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Oregano Oil: Benefits, Uses, and More

What is oregano oil?

benefits of oregano oil

You’re probably already familiar with dried or fresh oregano that is commonly used as a food seasoning. Oregano grows wild in several Mediterranean countries, and is typically dried and used to flavor food. Many people are also discovering the benefits of oil of oregano.

Did you know?
Oregano oil is made by distilling fresh oregano oils using a type of distillation called steam distillation. Most essential oils are made in this way.

Oregano oil, scientifically known as Origanum vulgare, is an essential oil with a wide variety of therapeutic uses. It has been used as a folk remedy for thousands of years. Recently many scientific studies have found oregano oil to be effective at treating various conditions.  

The science-backed effectiveness of oregano oil is leading to its growing popularity.

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Uses

What is oregano oil used for?

People often begin using oregano oil for one reason and then discover that it can be used for a variety of purposes.

Oil of oregano can boost your immune system. It has the following properties:

  • antibacterial
  • antifungal
  • antioxidant
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antibiotic
  • antiviral

These properties can:

  • aid in digestion
  • prevent or relieve stomach problems
  • treat sinus infections
  • heal skin issues

Oil of oregano has also been shown to protect against bacteria that cause infections and diseases.

Research

What does the research say?

A 2011 study showed an oregano oil ointment to be effective in reducing the amount of bacteria on surgical wounds. This reduced the number of infections and improved the overall appearance and flexibility of scars. As a result, the oil might be effective as a topical treatment for minor skin wounds.

Results of a 2015 study showed the antifungal effect of oregano and Mexican oregano essential oils on certain types of Candida fungus. Oil of oregano may therefore be able to treat Candida-related issues, such as:

  • yeast infections
  • digestive issues
  • fungal infections
  • skin conditions

Oregano oil may also fight E. coli bacteria. These bacteria can cause urinary tract infections and food-borne illness. Many strands of bacteria are now resistant to antibiotics. Essential oils, such as oregano oil, may be able to treat infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Oregano oil has also been shown to stop the growth of certain types of salmonella. Adding oil of oregano to your food may prevent food-borne illness, and food manufacturers have been experimenting with the use of oregano oil as a food preservative.

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Dosage

How do I use oregano oil?

Safety tips
  1. Use small amounts of oil.
  2. Dilute the oil, or buy one that’s already diluted.

Oregano oil is very potent. It can burn your skin if used in a concentrated form. Because of that, you should always dilute the oil before use. Less is more in terms of dosage, frequency, and duration of use. If you have questions or concerns, talk to a healthcare professional.

Oregano oil may be sold already diluted in a carrier oil, such as olive oil. You can also purchase it in a more concentrated form that you will have to dilute yourself. Read directions carefully and always start with the smallest recommended amount. Gradually increase the dose as needed.

Never ingest essential oils. You may apply it topically or diffuse it into the air for aromatherapy.

If you are using steam to help clear your sinuses and stuffy nose, you can add oil of oregano. Place a few drops of oil into a bowl of hot water, place a towel over your head, and breathe in the steam. You could also use a diffuser to inhale it at a lower concentration. The antibacterial and antifungal properties of the oil may help treat a sinus infection or your cold symptoms if they are caused by bacteria or fungi.

If you’re using oregano oil on a wound, you can add a few drops to your chosen oil or ointment. Rub this mixture into your skin several times per day. Always be sure to test the oil on an uninjured patch of skin before applying it to any area that is open or sore. You can also add a few drops of oregano oil to a balm to soothe sore muscles.

Only use oregano oil for up to three weeks at a time. If you choose to use it more regularly, it’s recommended that you take a break every so often for a few days or a few weeks.

In general, it’s better to use small amounts more frequently instead of a lot at one time.

Store the oil in a dark, cool place to prolong its shelf life.

Caution

Who shouldn’t use oregano oil?

Caution
  1. Pregnant or breast-feeding women should not use oregano oil.
  2. Children and infants should use in small amounts only, and for short periods of time.

Oregano oil is powerful, so you should always be careful when you use it, especially the first time. Start with a small dose and gradually increase the amount of oil you use.

