When you see or feel the first signs of an infection or the flu coming on, what do you reach for? If oil of oregano isn’t on your list, you may want to consider it.

Regarded by some to be one of nature’s most powerful antibiotics, oil of oregano comes from one of three plant species: origanum vulgare, origanum acutidens, or origanum minutiflorum, all of which are found in Turkey.

Antimicrobial

Oil of oregano contains two phenols called carvacrol and thymol, which have strong antimicrobial properties.

A 2004 study demonstrated that oil of oregano showed antibacterial properties against 27 different bacteria (including salmonella, E. coli, and two staphylococcus species, some of the most common bacteria that cause gastrointestinal illnesses) and antiviral properties against the herpes virus (responsible for cold sores, chicken pox, and shingles) as well as antifungal properties against 18 different types of fungus.

Antifungal

When it comes to combatting yeast, especially Candida albicans (an imbalance of which can cause infections of the intestinal tract and other parts of the body), oregano oil may be highly effective.

It has also been studied in vitro against fluconazole (a commonly prescribed antifungal medication) with researchers finding that oil of oregano was effective at eliminating some species of yeast that were resistant to fluconazole.

Antiseptic/anti-inflammatory/analgesic

Oil of oregano has several other useful applications which make it a must-have around the house. Containing compounds called terpenes, which have antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties, oregano oil can be used topically on cuts to prevent infections, on gums to help reduce pain, as well as on fungal infections such as athlete’s foot.

Dosage

Orally
Doses as low as 2 to 3 drops per day may be taken orally to stimulate the immune system for the desired antibiotic and antifungal effects. For best results, begin taking oil of oregano as soon as symptoms first appear.

Topically
A few drops added to shampoo may help eliminate dandruff caused by fungus. It may also be used directly on nail fungus, athlete’s foot, or as an antiseptic.

Cautions

  • Though oregano oil is natural, it is still wise to consult your health care practitioner before using it and to determine correct dosages.
  • If you have an allergy to any herbs in the mint family, which includes thyme, basil, mint, and sage, you may also have a sensitivity to oil of oregano, since it belongs to the same plant family.
  • If with topical use you notice any irritation, discontinue use.

About the Author

Jodie Peacock, ND, is a founder of the Root of Health clinic in Oakville, Ontario. Her practice focuses on women's health, pediatrics, and sports medicine.