The common food spice oregano grows wild in the mountains of Mediterranean countries. In ancient Greece, oregano or its essential oil was used for the treatment of wounds, snakebites, spider bites, and respiratory problems. Respiratory uses dominated the medicinal history of oregano in medieval Europe, but in the nineteenth century, physicians in the Eclectic School (a medical movement that emphasized herbal treatment) used oregano for promoting menstruation.
In the 1990s, the concept of the
yeast hypersensitivity syndrome
(often called “systemic candidiasis,” or merely “candida”) became popular in alternative medicine circles. This theory states, in brief, that many people develop excessive levels of the yeast
and subsequently experience allergic symptoms to the yeast in their body. The symptoms of this purported syndrome include common conditions such as fatigue and headache. A succession of anticandidal treatments have been offered as treatment. Oregano oil is one of the more recent of these products.
It is true that oregano oil is toxic to many different types of microorganisms, including fungi and parasites.1-15
However, the same is the case with hundreds of essential oils of herbs, not to mention vinegar, alcohol, and bleach. It is a long way from killing microorganisms in a test tube or on the surface of a block of cheese to medicinal effects in the body. Only
double-blind, placebo-controlled studies
in humans can prove a treatment effective, and none have been performed on oregano oil. Nonetheless oregano oil is widely marketed as a treatment for candida.
There is a related theory that many people suffer from undiagnosed intestinal parasites; oregano oil is marketed for treatment of this purported problem as well. Oregano oil is also advocated for dozens of other illnesses, ranging from
rheumatoid arthritis, though without any reliable justification.
Websites selling oregano oil additionally point out that it has
antioxidant properties. While true,16,17
this does not—by itself—indicate any health benefits. Most major studies of antioxidants have failed to identify the specific benefits that were once seen as likely to result from supplementation with these substances.
A typical dose of oregano oil is 100 mg three times daily of a product standardized to contain 55%–65% of the presumed active ingredient carvacrol.
There are no specific safety risks known to be associated with use of oregano oil products. However, in general,
of herbs can be toxic when taken even in relatively small quantities. Allergic reactions are also possible.
Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
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Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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