Oregano oil benefits are proving to be superior to some antibiotics, without the harmful side effects.
Most medical doctors love prescribing antibiotics to just about anyone who walks through their doors. Unfortunately, most of the antibiotics prescribed come with debilitating side effects, such as destroying good gut bacteria (which kills the immune system), causing antibiotic resistance, reducing vitamin absorption, and damaging the lining of the digestive tract (leading to leaky gut).
Oregano oil, on the other hand, helps target bad bacteria while leaving good bacteria alone.
And that’s not all it does.
In addition to treating or preventing various infections, oregano oil may help reduce one’s risk of cancer, acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, reduces allergy symptoms and more.
What is Oregano Oil?
Oregano oil is the oil extract from the leaves of the wild oregano plant, Origanum vulgare. It’s extracted using a solvent, such as ethanol or CO2.
Oregano is a small flowering bushy plant in the mint family.
Oregano oil has the highest concentration of phenols, natural compounds with high antioxidant potential, among all aromatic plants. The two most abundant phenols in oregano oil are thymol and carvacrol, although carvacrol is arguably the most potent constituent of oregano oil.
Oregano Oil vs. Oregano Essential Oil: Is There a Difference?
Many people often confuse oregano oil with oregano essential oil. But there a major differences between the two.
Oregano oil, also called oil of oregano, can be used orally, whereas oregano essential oil should only be used externally.
Oregano essential oil is typically extracted from the dried leaves or flowering tops of the plant using a steam distillation process. It can be applied topically with a carrier oil (like jojoba or almond oil), or it can be used in a diffuser for aromatherapy purposes.
Oregano oil, on the other hand, is extracted via a solvent like CO2 or ethanol, and can be consumed orally.
15 Health Benefits of Oregano Oil
Oregano oil has a wide range of health benefits that can be attributed to its antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties.
Over 800 studies reference carvacrol in PubMed, which proves that this oil provides some whopping healing potential.
So, with that being said, here are 15 health benefits of oregano oil:
1. Kills Bacterial Infections
Carvacrol has been found to possess strong fungicide and antiseptic properties that kill a wide variety of pathogens by breaking through the cell membranes of disease-causing microbes. This allows the body to repair and heal cells and tissue damage, as well as boost the immune system and neutralize free radicals.
One investigated the efficacy of oregano oil against 11 multidrug-resistant bacteria like Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Not surprisingly, oregano oil demonstrated significant antibacterial activity against all eleven strains.
Other studies have shown how the combination of oregano oil and silver nanoparticles effectively eliminated all multidrug-resistant bacteria tested .
A different species of oregano oil, Origanum heracleoticum L., has also shown effectiveness against clinical strains of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
2. May Help Fight Cancer
Carvacrol, one of the main active constituents of oregano oil, has been shown to possess strong anti-tumor properties in vivo and in vitro.
One study found that carvacrol significantly inhibits tumor cell proliferation, metastasis and invasion, and induces apoptosis in human oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC).
Similarly, when applied to human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells, carvacrol was a very potent inhibitor of cell growth.
Another more recent study found that thymol, another aromatic compound found in high concentrations in oregano oil, has apoptotic and antiproliferative properties in lung, breast, and prostate cancer cell lines.
As most of the research on oregano oil comes from in vivo and in vitro studies, it is hard to say whether the same effects would ring true in actual human patients. With that being said, perhaps oregano oil could serve as a potential therapeutic agent in the future.
3. Reduces Allergies
Oil of oregano is highly anti-inflammatory, so it has some surprising effects when it comes to reducing allergies.
Studies have found that rosmarinic acid, a naturally occurring ingredient in oregano oil, can actually reduce the severity of your allergic reactions. It does so by decreasing the numbers of neutrophils and eosinophils, two white blood cells largely involved in the allergic immune response.
4. Alleviates Food Poisoning Symptoms
As a strong antimicrobial and antibacterial, oil of oregano works as an excellent supplement for eliminating the symptoms of food poisoning.
One study investigated the antibacterial activity of oregano oil against five different types of bad bacteria like E. coli – a bacteria often found the culprit in food poisoning cases. The inhibitory effects of oregano oil were found significant against all five strains of bacteria, with the highest activity observed against E. coli. This suggests that oregano oil may be useful in treating gastrointestinal distress and deadly food poisoning.
Animal studies have also shown inhibitory actions of oregano oil against Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that often causes food poisoning.
5. Fights Fungal Infections
Oregano oil has been used for centuries to fight off all sorts of fungal infections.
Today, oregano oil is particularly useful for fighting off flare-ups of Candida albicans, more commonly known as yeast infections.
