Oregano is well known as a popular spice for pasta and meat dishes but not so familiar as an antibiotic oil offering a whole range of health benefits. Read on to find out more.
Oregano Oil – what it is
Oregano oil comes from the leaves and the flowers of the perennial herb oregano (Origanum vulgare). This hardy plant is a member of the mint family and is native to Europe, although it can be found in many other areas. The plant has dark green leaves that are 2 to 3 centimeters long and the plant itself grows to 90 centimeters high.
The name comes from the Greek ‘oros’, meaning mountain, and ‘ganos’, meaning joy, literally ‘joy of the mountain’. The ancient Romans and Greeks used oregano for various medicinal purposes and considered it a symbol of happiness, crowning brides and grooms with an oregano laurel.
There are more than 40 species of oregano, but the most therapeutic is the oil that is derived from wild oregano (Origanum vulgare) from the Mediterranean regions. You should beware that much of the oregano oil sold in grocery stores is not from this variety and may have only a little or no therapeutic value. You should choose oregano oil made from either Origanum vulgare or Thymus capitatus, the variety grown in Spain.
Oregano oil is distilled from the dried flowers and leaves of the plant, which are harvested when the plant has the highest oil content. The oil has a strong, spicy odor and a golden to dark yellow color.
Oregano Oil – its uses
Oregano has a wide range of uses and should definitely be part of your arsenal of natural health products. It is a powerful antimicrobial to help you fight off infections and it also has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.
Other benefits of oregano oil are:
Parasites and infections: Dilute a drop of oregano oil with another carrier oil like coconut oil and put it under your tongue. Leave it for a few minutes then rinse it out. Repeat this procedure at least four times a day.
Nail or foot fungus: Drop a few teaspoons of oil in a bowl of water to soak your feet. You can also dilute it with a teaspoon of coconut oil or olive oil and put it on your nails or skin.
Colds and sinus infections: Put a few drops of oregano oil in steaming water for inhalation
Clean your home: Combine four drops of oil, 10 drops of lemon oil, a ¼ cup of white vinegar and add to a bucket filled with water to use for wiping and cleaning surfaces in your home.
Oregano oil – its composition
Oregano oil has a high content of phenols, natural phytochemical compounds, which have antioxidant properties. The two most abundant are:
Thymol – helps boost immunity, protects against toxins, helps to prevent damage to tissues and encourage healing
Carvacrol – effectively fights various bacterial infections, including staphylococcus, E. coli, campylobacter, klebsiella, salmonella, candida albicans, pseudomonas, listeria, giardia, and aspergillus mold.
Other healthy substances in oregano oil include:
Rosmarinic acid – antioxidant that can treat allergic asthma, prevent atherosclerosis and cancer as well as being a natural antihistamine, relieving swelling and fluid buildup
Terpenes –possess potent antibacterial properties.
Beta- caryophyllin (E-BCP) – acts to inhibit inflammation and relieve osteoporosis, arteriosclerosis, and metabolic syndrome
Naringin – helps inhibit the growth of cancer cells and helps in enhancing the antioxidants in oregano oil.
Nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E, copper, calcium, manganese, magnesium, niacin, zinc, iron, potassium, and boron are also present in oregano oil.
Oregano Oil – Its benefits
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Oregano oil provides wide-reaching health benefits, but it’s most often associated with respiratory system and immune system health, commonly to help treat and prevent infections, such as:
Respiratory infections that are caused by Klebsiella pneumonia and Staphylococcus aureus strains of bacteria
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) that are caused by bacteria like Proteus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and E. coli
Parasitic infections that are caused by ameba giardia – the oil was found more effective than antibiotics like Tinidazol.
Yeast infections, even those resistant to the usual antifungal drug Diflucan.
MRSA (Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) infection –Indian and British researchers found that its powerful antibacterial properties could kill this deadly superbug.
Oregano oil has also been shown to be able to prevent food borne illnesses and that it can be added to food to not only help kill bacteria but also to alleviate the symptoms of food poisoning. One study found that it can help destroy norovirus, which can cause gastroenteritis.
The oil is also prized in aromatherapy as an antiseptic essential oil because it has one of the highest contents of phenols of all the aromatic plants. Besides using inhalation methods to relieve respiratory issues, you can use it to:
Repel insects: The carvacrol it contains works to ward off insects when applied to skin or even to outdoor furniture.
Soothe bug bites and rashes, including poison ivy rash. Dilute oregano oil with olive oil and apply to the affected area.
Ease sore throats: You can simply drop a few drops into a glass of water. It can also help relieve toothaches.
Cold sores, dandruff, skin problems: The oil can help heal these and a diluted version could relieve rosacea and acne
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), muscle and joint pain, cramps, sprains: The oil can help relieve them
Oregano oil – how to make it
There is a special distillation process to extract oregano oil, but there is also a way to make it at home. Here’s a simple recipe:
- Completely dried (to avoid mold), crushed or chopped oregano leaves
- Olive oil (or almond or grape seed oil)
- Sanitized jar (and lid)
- Boil some water in a pan and turn off heat
- Put the olive (or other) oil and leaves in the jar
- Put the jar in the saucepan with hot water and leave it for 5-10 minutes to heat the oil and to let the oregano leaves release their natural oils
- Take the jar out of the hot water and then place the jar in a sunny place (beside a sunny window) for 1-2 weeks, shaking it every few days.
- Strain the oil that the leaves have released and put it into the sanitized jar.
- The oil should be stored in a cool and dark place
- You can add a couple of drops of grapefruit seed oil in order to preserve the oil
Oregano oil – how to take it
Oregano oil’s compounds work together in order to provide the oil’s well-known antimicrobial properties. Its most important health-giving component is carvacrol, which has been shown to be effective in breaking through outer cell membranes that protect bacteria from the immune system.
The oil can be ingested or applied topically, depending on the purpose. I recommend that you do not use it full-strength because it can cause skin irritation and to not apply it on open wounds or broken skin.
It is important to note that oregano oil is very strong and should only be used for a short term (7-10 days at the most) and taken only in a small amount (4-6 drops a day).
Oregano oil – how safe it is
Oregano oil is safe as long as you dilute it with a carrier oil (olive, jojoba or coconut oil are favorites) or in water. Michelle Lynde, a clinical herbalist, says the ideal dilution ratio is 1:3 oregano oil with carrier oil.
It’s best before starting to use it to do a spot test by applying a diluted drop on the inside of your arm to see if it causes an allergic reaction, that is, any irritation.
Another thing is to check the kind of oil you are buying is the recommended type because many of the oregano oils are adulterated and made from cultivated oregano, Spanish oregano or thyme and DO NOT provide health benefits.
Oregano oil – side effects
Ingesting oregano oil (or the herb itself) may cause stomach upset in some people and those who are allergic to basic, mint, lavender, sage (plants from the Lamiaceae family) shouldn’t take this oil because of the possibility of developing an allergic reaction.
Infants and children should NOT take oregano oil, as well as pregnant or nursing women, because it can stimulate blood circulation in the uterus, leading to deterioration of the lining encompassing the fetus. Oregano oil could also induce menstruation and be dangerous to the unborn child.