Oregano oil is a product made from the oregano plant, Origanum vulgare. It contains a higher concentration of the helpful compounds that occur naturally in the plant.
This oil is available to use orally, unlike oregano essential oil, which is much more concentrated and used in aromatherapy. People should not take essential oils by mouth.
Whether a person applies it topically or takes an oral supplement, oregano oil may be helpful for a range of conditions.
Compounds in the oil have effective antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, which explain many of the benefits.
There are some risks and potential issues to consider before using oregano oil, and it may not be right for everyone. This article covers 10 of the most promising health benefits of oregano oil.
Oregano, or Origanum vulgare, is a small, bushy plant that belongs to the mint family. It is a familiar culinary herb in Italian dishes.
Oregano oil contains high levels of important compounds in its leaves and smaller stems. Oil manufacturers dry the leaves and stems, then steam-distill the plant matter to extract as many compounds as possible.
Oregano oil contains:
- carvacrol, the main active compound in oregano oil and a type of antioxidant called a phenol
- thymol, which may help protect against toxins and fight fungal infections
While oregano oil contains a significant amount, the compound thymol occurs most abundantly in thyme.
Oregano oil may have the following health benefits:
1. Fighting bacteria
Thanks to the high levels of carvacrol, oregano oil may help fight certain types of bacteria.
For instance, Staphylococcus is a common type of bacteria that causes staph infection. Some strains occur naturally in the body, but when the bacteria grow too quickly, it can cause bothersome symptoms.
Research shows that carvacrol is effective in eliminating the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis, two common causes of infection.
Taking oregano oil supplements or rubbing it on the skin may help a person make use of these antibacterial effects.
Researchers are also exploring the use of oregano oil for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The authors of a study in Frontiers in Microbiologyfound that a combination of oregano oil and silver nanoparticles effectively eliminated all the bacteria they tested.
2. Treating small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
Oregano oil may help treat chronic bacterial issues, such as SIBO. People with SIBO experience gastrointestinal problems due to an overgrowth of certain bacteria in their intestines.
A 2014 study found that herbal remedies, including one that contained high levels of both carvacrol and thymol, were effective tools in treating SIBO.
Exploring the individual effects of each compound will require more research, but these initial findings may be promising.
3. Treating fungal infections
Oregano oil also appears to be a potent antifungal agent thanks to high levels of thymol.
Research from 2015 found thymol to be an effective treatment for common Candida fungal infections.
Candida causes several types of infections, including:
- oral thrush
- yeast infections
- infected toenails or fingernails
- athlete's foot
The research was conducted in test tubes, however, and determining oregano oil's effectiveness will require more studies in humans.
4. Providing antioxidants
Oregano oil is also a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect the body from damage caused by oxidative stress and free radicals.
Thymol and carvacrol are powerful antioxidants that may help reduce oxidation. The researchers suggested that further studies explore safe doses for regular use.
5. Reducing inflammation
Some sources claim that oregano oil may help reduce inflammation. The compound carvacrol shows anti-inflammatory effects in both animal models and in vitro studies.
Research from 2017 looked at a variety of investigations into carvacrol's anti-inflammatory effects.
In one study on mice, the compound prevented obesity by affecting the genes involved in inflammation. In another animal study, the compound reduced swelling.
While the results show promise, the researchers have called for more tests on humans to determine a safe dosage.
6. Healing wounds
Applying diluted oregano oil to the skin may help protect smaller cuts and scrapes on the skin as they heal.
Compounds such as thymol and carvacrol could protect these types of wound from bacterial infections.
7. Repelling insects
Both carvacrol and thymol may be effective insect-repellents. In 2017, researchers found that these compounds repelled some ticks and mosquitos. The research included test tube studies and those with human participants.
More research will help confirm this potential benefit, but rubbing diluted oregano oil on the skin may be a natural way to help repel insects.
8. Relieving pain
There is some evidence that oregano may be an effective pain reliever. An animal study found that an extract of oregano provided pain relief.
These results were dose-dependent — the more the animals took, the more pain relief they felt.
Importantly, the researchers used a water-based extract, so the oil may not provide the same results. More research in humans could help determine an appropriate dose.
9. Aiding weight loss
Oregano oil may also be a helpful tool for people looking to lose weight. Researchers have found that carvacrol, the main compound in oregano oil, disrupts part of the process that leads to the creation and accumulation of fat tissue.
More direct research may help provide additional evidence for these claims.
10. Fighting cancer
Some sources claim that oregano oil may help fight some cancers. One review notes that the essential oil from oregano helps prevent some types of colon cancer and breast cancer from growing in test tubes.
The oil also appeared to inhibit the growth of some lung cancer and prostate cancer cells. Much of the research in cancer comes from test tubes or animal models, so people should view the results with caution and never use oils as a replacement for medical treatment.
Oregano oil comes in capsules and as a liquid. It is available for purchase in most health food stores and online.
The strength of each oil may vary, so it is important to follow the manufacturer's instructions or work with a qualified healthcare practitioner to determine the safest dose.
People who do not enjoy the taste of oregano should choose the capsules, which can they can swallow without tasting the oil.
To use oregano oil topically for skin issues, dilute one or two drops in a carrier oil. A person can then apply this mixture directly to the skin.
Be sure not to take too much oregano oil, as it is very potent. It is best to use it sparingly under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner.
There is significant risk of burning internal tissue if a person takes the oil orally. Always follow the manufacturer's guidelines.
Do not use oregano oil on children or infants. Pregnant or breastfeeding women and people with diabetes should also refrain from using it.
Oregano oil can interfere with some medications, including lithium and diuretics. Also, it is possible to be allergic to the oil.
Oregano oil is powerful and may help with a range of issues. While it can, for example, be an antimicrobial remedy, it should not replace medical treatment.
Be careful to use oregano oil and not oregano essential oil, which is much stronger and not safe to consume.
Verifying many claims about oregano oil requires more extensive research on humans.