I love lavender for being so mild, but oregano is the opposite… it’s incredibly powerful and strong! This wonderful herb has many benefits and health-promoting uses around the house.
Oregano: The Delight of the Mountain
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is an aromatic and slightly bitter herb in the mint family. The name is derived from Greek meaning “mountain of joy” or “the delight of the mountain.” It grows naturally in warm, dry climates (it’s native to the Mediterranean) but is cultivated in many places in the world today.
Oregano is a very flavorful herb that is often used in Italian, Greek, and Spanish cooking. It is often used in seasoning blends, including Italian seasoning, and pairs well with meats, tomato dishes, and eggs. I always add it to my homemade soups and stews, especially during illness, as it is said to have antibacterial properties.
But the benefits of oregano leaves go far beyond the kitchen!
Oregano Herb Health Benefits
Oregano has been gaining popularity as a natural remedy, though its use as a health-boosting herb is centuries old. Modern science confirms the reasons for this: it contains high amounts of omega-3s, iron, manganese, vitamin K, and antioxidants.
Oregano essential oil is well known in natural health communities for its antibacterial properties, and it is even being studied by the mainstream medical community for its potential health benefits.
High Level of Antioxidants and Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Like the fresh herb, oregano oil has very high amounts of antioxidants that help fight free radicals. These antioxidants include:
- rosmarinic acid
- ursolic acid
- oleanolic acid
Because of its antioxidants, oregano oil is protective against damage from some medications, according to a 2015 study.
One 2007 study found that a combination of oregano and thyme essential oils could lower production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Because if this, the essential oil mixture may be helpful in reducing symptoms from inflammatory illnesses like colitis.
Another study published in the journal Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology found that oregano oil could lower the negative effects of induced colitis in rats and opens the door to new ideas about its benefit to the colon and liver.
Oregano has many antimicrobial properties including antibacterial and anti-parasitic.
A recent study from the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Center stated that new (safe) antimicrobials are needed to prevent and treat infections and that essential oils like oregano essential oil may be the answer.
In an article published on Science Daily, oregano essential oil was found to be effective in killing Staphylococcus bacteria. It was also equally as effective in its germ-killing abilities as common prescription antibiotics.
Helps Fight Parasites
One study published in Phytotherapy Research found that adults suffering from parasites had significant improvements in their digestive symptoms after using oregano oil.
Helps Athletes Foot
Oregano is also antifungal. One study found that of the 11 essential oils tested, oregano was the most powerful against athlete’s foot. Combined with salt and heat, researchers concluded that essential oils (specifically oregano) were a promising treatment.
Boosts the Immune System and Fights Cancer Cells
According to a 2013 study, oregano and other herbs in the Lamiaceae family can help stimulate the immune system. This might explain the traditional use of oregano for treating illness. But oregano is more than an immune stimulator. A study published in Cancer Letters found that a compound in oregano looked promising as a potential cancer cell killer in prostate, breast, skin, leukemia, and colon cancers.
Oregano Oil, Oregano Essential Oil, and Oil of Oregano: What’s the Difference?
This can be a confusing topic! Often when people talk about oregano they use these terms interchangeably. But each one is slightly different. Here’s how:
- Oregano oil is oil (often olive oil) that is infused with oregano. This oil may be used medicinally but is most often used culinarily.
- Oregano essential oil (like all essential oils) are distilled from plant matter and are incredibly concentrated.
- Oil of oregano is a prepared dilution of oregano essential oil. This can be purchased already prepared but you can make your own too.
Essential oils should never be used (especially ingested) undiluted. Whenever ingestion is mentioned, oil of oregano is what you want to use. Topical use of oregano essential oils should also be diluted.
How to Use Oregano
Oregano has many uses around the home:
Dried or Fresh Oregano Uses
- It can be consumed as an herb in culinary uses, a tincture, tea, or diluted essential oil.
- Dried oregano, in combination with other dried herbs like basil, rosemary, and thyme, can create an effective facial steam for loosening congestion and calming coughing.
Oregano Essential Oil Uses
- The diluted oil can be consumed to speed recovery during illness.
- Oregano essential oil (diluted in coconut oil) can be used on skin infections to boost healing.
- It can be mixed into coconut oil as part of an oil pulling routine for healthy gums.
- Diluted in a carrier oil, oregano essential oil taken internally can help with allergies.
- Oregano essential oil diluted in olive oil can be rubbed on sore muscles and joints for pain relief.
- It can be diluted for effective use on athletes foot and fungal infections.
- Diluted oregano EO can be helpful in ridding the body of ringworm when used topically.
- It can be effective in removing warts when used diluted on the skin.
Because oregano has such strong antimicrobial properties, it can help with many infections both internal and external.
Where to Buy Oregano
Another way to get the benefits of oregano is to grow it fresh! All it takes is a small herb garden or window box.
Some growing notes:
- Oregano likes warm, dry climates, and full sun.
- Buy from seed or get instant gratification and purchase seedlings.
- As they grow, pinch off leaves to encourage a bushier plant.
Harvesting oregano is also simple. Harvest the leaves as you need them and dry some for storage.
Is Oregano Safe?
Oregano oil is not generally considered safe during pregnancy, though culinary use of oregano leaf is considered fine.
If you meet any of the following conditions, talk to your doctor before use as oregano may not be safe for you:
- allergies to plants in the Lamiaceae family
- bleeding disorders
- planning a surgery
Due to its highly potent nature, oregano essential oil should always be diluted for use on the skin or when taking internally. I am not a doctor or medical professional, and you should always consult your doctor before taking any herbs or beginning any health routine.
This article was medically reviewed by Jessica Meyers, MPAP, PA-C, RH(AHG), who specializes in herbal protocols and functional medicine. You can also find Jessica on Instagram. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
What is your favorite use for oregano? As a spice or as a natural remedy? Share below!