form of oregano) if signs or symptoms of an allergic reaction develop (these may include facial swelling, skin rash, itching, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms).
Talk to your doctor before taking oregano oil internally if you suffer from iron-deficiency anemia; the oregano might make your condition worse by inhibiting the absorption of iron from foods and supplements.
David Edelberg, MD