3 Benefits of Oregano Oil

oregano plant
Oregano. Eleonora galli/Moment Open/Getty Images

Oregano oil is a natural substance said to offer a variety of health benefits. Widely available in supplement form, oregano oil is purported to have antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects. In addition, proponents claim that oregano oil can treat a number of health conditions.

Uses for Oregano Oil

In alternative medicine, oregano oil is typically touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

While oregano oil is often taken orally, some individuals also apply oregano oil to the skin for the treatment of acne, athlete's foot, canker sores, psoriasis, rosacea, varicose veins, and warts.

One popular remedy involving oregano oil is a steam inhalation used to alleviate symptoms of the common cold. By combining oregano oil with very hot water, adding the blend to a steam inhaler, and then breathing in the steam, alternative practitioners say that it may help to clear congestion.

Benefits of Oregano Oil

So far, few scientific studies have tested the health effects of oregano oil. However, some preliminary research suggests that oregano oil may offer certain health benefits.

1) Colitis

A combination of thyme and oregano oils shows promise in the treatment of colitis (a type of inflammatory bowel disease), according to an animal-based study published in Mediators of Inflammation in 2007.

In tests on mice, scientists discovered that colitis-afflicted animals experienced a significant reduction in inflammation after treatment with the combination treatment.

Due to a lack of clinical trials, it's unknown whether a combination of thyme and oregano oils may be beneficial in treatment of colitis in humans.

2) Candida

In laboratory research, scientists have shown that oregano oil may help fight the growth of candida. A type of yeast that normally resides in the body (in the digestive tract and vagina), candida can contribute to a number of infections—such as oral thrush, skin infections, and vaginal yeast infections—when its growth goes unchecked. But while findings from test-tube studies and animal-based research are promising, there is currently a lack of clinical trials demonstrating that oregano oil can help prevent or treat candida-related infections in humans.

3) Antibacterial

Preliminary research indicates that oregano oil may help protect against certain bacterial infections. For instance, in a 2005 study on mice, published in Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods, researchers found that oregano oil may be useful for prevention or treatment of Staphylococcus aureus infection. And in a 2004 study published in the Journal of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, tests on mice revealed that oregano oil may be effective in destroying the bacteria associated with dysentery.

Caveats

Due to a lack of research, very little is known about the safety of using oregano oil supplements. However, there's some concern that oregano oil may be irritating to certain people when applied directly to the skin.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get additional tips on using supplements here.

Using Oregano Oil for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend oregano oil as a treatment for any condition. If you're considering using it, talk to your doctor to weigh the potential risks and benefits. Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. 

Sources

Bukovská A, Cikos S, Juhás S, Il'ková G, Rehák P, Koppel J. "Effects of a combination of thyme and oregano essential oils on TNBS-induced colitis in mice." Mediators Inflamm. 2007;2007:23296.

Liao F, Huang Q, Yang Z, Xu H, Gao Q. "Experimental study on the antibacterial effect of origanum volatile oil on dysentery bacilli in vivo and in vitro." J Huazhong Univ Sci Technolog Med Sci. 2004;24(4):400-3.

Manohar V, Ingram C, Gray J, Talpur NA, Echard BW, Bagchi D, Preuss HG. "Antifungal activities of origanum oil against Candida albicans." Mol Cell Biochem. 2001 Dec;228(1-2):111-7.

Pozzatti P, Scheid LA, Spader TB, Atayde ML, Santurio JM, Alves SH. "In vitro activity of essential oils extracted from plants used as spices against fluconazole-resistant and fluconazole-susceptible Candida spp." Can J Microbiol. 2008 Nov;54(11):950-6.

Preuss HG, Echard B, Dadgar A, Talpur N, Manohar V, Enig M, Bagchi D, Ingram C. "Effects of Essential Oils and Monolaurin on Staphylococcus aureus: In Vitro and In Vivo Studies." Toxicol Mech Methods. 2005;15(4):279-85.

Salgueiro LR, Cavaleiro C, Pinto E, Pina-Vaz C, Rodrigues AG, Palmeira A, Tavares C, Costa-de-Oliveira S, Gonçalves MJ, Martinez-de-Oliveira J. "Chemical composition and antifungal activity of the essential oil of Origanum virens on Candida species." Planta Med. 2003 Sep;69(9):871-4.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Continue Reading