In addition to a wide range of medicinal uses, oregano essential oil benefits can be used as a natural antibiotic, but without the side effects. However, don’t just go out and buy oregano oil and slather it on your skin willy-nilly. The key is to always dilute and use it properly because it is a potent plant-based medicine!
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Oregano’s Plant Profile
There’s no mystery surrounding oregano essential oil’s plant profile. The potent essential oil that we will discuss momentarily comes from the same oregano that you likely have in your kitchen herb garden or sitting, dried and crumbled, in a jar in your herb and spice pantry.
Who knew that the oregano in our favorite recipes was harboring such a potent essential oil?
Like many of our herbal gems, oregano hails from the Mediterranean. As such, its popularity began in Greece and Rome, then spread to Europe and eventually the rest of the Western world. The essential oil is distilled from the leaves and flowers of the plant, similar to the parts used for culinary purposes.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare and Origanum majorana) is grown in the Mediterranean, and the benefits abound in the compounds that are extracted via distillation. Each pound of oil is a product of over 1,000 pounds of wild oregano, forming a potent and valuable medicine that has been valued for thousands of years and countless cultures.
Oregano essential oil is rich in the chemical components carvacrol and thymol, which are shared with thyme essential oil as well. (1) This should give you a head start on the best applications for oregano if you are familiar with thyme- and it doesn’t disappoint!
Use oregano essential oil for its antimicrobial strength, which we’ll look at more closely at the end of the article. Remember that it is a strong oil that often causes sensitization if used neat (undiluted, or without a carrier oil). Make sure you dilute it well for anything topical or internal.
5 Benefits of Oregano Essential Oil
1. Antibacterial Support
Of the wide range of antibacterial essential oils available to us, oregano oil stands out among the fold. From a 2012 study in Poland, of a group of essential oils tested, “The highest and broadest activity was shown by O. vulgare oil. Carvacrol had the highest antibacterial activity among the tested components.” (2)
With antibiotic resistance on the rise, having natural alternatives available are more important than ever. Use oregano oil as part of a first response to sickness to help beat bacterial illness to the punch!
Application: Inhalation, culinary use, and diluted topical treatments can all introduce oregano’s antibacterial effects as needed.
2. Antiviral Disinfecting
Viruses are such a struggle because there isn’t really a way to “cure” them. Think about common flu and cold medicines. They promise a shorter duration or lessened symptoms, but they aren’t just going to be cured. A strong antiviral works by disabling viral cells, which slows the spread and lets the body take over without being overwhelmed.
Antivirals hold the virus down so the immune system can kick it!
Oregano essential oil’s main component, carvacrol, stands out as a potent antiviral, as well. (3) With so many viral illnesses circulating – yes, including the flu and the common cold – having an antiviral tool at the ready can help keep your family well.
Application: Use oregano essential oil and thyme essential oil together for increased antiviral and antibacterial potency in cleaner sprays and wellness preparations.
3. Bug Repellent
As a source of thymol and carvacrol, oregano essential oil is an effective addition to mosquito sprays. (4) The trick with DIY bug repellents is to have a variety of actions working together. Oregano is yet another oil – joining citronella, clove, and even ylang ylang – that can be used to ward off those pesky summer pests.
Application: Include oregano among a blend of 3-5 essential oils diluted into 190 proof alcohol or light carrier oil in a spritz bottle. Spray on clothes and ankles.
4. Athlete’s Foot Killer
After showing itself to be a strong antimicrobial, oregano oil pulls out all the stops and reveals itself as antifungal, as well!
Athlete’s foot and other fungal infections are often stigmatized, but they are often no worse than any other incidental infection. It’s a part of life and something that many of us will have to deal with at some point in our lives.
Tackle nasty fungal infections with oregano essential oil, knocking it back before the discomfort really sets in. One study set out to do so and found promising results with a foot bath – a simple and soothing treatment for an uncomfortable and unsightly infection. (5)
Application: Mix into a 1% carrier oil and use in a warm foot bath to enjoy the antifungal benefits of the oregano essential oil.
5. Antioxidant Healer
Finally, as a strong antioxidant, oregano oil has been studied for a new and unfortunately greatly-needed kind of healing: cancer-related. In 2013, researchers evaluated the ways in which oregano essential oil could help to mitigate the damage inflicted from a chemotherapy drug.
Cavracol, as well as super-antioxidant pomegranates, demonstrated protective and restorative effects neurologically after the chemotherapy drug MTX was taken. (6)
Application: Speak with your oncologist about mitigating the incidental damage done by harsh treatments with antioxidant oils like oregano oil.
Note About Natural Antibiotics
The problem with automatic prescription of antibiotics, due to patient demand or physician ignorance, is that they are only effective against bacterial infections. If our illness is viral and we take an antibiotic, we’re risking the loss of beneficial bacteria in our bodies and aiding the creation of bacteria-resistant superbugs, all with no healing benefit. Even when we are facing a bacterial illness, finding the right antibiotic is much more effective than prescribing a broad-spectrum antibiotic.
