Oregano is a spice that grows wild in many Mediterranean countries. In ancient Greece, oregano oil was used to help heal wounds, bites and respiratory problems. Oregano oil may help people with yeast hypersensitivity (or systemic candidiasis) as the oil is thought to be toxic to certain fungi and parasites.
What Is Oregano Oil?
Oregano oil is derived from the leaves and flowers of the oregano (Origanum vulgare), a hardy, bushy perennial herb, and a member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family. It's native to Europe, although it grows in many areas around the world.
The ancient Greeks and Romans have a profound appreciation for oregano, using it for various medicinal uses. In fact, its name comes from the Greek words "oros" and "ganos," which are words for mountain and joy,– oregano literally means "joy of the mountain." It was revered as a symbol of happiness, and it was an ancient tradition to crown brides and grooms with a laurel of oregano.
There are over 40 oregano species, but the most therapeutically beneficial is the oil produced from wild oregano or Origanum vulgare that's native to Mediterranean regions. Beware, though, as many of the oregano oils sold in grocery stores are not made from this variety, and may have little to no therapeutic value. Opt only for oregano oil made from Origanum vulgare and Thymus capitatus, a variety that grows in Spain.
To obtain oregano oil, the dried flowers and leaves of the wild oregano plant are harvested when the oil content of the plant is at its highest, and then distilled. The resulting oil is golden to dark yellow, with a strong spicy odor.
Uses of Oregano Oil
I highly recommend adding oregano oil to your arsenal of natural healing tools, as it has a wide range of uses. This herbal oil is a powerful antimicrobial that can help fight off infections. Oregano oil also has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.
Other ideal uses for oregano oil are:
- Treating foot or nail fungus. Put a few teaspoons of oregano oil in a basin of water and soak your feet in it. You can also dilute the oil (mix a drop with a teaspoon of olive or coconut oil), and then apply it on your nails or skin.
- Killing parasites and infections. Dilute the oil (mix a drop with a drop of a carrier oil such as coconut oil), and place it under your tongue. Hold it there for a few minutes, and then rinse it out. Repeat this at least four times a day.
- Alleviating sinus infections and colds. Put a few drops of oregano oil in a pot of steaming water, and then inhale the steam.
I also encourage using the antiseptic powers of this herbal oil to clean your home. Here's one way how: combine four drops of oregano oil with 10 drops of lemon oil and a quarter-cup of white vinegar, and then add to a bucket of water. Use this mixture to wipe and clean surfaces.
Oregano Oil Composition
Oregano oil is high in phenols, which are natural phytochemical compounds with beneficial antioxidant effects. The two most abundant phenols in it are:
- Thymol - a natural fungicide with antiseptic properties. It helps boost your immune system, works as a shield against toxins, and even helps prevent tissue damage and encourages healing.
- Carvacrol – found to be effective against various bacterial infections, such as candida albicans, staphylococcus, E. coli, campylobacter, salmonella, klebsiella, the aspergillus mold, giardia, pseudomonas, and listeria.
Other healthful compounds in oregano oil include:
- Terpenes – known for their powerful antibacterial properties.
- Rosmarinic acid – an antioxidant that prevents free radical damage and has shown promise in treating allergic asthma and preventing cancer and atherosclerosis. It also works as a natural antihistamine that reduces fluid buildup and swelling caused by allergy attacks.
- Naringin - inhibits the growth of cancer cells and helps boost the antioxidants in oregano oil.
- Beta-caryophyllin (E-BCP) - this substance inhibits inflammation and is also beneficial for conditions including osteoporosis and arteriosclerosis, as well as metabolic syndrome.
Nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium, manganese, copper, boron, and niacin are also found in oregano oil.
Oregano Oil Benefits
Oregano oil has wide-reaching health benefits, but is most associated with respiratory and immune system health. It is known for helping prevent and treat infections, such as:
Oregano oil has also shown promise in preventing food-borne illnesses caused by pathogens like listeria, salmonella, E. coli, and Shigella dysenteria. Adding it to foods not only helps kill the bacteria, but may also alleviate food poisoning symptoms. An animal study from University of Arizona researchers also found that oregano oil can help kill norovirus, which causes gastroenteritis.
Oregano oil is also a prized antiseptic essential oil in aromatherapy because its proportion of phenols is said to be the highest of all aromatic plants. Aside from using the steam method to relieve coughs and other respiratory illnesses, you can also use it to:
- Ward off insects. Carvacrol in oregano oil works as a natural insect repellant. Try putting a few drops on outdoor furniture, or apply a diluted mixture on your skin when heading outdoors.
- Relieve bug bites and rashes, including poison ivy rash. Apply oregano oil diluted with olive oil on the affected areas.
- Help heal cold sores, dandruff, and other skin conditions. Some experts also advocate using a diluted version to treat acne and rosacea.
- Ease sore throat. Simply add a few drops to a glass of water. It can help alleviate toothache as well.
- Relieve muscle and joint pain, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), sprains, and cramps.