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Oregano Oil

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Updated September 26, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Oregano oil is a natural substance said to offer a variety of health benefits. Widely available in supplement form, oregano oil is purported to have antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects. In addition, proponents claim that oregano oil can treat a number of health conditions.

Uses

Oregano oil is typically touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

While oregano oil is often taken orally, some individuals also apply oregano oil to the skin for the treatment of acne, athlete's foot, canker sores, psoriasis, rosacea, varicose veins, and warts.

Benefits

So far, few scientific studies have tested the health effects of oregano oil. However, some preliminary research suggests that oregano oil may offer certain health benefits.

1) Colitis

A combination of thyme and oregano oils shows promise in the treatment of colitis (a type of inflammatory bowel disease), according to an animal-based study published in Mediators of Inflammation in 2007. In tests on mice, scientists discovered that colitis-afflicted animals experienced a significant reduction in inflammation after treatment with the combination treatment.

Due to a lack of clinical trials, it's unknown whether a combination of thyme and oregano oils may be beneficial in treatment of colitis in humans.

2) Candida

In laboratory research, scientists have shown that oregano oil may help fight the growth of candida. A type of yeast that normally resides in the body (in the digestive tract and vagina), candida can contribute to a number of infections—such as oral thrush, skin infections, and vaginal yeast infections—when its growth goes unchecked. But while findings from test-tube studies and animal-based research are promising, there is currently a lack of clinical trials demonstrating that oregano oil can help prevent or treat candida-related infections in humans.

3) Antibacterial

Preliminary research indicates that oregano oil may help protect against certain bacterial infections. For instance, in a 2005 study on mice, published in Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods, researchers found that oregano oil may be useful for prevention or treatment of Staphylococcus aureus infection. And in a 2004 study published in the Journal of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, tests on mice revealed that oregano oil may be effective in destroying the bacteria associated with dysentery.

Is It Safe?

Due to a lack of research, very little is known about the safety of using oregano oil supplements. However, there's some concern that oregano oil may be irritating to certain people when applied directly to the skin.

Steam Inhalation

One popular remedy involving oregano oil is a steam inhalation used to alleviate symptoms of the common cold or bronchitis. By combining oregano oil with very hot water, adding the blend to a steam inhaler, and then breathing in the steam, you may be able to help clear the bronchial passages.

Sources

Bukovská A, Cikos S, Juhás S, Il'ková G, Rehák P, Koppel J. "Effects of a combination of thyme and oregano essential oils on TNBS-induced colitis in mice." Mediators Inflamm. 2007;2007:23296.

Liao F, Huang Q, Yang Z, Xu H, Gao Q. "Experimental study on the antibacterial effect of origanum volatile oil on dysentery bacilli in vivo and in vitro." J Huazhong Univ Sci Technolog Med Sci. 2004;24(4):400-3.

Manohar V, Ingram C, Gray J, Talpur NA, Echard BW, Bagchi D, Preuss HG. "Antifungal activities of origanum oil against Candida albicans." Mol Cell Biochem. 2001 Dec;228(1-2):111-7.

Pozzatti P, Scheid LA, Spader TB, Atayde ML, Santurio JM, Alves SH. "In vitro activity of essential oils extracted from plants used as spices against fluconazole-resistant and fluconazole-susceptible Candida spp." Can J Microbiol. 2008 Nov;54(11):950-6.

Preuss HG, Echard B, Dadgar A, Talpur N, Manohar V, Enig M, Bagchi D, Ingram C. "Effects of Essential Oils and Monolaurin on Staphylococcus aureus: In Vitro and In Vivo Studies." Toxicol Mech Methods. 2005;15(4):279-85.

Salgueiro LR, Cavaleiro C, Pinto E, Pina-Vaz C, Rodrigues AG, Palmeira A, Tavares C, Costa-de-Oliveira S, Gonçalves MJ, Martinez-de-Oliveira J. "Chemical composition and antifungal activity of the essential oil of Origanum virens on Candida species." Planta Med. 2003 Sep;69(9):871-4.

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