Most of us would take just about anything if we thought it might keep us healthy during cold and flu season. It turns out that there's some evidence to suggest that an herb you likely have in your kitchen might be able to help stave off sickness this winter.
Some natural health enthusiasts promote oregano oil as a means to fight cold and flus, keep your digestive tract healthy, and soothe problem skin. But is there any science behind the hype? Here are the 11 things you should know about oregano oil this winter.
Yes, it's from the herb: Oregano oil is, as the name implies, oil from the oregano herb that is extracted by steam distillation. Or at least from an oregano herb — there are more than 40 varieties of the plant. According to Alive, the oil from Oreganum vulgare is believed to hold the most therapeutic benefit.
Stuffed up? You may find some relief by adding a couple drops of oregano oil to a diffuser or vapourizer and inhaling for a few minutes. Drinking a few drops of oil in juice or water may also provide some relief from a sore throat.
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It's also used for GI problems: Because there's some evidence that oil of oregano has anti-fungal or antiviral properties, it's thought to be helpful for some gastrointestinal issues. One small study showed that treatment with oregano oil may be useful for parasite infections, but further study is needed.
It could have anti-fungal properties: Some studies have shown that in lab cultures, oregano oil puts up a strong fight against Candida albicans, the bacteria that causes the fungal infection candida. Other research found it may have a similar effect against the mold fungis Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus niger. However, similar studies haven't yet been done in human subjects.
You can use it on your skin: It's thought that oregano oil is helpful for skin conditions like cold sores, muscle aches, nail fungus, joint pain, and dandruff. Try diluting it with a carrier oil like jojoba, sweet almond, or grapeseed, at 10 to 12 drops oregano oil per ounce of carrier oil. However, don't use oregano oil on broken or sensitive skin, as it can be irritating. There is some anecdotal evidence suggestions that it may be effective for treatment of psoriasis, an inflammatory skin condition, but no published research yet.
It's a natural insect repellent: Oil of oregano contains many compounds, and one of them is carvacrol — a natural insect repellent. This compound is also found in plants like mint and thyme. Try putting a few drops of oil on outdoor furniture — test first on an inconspicuous area to make sure it doesn't stain — or apply a dilution of it to unbroken skin when heading outdoors.
It may help in the fight against antibiotic resistance: Some people believe that we can stave off antibiotic resistance by turning to natural solutions like oregano oil more often. One lab test in 2001 found that oregano oil was effective in killing staphylococcus bacteria, and another published laboratory study out of the UK found that it showed effectiveness against 25 different bacteria.
It tastes terrible: Don't expect that you'll enjoy taking oregano oil, even if you love Greek food. It has a much more potent taste in oil form, so be prepared!
Be careful: Because oregano oil in its pure form is so strong, it should only be used when diluted; try a ratio of one part oregano oil to three parts carrier oil, such as olive oil. Undiluted oregano oil can be irritating to the skin and mucous membranes. It is also possible to purchase diluted oregano oil.
It's meant for short-term use: In Alive, clinical herbalist Michelle Lynde recommends using oregano oil for acute conditions, by taking four to six drops at a time for seven to ten days.
It's not for everyone: The therapeutic use of oregano oil should be avoided in infants and children, and pregnant or nursing women. It also should be avoided by people with high blood pressure or a heart condition. It's always a good idea to talk to your preferred medical professional before starting a new wellness routine, and to disclose your use of alternative therapies in case of counter-indications with other medications or treatments.