You probably know oregano best as the herb you put on pizzas and in sauces. Yet, there is a lot more to oregano oil than just its taste. The world is starting to wake up to the many medical possibilities of oregano oil, particularly against bacterial infections.
How Oregano Oil Fights Bacterial Infections
If you were to load a bunch of fresh oregano on your tongue, you’d experience a warm, slightly spicy taste. That taste comes from a compound in oregano oil called carvacrol.
Carvacrol is also found in many other herbs, such as marjoram, thyme, and savory. However, it has its highest concentration in oregano.1
In numerous studies, carvacrol has been shown to be a potent antibacterial against numerous strains of bacteria. It is thought to work by destroying the cell membranes of bacteria and stopping them from replicating. 2, 3, 4
What makes the carvacrol in oil of oregano particularly interesting as a natural antibiotic is that it is shown to destroy harmful bacteria while keeping helpful probiotic bacteria intact.
Research shows that, at dosages which cause 97% to 100% of inhibition of pathogenic bacteria, only 3% to 5% of probiotics were inhibited.5
This benefit of oregano oil shouldn’t be understated. When you take a pharmaceutical antibiotic, it indiscriminately destroys all the bacteria in its path – including the trillions of bacteria which we need for tasks like digestion and even regulating mood. The result can be a tragic dysbiosis of gut flora. In fact, researchers now believe that taking antibiotics may be a cause of disorders and diseases such as autism, depression, anxiety, diabetes, and GI problems such as SIBO. Read more about the risks of gut flora dysbiosis here.
Other Benefits of Oregano Oil
In addition to acting as a natural antibiotic, oil of oregano has many other benefits. Some of these include:
- Reducing inflammation: Oil of oregano activates PPAR and suppresses COX-2 inflammation. Because inflammation is the root of many disorders, this make oil of oregano useful for treating GI problems such as IBS and SIBO, heartburn, bloating, psoriasis, and more.6
- Anti-Fungal: Oil of oregano also destroys fungi and is shown to destroy candida, thus making it a natural treatment for yeast infections. 7, 8
- Allergies and Respiratory Problems: In addition to the carvacrol in oil of oregano, its flavonoids and terpenes are potent at fighting ailments such as asthma, allergies, sneezing, and coughing. 9
- Parasites: If you are traveling to a developing country, you might want to bring along some oil of oregano to treat traveler’s diarrhea. Oregano oil is potent at killing bacteria as well as parasites and worms which might cause stomach problems from consuming tainted foods or water. 10
Why Not Just Take an Antibiotic?
When sick, it is tempting to just pop an antibiotic pill and be done with the problem.
Except that things aren’t that simple.
As mentioned above, we are only now starting to understand the long-term damages which can be caused by taking antibiotics. Here are just two of the main reasons you would want to avoid antibiotics and take a natural antibiotic like oregano oil instead.
1. Antibiotic Resistance
The first major reason to take oregano oil instead of an antibiotic is because of antibiotic resistance. Bacteria are relatively simple organisms, which means that they can evolve very easily and quickly. Evolution happens when a bacteria has a mutation which allows it to survive a threat (such as exposure to an antibiotic). These bacteria then go on to proliferate, resulting in a new, evolved strain of the bacteria which is resistant to antibiotics. 11
Antibiotic resistance is already taking its toll and it will just get worse if we don’t stop popping antibiotics at every sign of infection. As talked about in this article, researchers predict we may soon see the reemergence of diseases like typhoid, diphtheria, and many others.
Amazingly, oregano oil has been shown to be effective even against antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella! 12
The reason that natural antibiotics like oregano oil are so much more effective is because they work on many levels. A pharmaceutical antibiotic is just one compound, thus making it easy for bacteria to adapt to it. By contrast, bacteria have a harder time adapting to the many compounds and their mechanisms of action in natural antibiotics. Read more about herbal antibiotics here.
2. Oil of Oregano Won’t Harm Your Gut
Of course, you should check with your doctor before taking any natural antibiotic – especially if you have a gut problem. However, compared to pharmaceutical antibiotics, oregano oil is going to be your gut’s friend.