The Wall Street Journal brought this significant public health concern to light in a 2013 article about antibiotic overuse and misuse, stating: (7)
“Overuse of antibiotics, and prescribing broad-spectrum drugs when they aren’t needed, can cause a range of problems. It can make the drugs less effective against the bacteria they are intended to treat by fostering the growth of antibiotic-resistant infections. And it can wipe out the body’s good bacteria, which help digest food, produce vitamins and protect from infections, among other functions.
- In a July study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, researchers from the University of Utah and the CDC found that 60% of the time physicians prescribe antibiotics, they choose broad-spectrum ones….
- A similar study of children, published in the journal Pediatrics in 2011, found that when antibiotics were prescribed they were broad-spectrum 50% of the time, mainly for respiratory conditions….
Both studies also found that about 25% of the time antibiotics were being prescribed for conditions in which they have no use, such as viral infections.”
Essentially, our current approach to prescribe broad spectrum antibiotics out of reflex is like sending the atomic bomb where the A-Team would have sufficed.
Antibiotic Prowess of Oregano Oil
Most consumers have no idea that antibiotics come in multiple forms. Beyond the indication of broad-spectrum antibiotics, there are more qualifications that determine how an antibiotic is most effectively used – Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria are affected in their own ways, and certain antibiotics will be more effective against one than the other.
The Journal of Medicinal Food published an analysis of oregano oil’s efficacy against three Gram-negative (Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa) and two Gram-positive (Staphylococus aureus , Bacillus subtilis) bacteria. True oregano (Origanum vulgare) harvested at various growth stages were tested, and all three were effective in vitro against all five bacterial strains. (8)
Similar findings were published two years prior, when researchers in Pakistan found oregano oil to be effective against parasites and even cancer cells! (9)
With clear results against these common bacteria – especially the food safety-related E. coli and Salmonella – including oregano essential oil in meals seems wise for gastrointestinal protection and disease prevention.
We could go on for pages about the antibiotic effects of oregano oil, but there’s more to it than that. Unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics that are essentially one trick ponies, oregano oil carries with it so many more benefits. It is truly an essential oil that should be considered to battle infection and other microbes.
Within oregano oil, a phenol component called carvacol is arguably the reason that it is so strong. When you search the PubMed database of peer-reviewed literature, carvacol is referenced in more than 800 separate returns. Researchers are intrigued by this component, to say the least.
Some of the conditions carvacol and oregano oil have been indicated for, aside from bacterial infections, include fungi, parasites, viruses, inflammation, cell death, tumors, pain, histamine reactions, and oxidative stress.
Carvacol stepped out among the crowd of medicinal components when the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences highlighted that carvacrol was shown to have an antioxidant effect. (10) Methotrexate (MTX) is well known as dangerous but used anyway for its treatment capability in severe illness such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.
In order to measure the interaction between MTX and carvacol, MTX-treated rats were observed with and without carvacol. The antioxidant effects were able to inhibit the negative effects of MTX. Similarly, carvacol has also been shown in vitro to potentially, “”prevent pathogenic overgrowth and colonization in the large intestine during oral iron therapy” – a therapy for anemia associated with severe gastrointestinal complaints. (11)
The research about oregano oil benefits that follows will be exciting to watch, because the implications of a natural remedy able to limit the effects of necessary prescriptions are vast. Beyond fascination, someone taking harsh treatments such as iron therapy or chemotherapy could face a very different future with the side effects controlled.
Easy DIY Applications
Although the scientific literature is very quiet regarding specific essential oil protocols, many people have found the following to be helpful:
- Apply diluted oregano oil on your abdomen. Proper dilution depends on individual sensitivity: Try 2-3 drops each of oregano and tea tree oil to 1 Tablespoon carrier oil as a good start for adults. For children use extra caution and be sure to use even more carrier oil.
- Put 1 drop of oregano + 1 drop of tea tree in a gel capsule with carrier oil and consume. For people battling a bacterial infection, consider taking up two capsules a day.
Keeping a Proper Perspective
After lambasting unnecessary use of antibiotics, then singing the praises of a powerful one, you are no doubt wondering what limits we should place on oregano oil uses and how it should be used properly.
At this point, we can’t be sure, really.
Because of its potency and capabilities, oregano oil should be used carefully alongside the guidance of a natural health expert or naturally-minded health care provider. Always dilute it, and be sure to take orally in a gel capsule with carrier oil instead of straight with water.
If it’s strong enough to tackle MTX, it’s strong enough to be taken seriously. Seek out a natural health provider today and see how oregano oil might fit within your lifestyle and regimen.
Safety Note: Oregano does have potential cautions and contraindications for various methods of use. If you have any diagnosed medical conditions or are on any medications, work with the appropriate health care provider to determine if oregano oil is appropriate for you.