Oregano Essential Oil: 11 Health Benefits And How To Use It

by Annie Jangam

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is a popular flavoring spice native to Europe. It is used extensively in cooking for its fragrance, especially in the Italian and Mediterranean cuisines.

Oregano oil is extracted from the leaves and shoots of the oregano plant. Traditionally, the oil has been used for treating digestive troubles and cold. This essential oil has antibacterial, anti-fungal, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor properties (1).

It is also used as a food preservative to prevent food spoilage during storage (2).

Keep reading to know the health benefits and potential side effects of the oil.

What Is Oregano Oil?

Oregano oil is extracted from the leaves and shoots of the oregano plant. They are first air dried, and the oil is extracted by steam distillation (3). This oil contains powerful antioxidants and antimicrobial compounds such as carvacrol, thymol, rosmarinic acid, terpenes, terpenoids, and ursolic acid (4), (5).

Here are eleven potential benefits and uses of oregano oil.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Oregano Oil?

1. May Help Fight Harmful Bacteria

Oregano oil is a natural antibiotic known to be effective against several bacteria (6). It may help fight bacteria that cause infections of the skin, and the urinary and respiratory tracts.

The carvacrol in the oil can exhibit antibacterial properties by inhibiting the growth of bacteria (7). More studies are needed to understand its use for this purpose.

Along with carvacrol, the thymol in oregano oil was found to have a synergistic effect in inhibiting bacterial growth (8), (9).

The essential oil from a different species of oregano, namely Origanum heracleoticum L., was found to be effective against clinical Strains of Escherichia Coli and Pseudomonas Aeruginosa (10). The oil had also shown inhibitory action against Staphylococcus aureus bacteria that often causes food poisoning (11).

The natural potent antibacterial properties of oregano oil have the potential to be used against antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains (12).

2. May Help Lower Cholesterol

Studies have shown that oregano oil may help lower cholesterol in animals as well as humans. Animal studies have found that carvacrol may help in significantly improving lipid profiles in mice fed with a high-fat diet for ten weeks. These mice had lower cholesterol levels than the mice fed with only a high-fat diet (13).

A study on people with mild hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol levels) demonstrated that consuming a different species of oregano oil (Origanum onites) could help manage their lipid profiles (14). Over a duration of three months, the subjects had lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL or low density lipoprotein) and increased levels of good cholesterol (HDL or high density lipoprotein). These effects were observed in the subjects after they had made changes to their diet and lifestyle as well.

The oil had also reduced levels of C-reactive protein that is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (14).

3. May Have Powerful Antioxidant Properties

Antioxidants bind to free radicals that are harmful toxins in our body. They help prevent cellular damage and oxidative stress that may otherwise lead to chronic disorders like cancer or heart disease (15). Studies have shown that oregano has a high concentration of antioxidants (16), (17).

Carvacrol, thymol, and rosmarinic acid are all powerful antioxidants in oregano oil (18), (19), (20). They help in improving the immunity of the body and keeping diseases at bay.

4. Could Help Treat Fungal Infections

Oregano essential oil has fungicidal activity that has been used to treat oral candidiasis and denture stomatitis (21). A study has found that adding essential oils such as oregano oil to a foot bath can be effective against several fungal and bacterial strains (22).

In vitro studies have established the anti-fungal activities of oregano oil against candida yeast infections (23).

Another study found the anti-fungal activity of thymol against Candida albicans, Candida tropicalis, and Candida krusei strains when used in combination with nystatin (an anti-fungal medication) (24).

5. May Improve Gut Health

Oregano oil has been used in folk medicine to treat digestive disorders (25).

The antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects of oregano essential oil (OEO) help in preserving gut health. OEO was found to have a protective effect on the intestinal walls of pigs. The oil helped treat leaky gut by improving the intestinal barrier and killing the harmful microorganisms (26).

Carvacrol’s anti-inflammatory properties help in healing gastric ulcers. The compound may offer benefit by interfering with inflammatory mediators like prostanoids (27).

Studies have found that oregano may treat bacterial infections of the small intestine. This effect could be attributed to the oil’s strong antioxidant and antimicrobial properties (28), (29), (30). Flatulence or excess gas is a symptom of small intestinal bacterial infections (SIBO), and oregano oil helps in ameliorating them at least as effectively as Rifaximin (an antibiotic) (28).

Oregano oil may also help relieve tiredness caused by enteric parasites. It achieves this by inhibiting the activity of the gut parasites, namely Blastocystis hominis, Entamoeba hartmanni, and Endolimax nana (31).

6. May Have Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Oregano oil has anti-inflammatory properties (32). It helps in protecting the body against several disorders, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and drug toxicity (1), (15) (22).

Animal studies suggest that carvacrol reduces the production of inflammatory mediators (interleukins) that are known to cause inflammation  (33).

Another study demonstrated that a combination of oregano oil and thyme oil reduced inflammation in mice (34).

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an epidemic disease that is primarily caused due to cigarette smoking. The carvacrol on oregano oil was found to help treat systemic inflammation in pigs with COPD (35).

7. May Help Relieve Pain

Oregano oil is a natural analgesic (36). Traditionally it was used to relieve pain from rheumatoid arthritis through topical application (37). Carvacrol also inhibits prostaglandin-synthesis and prevents the associated inflammation and pain (37).

The carvacrol in oregano oil was effective in reducing orofacial pain (38). The oil could also relieve the related symptoms like chronic pain in the head, face, neck, and mouth (39).

8. May Have Cancer-Fighting Properties

Oregano essential oil has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and chemopreventive properties that may help in fighting cancer (32), (40).