A study out of Georgetown University Medical Center found that oregano oil was able to completely inhibit the growth of Candida albicans. The study also found that daily supplementation of oregano oil was largely effective in preventing recurrent yeast infections.
Studies have even looked at the individual constituents of oregano oil like carvacrol, thymol and eugenol, and their biofilm-destroying abilities.
Biofilms are like protective shields that bacteria and other organisms envelop themselves in. They are notorious for being resistant to standard medical drug treatments.
Oregano oil, however, is strong enough that it can bust through the biofilms of Candida albicans that are often very resistant to pharmaceutical anti-fungal drugs. Of all terpenes, carvacrol showed the strongest activity, regardless of the maturity of the biofilm.
6. Natural Anti-Inflammatory
As previously discussed, oil of oregano is a wonderful anti-inflammatory. It is rich in antioxidants that help neutralize inflammation-triggering free radicals in the body.
Oregano oil is particularly high in carvacrol and thymol, two antioxidants that can help prevent free-radical cellular damage.
Free radicals are a major contributor to the development of chronic disease conditions like cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, cardiovascular disease, and more. By naturally reducing chronic inflammation, you can reduce your risk of developing certain diseases.
One study investigated the effects of thyme and oregano essential oils on mice with colitis (a type of inflammatory bowel disease). They found that when treated with the oils, the production of proinflammatory cytokines was significantly reduced.
Carvacrol’s anti-inflammatory properties may also help in healing gastric ulcers by interfering with inflammatory mediators like prostanoids.
Oregano oil is highly caustic to worms that might make their way inside our bodies.
One study investigated the effects of oregano oil on individuals who had gut symptoms as a result of a parasite. Subjects were given 600 mg of oregano oil for six weeks. After daily treatment for 6 weeks, there was a “complete disappearance of Entamoeba hartmanni (four cases), Endolimax nana (one case), and Blastocystis hominis in eight cases.” Over 77% were cured.
Gastrointestinal symptoms and tiredness improved in seven of the 11 patients who had tested positive for the parasites.
The anti-viral effects of oregano oil are well demonstrated against norovirus, otherwise known as the winter vomiting bug, the most common cause of gastroenteritis.
One study found that carvacrol was effective at inactivating norovirus after just one hour of exposure by acting directly on the viral capsule and subsequently the RNA.
Oregano oil has also been found to disrupt the viral envelope of the HSV-1 herpes virus.
9. Treats Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
If you or someone you know deals with small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), you’ll know how much it affects the quality of life.
Unfortunately, many people with SIBO are limited to treatments with oral antibiotics that often do not work.
Oregano oil, however, just might do the trick.
Because oregano oil helps fight yeast overgrowth and balances bacteria in the gut, it is a popular option for those suffering from SIBO and other gut imbalances.
One study published in Global Advances in Health & Medicine found that herbal antimicrobials, including oregano oil, are just as effective as rifaximin (Xifaxan) for treating infections of the digestive tract like SIBO. When patients diagnosed with SIBO were treated with either rifaximin (1,200 mg) or an herbal blend containing oregano oil over the course of 4 weeks, nearly 46% of patients treated with the herbal blend experienced improved symptoms, compared to only 34% on medical treatment. What’s more, is that 57% responded positively to the herbal blend even after failing to feel better from the antibiotics.
10. Heals Wounds
Oregano oil is a great all-natural wound healer, thanks to its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
Because there always runs the risk of wounds getting infected, adding a bit of oregano oil to the affected area can help protect them as they heal.
One study compared an oregano ointment with regular petrolatum on wound healing. Those treated with oregano had significantly less bacterial contamination and subsequent infection on post-surgical wounds. The oregano group also had statistically significant improvement over petrolatum in scar color, pigmentation, and pliability.
11. Natural Alternative to Antibiotics
Antibiotics are useful when prescribed appropriately, but many doctors often over-prescribe antibiotics or prescribe them for situations that could easily be cleared up with herbs such as oregano oil.
The issue with over-prescribing antibiotics is that bacteria start developing resistance to them. Not only that, but antibiotics don’t just target bad bacteria – they target the good ones, too. You know, the bacteria we need for optimal health.
Oil of oregano, on the other hand, fights off harmful pathogens like bacteria, yeast, and fungi, all while leaving healthy bacteria and cells intact.
A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food looked into the antibacterial activity of oregano oil against 5 different types of bad bacteria. They found significant anti-bacterial properties within oregano oil that made it effective against all 5 species.
As another study in the Journal of Medicinal Food journal stated in 2013, oregano oils “represent an inexpensive source of natural antibacterial substances that exhibited potential for use in pathogenic systems.”.
