Did you know that one of the most powerful healing herbs may be hiding in your kitchen spice cabinet? While fresh or dried oregano may provide that special touch in pizza or pasta sauce, the essential oil extracted through the steam distillation of fresh oregano leaves and flowers is brimming with potential health benefits ranging from antibacterial to antiviral and antifungal properties. This oil is also a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
The History of Oregano
Used for over two thousand years, oregano essential oil is native to the Mediterranean. Its health benefits were first discovered in Greece, where it was used topically as an antibacterial for wounds. It was also used to protect food from bacteria. Growing wild in high altitude mountainous areas, it got its name, “oregano” from the Greek words “eros” and “ganos,” meaning “joy of the mountains.”
Oregano was revered as a symbol of happiness and was used in an ancient tradition to crown brides and grooms with a laurel of oregano.1 There are over 40 oregano species, but the most therapeutically beneficial is the oil produced from wild oregano or Origanum vulgare, a bushy perennial herb and member of the Lamiaceae family, which includes many other culinary herbs like rosemary, mint, basil, sage, thyme, and lavender. The plant grows up to 90 centimeters (35 inches) high, with dark green leaves that are 2 to 3 centimeters (0.7 to 1.18 inches) long. It takes over 1,000 pounds of wild oregano to produce just one pound of oregano essential oil. Try the Happy personal essential oil diffuser with thyme and lavender in it to make you feel joy and kindness.
Oregano essential oil contains two powerful compounds called carvacrol and thymol, both of which have been shown to have powerful antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. It is also high in phenols—compounds that have antioxidant effects and protect from free radicals. Here’s a quick break-down of the components found in oregano essential oil:
- Carvacrol is so potent that it has been the focus of over 800 studies referenced in PubMed, the world’s No. 1 database for scientific evidence-based literature. Studies have shown that it has helped reverse or reduce bacterial and fungal infections, viruses, inflammation, allergies, and indigestion.
- Thymol is another phenol, this compound has antiseptic properties, which makes it great for treating fungal infections. It also protects against toxins and promotes healing.
- Rosmarinic acid acts as a powerful antioxidant and antihistamine, naturally reducing swelling and allergic reactions.
- α-Terpinene possesses potent anti-bacterial properties.
- Linalool alleviates stress and anxiety.
- Beta-caryophyllene (BCP) acts as an anti-inflammatory.2
As seen from its composition, oregano essential oil is a must-have, not only in your spice cabinet but in your medicine cabinet.
Common Uses for Oregano Essential Oil
Improves Respiratory Function
Oregano essential oil act as an expectorant, loosening up or eliminating the buildup of mucus and phlegm in the respiratory tracts and sinuses. It is also a soothing balm for inflamed lungs and throat, which may often stimulate coughing fits.
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To use oregano essential oil for a cough or bronchitis, try steam inhalation or a healing rub. Add a few drops of oregano oil to a bowl of boiling water, place a towel over your head and breathe in the vapors for 5–10 minutes. The hot steam loosens mucus in the airways. For a healing rub, add 5–8 drops of oregano oil to 1–2 tablespoons of coconut oil and rub on the chest as a soothing balm for respiratory tract infections and coughs.
Acts as an Anti-Inflammatory
If you have sore and tired muscles, oregano essential oil can work wonders due to its anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and anesthetic properties.
Oregano essential oil can help relieve pain and inflammation as well as help increase mobility, relieving pain caused by muscle cramps, aching muscles, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other muscular injuries. Research has shown that the oil can go to the synovial fluid in the joints and serve as a natural pain-killer.3
Due to its high carvacrol content, oregano oil can activate heat shock proteins (HSPs) through T cells in the body. T cells are high-stress regulators, and HSPs are responsible for defending the body against inflammation. Studies have shown that carvacrol can increase the T cell response to self-stress proteins, downregulating inflammatory disease.
To use oregano oil for pain relief, mix 5–7 drops of oil with 1 tablespoon of a carrier oil such coconut or moringa oil. You can also add 2–3 drops of peppermint oil to the blend to add to the pain relief with a cooling sensation. Rub and massage the blend onto the affected joints or aching muscles 2–3 times daily.
Through its anti-inflammatory and sedative properties, oregano oil also provides relief from allergy symptoms like sneezing, congestion, and itching.