Oregano oil doesn’t kill off helpful probiotic bacteria the way that pharmaceutical antibiotics do.13 Thus, you won’t experience severe gut dysbiosis.
On a personal note, I first became of aware of the potency of oregano oil as a natural antibiotic while dealing with a severe case of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO is caused when you get too much and/or the wrong type of bacteria growing in your gut. The last thing you want with SIBO is to further disrupt your bacteria by taking a hardcore antibiotic. In fact, antibiotics might be a cause of SIBO! You can read more about SIBO here.
Where to Buy Oil of Oregano?
Think that you can just chomp down on a lot of oregano to get its benefits? According to Dr. Draxe, it takes 1,000 pounds of wild oregano to produce just one pound of the oil! 14 Thus, you are probably better off buying oregano oil.
Like with all supplements, quality matters. Wild P73 oregano oil is considered the most potent.15
Also remember that carvacrol is the antibacterial compound found in oregano oil. Oregano oil also contains many other helpful compounds (such as thymol), but you want to look for one with a high carvacrol percentage to get the antibacterial benefits.
Guidelines for Choosing Oregano Oil:
- Carvacrol percentages are usually between 50% and 85%. Look for the highest percentage you can find.
- Only buy pure, additive-free oregano oil
- Steam-distilled oregano oil is higher in quality
- Choose unprocessed, raw oregano oil
- Choose GMP-certified oregano oil (GMP stands for the Good Manufacturing Practices guidelines in which growers only use organic oregano)16
How to Take Oregano Oil and Dosage
It might be natural, but oregano oil is still an antibiotic – and antibiotics should only be used for the short term so you don’t risk gut dysbiosis. To aid in absorption, oregano oil should be taken with a “carrier oil.” I prefer pure coconut oil, but olive oil or jojoba oil can also be used.
Guidelines for Taking Oregano Oil:
- Before taking oregano oil, put a drop of it on your arm to see if any reaction occurs.
- When using orally, take for only 7 to 10 days at a time.
- Dilute oregano oil in a carrier oil.17
To Take Oregano Oil Sublingually:
- If not diluted already, dilute the oregano oil with a carrier oil at a ratio of at least 1 drop oregano oil to 1 drop carrier oil
- Put 1 or 2 drops under the tongue and leave it there for a few minutes. Then rinse with water.
- Use a dosage of 50mg oregano oil, 3-6x per day to achieve antibacterial benefits. Depending on the concentration of the oregano oil you use, you may need to do this many times per day.
To Take Oregano Oil as Capsules:
- Use a dosage of 50mg oregano oil, 3-6x per day
- Pay attention to the manufacturer’s dosage instructions. Different brands contain different amounts of Carvacrol 18
*Note that these dosages reflect oregano oil and not the carvacrol dosage. Most brands of oregano oil list the carvacrol amount in milligrams.
Recommended Brands of Oregano Oil:
There are two brands of oregano oil that I can recommend. Of the two, I’d go with the first because it is organic. However, it is slightly more expensive. So, if you can’t afford the organic oregano oil (which I recommend), then the second is still a good option.
Natural Factors Oregano Oil
- Standardized to 80% carvacrol
- Mixed with organic olive oil at a ratio of 1:4
- 1 oz bottle = 187 servings
- 24mg of carvacrol per serving
- Hand-picked, certified organic, and non-GMO
- Buy it here
Source Naturals Oregano Oil
- Standardized to 70% carvacrol
- Made from wild-crafted true oregano from the Mediterranean region
- Mixed with olive oil
- 1 oz bottle = 275 servings
- 26.3mg of carvacrol per serving
- Buy it here
Do you have IBS?
A huge portion of the population suffers from IBS. Up until recently, researchers mostly dismissed IBS as a disorder caused by stress. Now we know that upwards of 84% of IBS cases are really SIBO — a disorder in which you have too much and/or the wrong type of bacteria in your gut. Luckily, SIBO is treatable.
Have you tried oregano oil for bacterial infections? I’d love to hear your experiences!