When you use oregano, you’re probably adding a dash to pasta sauce, mixing up a salad dressing or adding a few shakes to the top of your pizza. Like many herbs, oregano has uses beyond just as a kitchen cabinet herb. The medicine cabinet is a good place for oregano too. Well, for oil of oregano, anyway.
Oil of oregano is a well-known folk remedy used to kill bacteria, viruses, fungus and yeast. The oil derives much of its healing properties from carvacrol and thymol, two naturally occurring compounds found in it. Carvacrol is a powerful antimicrobial that has even been shown effective in fighting staphylococcus bacteria. Thymol is naturally antiseptic. It’s even the main ingredient in many mouthwashes. Besides these healthy ingredients, oil of oregano also contains calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium, copper, boron, manganese, vitamins A and C, and niacin.
Derived from the plant and flowers of oregano, oil of oregano isn’t your typical pantry staple. The health benefits only come from wild Mediterranean oregano–not the varieties sold dried on most store shelves. The most therapeutic benefits comes from two plant varieties of wild oregano: thymus capitatus and origanum vulgare. If you’re looking at buying oil of oregano supplements, make sure they come from one of these two varieties.
You have several options when using oil of oregano therapeutically. It can be both ingested and applied topically. Here are a few common uses and health benefits.
1. Clear sinuses
Unclog your sinuses with a facial steam made using oil of oregano. To make the face steam, start by boiling three to four cups of water in a pot. Remove the pot from heat after the water boils. Then, add several drops of oil of oregano to the water. Take the lid off the pot to let the steam rise. Place a towel around your head and over the pot, creating a barrier, and slowly inhale the steam. Be careful, as it’s hot. Obviously. Hang out like you’re in a sauna and just let the steam loosen congestion. The oil of oregano will also help kill any bacteria in the sinuses and lungs. You can also add ½ cup of vinegar for another antibacterial boost, although it won’t smell so great. An oil of oregano facial steam may also help with allergies, as oil of oregano is a natural antihistamine.
2. Reduce infections
Move over antibiotics. Oil of oregano may be as good at reducing infections as traditional antibiotics, like streptomycin, penicillin and vacnomycin. Although much research is still in its early stages regarding the health benefits of oil of oregano, two studies have shown that oil of oregano may be as effective of a treatment against staphylococcus bacteria as common antibiotics. This is particularly encouraging considering that bacteria like staphylococcus are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics.
3. Boost your immune system
When you have a cold, all you want is to end the sniffles. Taking oil of oregano in supplement form–either capsules or liquid–may help lessen the symptoms of colds and get you feeling better faster. The natural antiviral and antibacterial properties in oil of oregano can also relieve a sore throat. Gargle a mixture of 5-6 drops oil of oregano with a glass of water the moment you feel a sore throat coming on.
4. Get rid of fungus
As gross as they are, certain funguses can happen. Think athletes foot and yeast infections. Oil of oregano is a powerful antifungal herb that can be used to treat fungus conditions like these. It was even found to be more effective than other natural supplements in cases of yeast infections resistant to the conventional drug fluconazole (Diflucan), according to research published in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology.
5. Antioxidant powers
Like spinach, kale and other leafy greens, oregano is loaded with antioxidants. A study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture even found that oregano has more than 42 times the antioxidant activity than apples and 12 times more than oranges. You can take oregano oil in pill or liquid form for a boost of antioxidants.
As always, please consult a healthcare professional before taking any oregano oil supplement.