Boosts Immune System Function
Oregano oil has been shown to be even more effective than echinacea or other natural remedies for fighting bacterial and viral infections such as the common cold. Oregano essential oil also stimulates the production and function of white blood cells, the body’s main line of defense.
What makes oregano oil special is that it helps break down the cell membrane around bacteria. A study conducted by Aafia Sidiqqui, published in Medical Science Research, demonstrated that oregano essential oil killed off the herpes virus.
To give your immune system a boost, especially during cold or flu season, add 2–3 drops of oregano oil to 2–3 drops of an edible carrier oil such as olive or coconut oil and take sublingually (under your tongue). You can also add several drops of oregano oil to a room diffuser and inhale the vapors.
Contains Antifungal Properties
Fungi are responsible for skin infections, nail fungus, candida, Athlete’s foot, and fungus in the ear, nose, or, throat. Thankfully, oregano essential oil can effectively protect the body against many of these fungal infections.
To use oregano oil for Athlete’s foot, soak the feet for 15–20 minutes in a solution of warm water and one teaspoon of oregano oil. Do this twice a day for best results. You can also add 1/2 a cup of Epsom salts as this will help relax the muscles. For nail infections, combine 2–3 drops of oregano oil with the same amount of a carrier oil such as jojoba oil or neem oil. Soak a cotton ball or cotton swab in the blend and apply it on the infected nails or skin between the toes daily.4
Protects Against Parasites
Although it’s not pretty, many types of parasites—roundworms, tapeworms, lice, bed bugs, mosquitoes, and fleas—live inside or outside the human body and use it as a source of food and vessel for communicable diseases. Luckily, oregano essential oil can eliminate intestinal worms when ingested as well as effectively keep away lice, bed bugs, mosquitoes, and fleas when applied externally. Because of these properties, it is not uncommon to find oregano essential oil as a component of organic bug sprays.
Helps Relieve Digestive Issues
Several of the active compounds in oregano oil, especially thymol, can aid digestion by relaxing the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract, increasing the secretion of digestive juices and helping balance the ratio of good-to-bad bacteria in the gut. Because it helps balance bacteria and fights yeast overgrowth, oregano oil is also a popular remedy for candida and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).5
Provides Skin Benefits
Topical use of oregano essential oil has been shown to help heal skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, candidiasis, acne, and rosacea. Furthermore, it can be used to remedy ear infections and food poisoning.
Because of its powerful antioxidant properties, oregano essential oil can even be used to slow down the aging process by targeting and neutralizing free radicals responsible for causing aging, wrinkles, and muscle degeneration. Make a daily lotion from coconut oil and moringa oil mixed with 20 drops of oregano oil for healthy, rejuvenated skin.
Alternative Uses for Oregano Oil
- Make a homemade toothpaste by adding one drop of oregano oil to your toothbrush (with or without toothpaste).
- Make a mouthwash by combining five drops of oregano oil and five drops of peppermint oil with 2 cups of spring water.
- Try the Vibrant essential oil diffuser blend with oregano, ginger, lemon, and spearmint for stress relief and a pick-me-up during the day.
- Add several drops of oregano oil to a squirt bottle of water to disinfect surfaces.
- Add a drop of oregano oil to warm bathwater to help strengthen the immune system and support digestion.
- Diffuse oregano oil during cold and flu season to enhance respiratory strength.
- Make your own antibacterial hand sanitizer by mixing aloe vera gel, 1/4 teaspoon vitamin E oil, one tablespoon witch hazel, and 30 drops oregano oil. Add in some other favorite oils like lavender, rosemary, bergamot, or eucalyptus.
Safety and Precautions
Essential oils are natural but powerful. Oregano essential oil is a potent oil and can cause irritation of the skin and mucous membranes if used undiluted, so it is best used when mixed with a carrier oil.6
Some people may develop an allergic reaction to any oil, so it’s important to do a small skin patch test before applying to large areas of the body.
Pregnant women should avoid oregano oil as it can stimulate blood flow in the uterus.
As you can see, this little “joy of the mountains” is a medicinal powerhouse. It’s no wonder that the ancient Greeks and Romans revered oregano as an herbal gem.
Whether you’re looking for an immune booster, antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant, or simply an invigorating aromatherapy boost, oregano essential oil is the potent, natural answer.