(Origanum vulgare) is a plant in the mint family that is closely related to
marjoram. It has been used around the world as a culinary spice for
flavouring grilled meats and vegetables, and as a preservative for meats. In
ancient Greece, Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic, and as a cure for
stomach and respiratory ailments. More current healthcare practitioners use
oregano extract for its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.
Oregano oil can be used topically for skin infections, like Athlete's foot,
ringworm and folliculitis. It is also useful for treating colds, sore
throats, coughs, chronic respiratory conditions, yeast infections, viral
infections, bacterial infections, diarrhea and indigestion.
This herb not only kills infecting microbes in the respiratory tract but
also acts as an expectorant (helps to expel mucus) and antispasmodic
(relieves coughing). This is beneficial in a number of respiratory
conditions such as: bronchitis, croup, as well as common colds and flus.
Digestion and IBD
In the digestive tract oregano soothes digestion and decreases diarrhea, by
stopping intestinal spasms. It also directly kills gastrointestinal microbes
and decreases gas and bloating. The current theory is that Inflammatory
Bowel Diseases like Crohn's and Colitis may have a triad of predisposing
factors. These factors include: an unbalanced gut flora, a trigger event
such as physical or emotional stress, and a bacterial or microbial invasion
(infection). Given this theory, studies are currently investigating the use
of oregano oil to treat IBD, and help prevent flares. For more information,
please see our IBD article.
It is essential to be sure that you supplement probiotics when taking
oregano internally. Because of its antimicrobial action, oregano can also
eradicate the normal healthy gut flora, which can cause further digestive
problems. Supplementing probiotics can replenish this loss and prevent
future infections. For more information, please see our Probiotics article.
The essential oil of oregano is a highly concentrated substance. It comes in
various strengths, sometimes referred to as a percentage (i.e.: P73). Make
note of the phenol carvacrol, one of the most active ingredients in oregano,
responsible for the majority of its medicinal benefits. A carvacrol content
of 70% or more is optimal.
How can I take Oregano?
Oregano can be purchased as a loose herb, encapsulated herb, spice or
essential oil. The loose herb can be made into a poultice for topical
application, used for inhalation or taken as a tea for internal use. Oregano
may be included in combination teas for soothing digestion. When the
essential oil is taken internally, 1-3 drops under the tongue, 3x/daily is a
typical dosage. Acutely, you can do up to 3 drops every hour for the first
day you are experiencing signs and symptoms of cold, flu or food poisoning
(for up to 10 hours). The earlier in the infection cycle that oregano is
taken the more easily it prevents progression to a full blown illness.
Externally, you can apply oregano to almost any affected area, although use
extreme caution when treating highly sensitive mucosal membranes, such as
the vagina and anal areas. It is highly recommended, when treating these
areas that you use a carrier oil to dilute the essential oil, in order to
prevent burns. Olive, almond or coconut oils are all good options. Before
applying externally, you may want to test a small area of skin with the
diluted essential oil, to ensure there is no reaction or determine if
further dilution is necessary. A few drops of oil of oregano can be added to
shampoos to treat dandruff, eczema or seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp. It
can also be rubbed (using fingertip) on the gums to treat and prevent
gingivitis, as well as a few drops added on your toothbrush to kill germs
and treat bad breath.