An herb thought to have many uses, oil of oregano is one believed to have properties that can help with problems related to fungi, sinus and bacteria. More specifically, people who use oil of oregano claim it works to help with colds and sore throats, athlete’s food, yeast infections, head lice, allergies, parasites, diabetes, ringworm and even general skin infections.
Consumers will easily find their favorite oil of oregano product in many variations including creams, capsules, raw oil and even as nasal spray. The question is, does this incredibly versatile plant oil actually have the power or potential to cure so many ailments? While there have been numerous studies conducted on the use of oil of oregano and aliments such as parasites, allergies, pregnancies and intestinal-related problems, nearly all of these studies were performed on poultry and on mice.
A main compound of oregano leaves are phenolic compounds. These compounds, thymol, cymene, carvacrol and terpinine, make up approximately 71 percent of the oregano leaves. From limited research, it seems that these chemical compounds do appear to have some biological effects, but it remains unclear to what extent because, not only do scientists lack evidence to show that the oil is adequately absorbed in the body, it remains a mystery as to where the chemicals of the oil of oregano act in the body.
One of the only scientific human-based studies on oil of oregano is from May of 2000 when doctors conducted a medical study on 14 patients diagnosed with variety of intestinal parasites. These adults were treated with 600 mls of emulsified oil of oregano on a daily basis for six weeks. After six weeks there was “no complete disappearance of the parasites”, however, seven patients claimed gastrointestinal improvements.
The results are in!
A very common consumer use of oil of oregano is for treatment with colds and sinus problems. When it comes to treating sinus infections though, Mayo Clinic’s James T C Li, M.D., Ph.D. notes, “like many spices, oregano does have some antibacterial and antifungal properties — making it at least plausible that it might help or prevent some sinus problems caused by bacteria and fungi. Unfortunately, there have been no published trials that have looked at oil of oregano specifically for this use. For this reason, it isn’t known what role, if any, oil of oregano plays in treating or preventing sinusitis.”
Scott Gavura, BScPhm, MBA, RPh, concludes, “there is no published evidence to demonstrate that oil of oregano is effective for any medical condition or illness.” As for the health benefits of oil of oregano on humans he says, “the short answer is that there’s little beyond animal studies to demonstrate that the ingredients in oregano oil have any effects.”
Oil of oregano health warnings
It may be a surprise to many, especially to those taking oil of oregano, that the oil does come with health advisories. According to a study by the International Journal of Food Biology, oil of oregano inhibits the growth of Lactobacillus cultures, those same cultures responsible for maintaining a healthy digestive tract. Medicinal Herbalist, Dean Morris, recommends people taking oil of oregano also take probiotics so the body can restore the necessary healthy flora.
Oil of oregano should be kept away from all sensitive areas of the body including the genitals, eyes and inside the nose. The phenols of oil of oregano are very caustic on sensitive membrane areas. People with sensitive skin or skin allergies who wish to use oil of oregano will do better to mix it with oil olive before applying it to their skin.
Morris also warns that oil of oregano not be taken on a long-term basis — no longer than between 14 and 21 days — or given to children under the age of 12. Studies show that taking high doses of oil of oregano — between 50 mg and 100 mg two to three times a day — for long periods of time can result in high toxic levels of thymol in the liver, nervous system and / or kidneys.
Adults who use the product should only do so under the direction of a health professional. The use of oil of oregano is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.