12. Repels Insects
Oregano oil is considered an excellent antiseptic and insect repellent. It contains active terpenes like carvacrol, thymol, and α-terpinene, which have been reported as being highly effective in repelling mosquitoes, .
It is believed that insects dislike the smell of the herb’s aromatic oils.
Some studies have even found oregano oil to work just as well as synthetic insecticides to combat infestation by a common beetle, Rhizoppertha dominica, found in stored cereals.
13. May Help Reduce Side Effects from Medications/Drugs
One often unreported benefit of oregano oil is that it can help reduce the side effects from different medications and drugs.
One study found that phenol in oil of oregano can help protect against methotrexate (MTX) toxicity in mice. The drug, often used to treat cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, is well-known for its dangerous side effects. Researchers believe that oregano oil helps off-set these effects because of its high antioxidant potential and ability to protect against inflammation. It was shown to work even better than drugs that are used to protect against MTX’s adverse effects.
Other research has found oregano oil to off-set the negative side effects of supplementing with oral iron to treat iron deficiency anemia. It is believed that carvacrol interferes with certain pathways for bacterial iron handling, thereby negating some of the effects of iron therapy.
14. May Aid in Weightloss
Oregano oil may be a useful supplement for those who are wanting to lose weight.
One study examined different diets of mice fed either a normal diet, a high-fat diet, or a high-fat diet with carvacrol. Those who were fed the high-fat diet with supplemental carvacrol gained significantly less weight and body fat than those fed the high-fat diet alone.
Purportedly, carvacrol seemed to have reversed the chain of events that led to the formation of fat cells.
While oregano oil may play a role in weightloss, nothing is more important than eating a healthy diet and exercising to maintain a healthy weight.
15. May Help Lower Cholesterol
Last but not least, oregano oil has been shown to potentially help lower chonesterol levels.
In one study, 32 people with high cholesterol were given 0.85 ounces (25 mL) of oregano oil after each meal.
After 3 months, those given the oregano oil had lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and higher “good” HDL cholesterol than those who just made diet and lifestyle changes.
The cholesterol-lowering effect of oregano oil is thought to be the result of the phenols carvacrol and thymol.
How to Use Oregano Oil
The strength of oregano oil supplements can vary, so it’s important to read the directions from the company you purchase from for instructions on how to use the product.
Note that no essential oil should be ingested.
Here are the many different ways you can use oregano oil to your advantage:
- Nasal congestion & lung infections: add 2-3 drops of oregano essential oil to a diffuser or vaporizer, and inhale deeply.
- Sore throat: add 2-3 drops in a glass of water and drink 2-3 times per day or until symptoms subside.
- Acne, cold sores, shingles, or psoriasis: mix 1-2 drops to a small capful of coconut oil or aloe vera gel and apply on the skin (don’t use on broken or sensitive skin).
- Candida and fungal infections: take 2-4 drops twice daily for up to 10 days. You can also mix a few drops of oregano oil with a carrier oil like jojoba oil and rub this on your feet if dealing with foot fungus or toenail fungus.
- Aches, sore muscles, and backaches: mix the same parts of oregano oil and organic olive oil and rub into sore muscles.
- Immune system booster: add 3-4 drops in a glass of water and drink 2-3 times a day before meals.
- Intestinal worms and parasites: take 4-5 drops of oregano oil internally for up to 10 days.
- Bad breath: add 1 drop oregano oil to your toothbrush with toothpaste to kill bad bacteria that cause bad breath.
Is It Safe to Take Oregano Oil?
Oregano oil is generally recognized as safe to take for adults and children alike, as long as the manufacturers’ directions are followed on whatever supplement you choose to purchase.
The dried herb is typically fine for pregnant women, but generally speaking, it’s not considered safe to use oregano oil during pregnancy.
If you’re currently taking prescription medications but you want to start taking oregano oil, make sure to consult your healthcare provider before adding it to your routine.
Oregano oil is very strong, and should always be diluted before consumption or application on open skin. Dilute in water before consumption, or in carrier oils like jojoba or coconut oil for topical application.
When oregano oil is used therapeutically for detox, the die-off of bacteria can cause Herxheimer, a reaction to the toxins released by pathogens as they die. This may make you feel tired, headache-prone, and even nauseous. If this happens, just drink plenty of water and stop taking oregano oil for a little bit. Next time you use, just go slower with increments.
The Bottom Line
Oregano oil is a great natural supplement that can be used to boost your immune system and benefit your health in a multitude of ways.
Not only does it act as a natural antibiotic, but it may help reduce your risk of cancer, battle stubborn yeast infections, heal the gut, alleviate inflammation, and more.
Be sure to only use oil of oregano or oregano oil internally. Oregano essential oil should only be used externally for skin conditions, or in aromatherapy to aid respiratory complaints.