Another study discovered that oregano essential oil could exhibit anti-proliferative activity in stomach cancer (41).

Extracts from oregano were found to cause cancer cell death in human colon cancer (42).

Several studies show that carvacrol may have cancer-fighting properties. The compound was also found to have anti-tumor effects on human breast cancer cells (43).

Carvacrol was also found to reduce the risk of liver cancer (44).

Another study found that carvacrol is a very potent inhibitor of cell growth in human lung cancer (45).

Research also states that oregano oil and its main constituents can be potentially used as anticancer agents (46).

9. May Help You Lose Weight

The anti-inflammatory and hypolipidemic effects of oregano essential oil may help in reducing the risk of obesity.

Animal studies found that carvacrol could prevent diet-induced obesity by modulating gene expressions in mice fed with a high-fat diet (47).

Another study found that the levels of C-reactive protein were significantly low in mice fed with a high-fat diet and carvacrol (14). C-reactive protein is usually higher in children and adolescents with excess weight (48). Hence, the reduction of the C-reactive protein is an indication of lowered inflammation and risk of obesity (49). This also decreases the risk of other disorders linked to obesity, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes (50).

Carvacrol was also found to help in weight management. In mice studies, those on a diet with carvacrol gained less weight than those fed a high-fat diet alone (13).

The thymol in oregano oil may also reduce the risk of obesity (51).

10. May Help In Healing wounds

Oregano essential oil has been used traditionally to help heal wounds. A novel wound-healing ointment was developed with the oil as one of its components (52).

Another oregano extract ointment was found to prevent bacterial contamination on wounds (especially post-surgical wounds) (53).

According to a rat study, carvacrol was found to improve wound healing by regulating pro-inflammatory molecules (54).

11. May Help Reduce Side Effects From Medications/Drugs

Several drugs and medications may have adverse effects. One such drug is Methotrexate, which is used to treat inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of oregano essential oil were found to help against methotrexate-induced intestinal damage in rats (55).

Another study suggests that carvacrol is useful during oral iron therapy (56). Iron supplements may cause digestive discomfort with symptoms like constipation and vomiting. Carvacrol could help protect the intestinal epithelial cells during Salmonella infection  (56).

In addition to benefiting one’s health, the oregano essential oil could also have advantages for one’s skin and hair.

Oregano Oil For Skin And Hair

Oregano essential oil is popular in skin care products because of the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of carvacrol (57).

Collagen is an important structural component of the skin. It also prevents premature aging (58). Carvacrol promotes collagen synthesis by activating the genes involved in collagen production (58). The antioxidants present in oregano essential oil may also help in preventing cellular damage.

The anti-fungal properties of the oil may help treat dandruff and boost scalp health. However, research is limited in this regard.

How To Use Oregano Oil?

The essential oil should be diluted with a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut oil before applying topically. The capsule form of oregano oil has different concentrations. Please use only the therapeutic grade. Consult a doctor before taking them.

Uses

For Treating Skin Infections

You will need

  • Oregano essential oil
  • Olive oil

Process

  1. You can use one drop of oregano essential oil in one teaspoon of olive oil and apply this mixture to the affected area. This diluted oil helps reduce skin irritation and soothes the skin.

For Treating Athlete’s foot

You will need

  • Oregano essential oil
  • Hot water bath
  • Sea salt

Process

You can use a few drops of oregano essential oil in the foot bath with two tablespoons of sea salt and soak your feet for 20 minutes.

As A Natural Antibiotic

You will need a capsule prescribed by a medical professional to treat infections by bacteria or parasites.

As A Cleaning Agent

You will need

  • Oregano essential oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Baking powder
  • Vinegar

Process

You can mix all the ingredients in hot water and use the mixture as an all-natural cleaner.

Though oregano oil has important benefits and uses, it may not be suitable for all. The oil could cause some side effects one must be aware of.

Side Effects Of Oregano Oil

Oregano oil is very potent and can burn if not properly diluted. It also has a pungent taste; hence, you can mix it with olive or coconut oils. Perform a patch test before using it on your skin.

Since oregano oil may interfere with certain drugs, consult a doctor before using it. If you experience any side effects, immediately seek medical attention.

People with diabetes should monitor their intake of the oil as it may lower blood sugar levels (59).

People who are taking medication are cautioned from taking oregano oil.

It is generally not considered safe for pregnant women unless otherwise prescribed by a licensed practitioner (60).

Conclusion

Oregano oil has been used traditionally for the many health benefits it provides.

It fights bacterial and fungal infections and is suggested to have the potential to combat multi-drug resistant bacteria (61).

It helps in reducing cancer risk, lowering cholesterol, weight loss.

You can make the oil a part of your regular routine. However, be wary of the potential side effects it may cause.

People Also Ask

  1. Can I use oregano oil on my face?
  2. Yes, but dilute it with coconut or jojoba oil. It will help in improving skin health.
  3. Does oregano oil help treat sinus infections?
  4. Oregano oil has strong antibacterial compounds that may help treat sinus infections. Use it in a diffuser to clear blocked nasal passages.
  5. How do you use oregano oil for hair growth?
  6. Mix it with coconut or argan oils for promoting hair growth. However, there is no research stating that oregano oil may boost hair growth.

61 sources

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Annie Jangam

Annie Jangam is a Molecular Biologist with 7 years of research experience in Rice Functional Genomics and Nutrient Signalling with International Publications in Abiotic stress, Nitrogen, and G-protein signaling. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has been an avid reader since childhood and is passionate about stories that help decipher life and its meaning. She believes in Human Rights for all and that one should "love others like we love ourselves."
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