The oil can irritate your skin. You may have a strong reaction to the smell. If you suspect you are having a reaction to the oil, stop using it and talk to your doctor.  

Oregano oil should not be used by women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. You should also not use oregano oil on infants or children. Talk to your doctor if you have additional questions.

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Outlook

What is the outlook?

Oregano oil may be a good alternative treatment for many conditions. Recent studies have shown promising results, but more studies need to be done on the use of oregano oil in humans.

Always talk to your doctor before starting a new treatment. They can help you come up with a treatment plan and provide guidance on dosage. Oregano oil is very strong, so start with a small amount to help avoid a negative reaction.

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Availability

Where can I buy oregano oil?

Oil of oregano can be found at most health food stores. This oil is generally not found in the spice section of a grocery store. Essential oils are not standardized, so it’s important to choose a brand you trust:

  • Ask your doctor if they have a recommended brand, or talk to friends who have used essential oils.
  • Look for a high-quality, organic, therapeutic-grade oil. Quality oregano oil will be completely natural.
  • Check to make sure that there are no additives other than a carrier oil, such as olive oil.

You should also look for a high percentage of carvacrol. Carvacrol is one of the main healing components of oregano oil. Carvacrol levels may be between 50 and 85 percent, with higher levels being more expensive. Since a little goes a long way, it’s worth it to spend the extra money and buy a higher quality oil. 

Article resources
  • Akdemir Evrendilek, G. (2015, June 2). Empirical prediction and validation of antibacterial inhibitory effects of various plant essential oils on common pathogenic bacteria [Abstract]. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 202, 35-41. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25764982
  • Cirino, I. C., Menezes-Silva, S. M., Silva, H. T., de Souza, E. L., & Siqueira-Junior, J. P. (2014). The essential oil from Origanum vulgare L. and its individual constituents carvacrol and thymol enhance the effect of tetracycline against Staphylococcus aureus [Abstract]. Chemotherapy, 60(5-6), 290-293. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25999020
  • Li, J. T. C. (2014, July 30). Oil of oregano: Can it treat sinusitis? Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acute-sinusitis/expert-answers/oil-of-oregano/faq-20058486
  • Llana-Ruiz-Cabello, M., Pichardo, S., Bermudez, J. M., Banos, A., Nunez, C., Guillamon, E., … Camean, A. M. (2016, August). Development of PLA films containing oregano essential oil (Origanum vulgare L. virens) intended for use in food packaging [Abstract]. Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A, 33(8), 1374-1386. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19440049.2016.1204666?journalCode=tfac20
  • Marrelli, M., Conforti, F., Formisano, C., Rigano, D., Arnold, N. A., Menichini, F., & Senatore, F. (2016). Composition, antibacterial, antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of essential oils from three Origanum species growing wild in Lebanon and Greece [Abstract]. National Product Research, 30(6), 735-739. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26179294
  • Moore-Neibel, K., Gerber C., Patel J., Friedman, M., Jaroni, D., & Ravishankar, S. (2013, May). Antimicrobial activity of oregano oil against antibiotic-resistant Salmonella enterica on organic leafy greens at varying exposure times and storage temperatures [Abstract]. Food Microbiology, 34(1), 123-129. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23498188
  • Perez-Roses, R., Risco, E., Vila, R., Penalver, R., & Canigueral, S. (2016, June). Biological and nonbiological antioxidant activity of some essential oils [Abstract]. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 64(23), 4716-4724. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27214068
  • Raji, J., Pappert, A., Rao, B., Havkin-Frenkel, D., & Milgraum, S. (2011, October). Oregano extract ointment for wound healing: A randomized, double-blind, petrolatum-controlled study evaluating efficacy [Abstract]. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 10(10), 1168-1172. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21968667
  • Soares, I. H., Loreto, É. S., Rossato, L., Mario, D. N., Venturini, T. P., Baldissera, F., … Alves, S. H. (2015, September). In vitro activity of essential oils extracted from condiments against fluconazole-resistant and -sensitive Candida glabrata [Abstract]. Journal de Mycologie Médicale, 25(3), 213-217. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26281965
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