1. Natural Alternative to Antibiotics
Overuse of antibiotics, and prescribing broad-spectrum drugs when they aren’t needed, can cause a range of problems. It can make the drugs less effective against the bacteria they are intended to treat by fostering the growth of antibiotic-resistant infections. And it can wipe out the body’s good bacteria (probiotics), which help digest food, produce vitamins and protect from infections, among other functions.Unfortunately broad-spectrum antibiotics are very commonly prescribed, and often for conditions in which they have no use, such as viral infections. In one study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, researchers from the University of Utah and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 60 percent of the time when physicians prescribe antibiotics they choose broad-spectrum types.
A similar study of children, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that when antibiotics were prescribed they were broad-spectrum 50 percent of the time, mainly for respiratory conditions.
In contrast, what does oil of oregano do for you that makes it so beneficial? Essentially, taking oregano oil is a “broad-spectrum approach” to protecting your health. Its active ingredients help fight multiple types of harmful pathogens, including bacteria, yeast and fungi. As a study in the Journal of Medicinal Food journal stated in 2013, oregano oils “represent an inexpensive source of natural antibacterial substances that exhibited potential for use in pathogenic systems.”
2. Fights Infections & Bacterial Overgrowth
Here’s the good news regarding the use of less-than-ideal antibiotics: there’s evidence that oregano essential oil can help to fight at least several strains of bacteria that cause health problems that are commonly treated with antibiotics.Dozens of studies confirm the fact that oregano oil can be used in place of harmful antibiotics for a number of health concerns.
In 2011 the Journal of Medicinal Food published a study that evaluated the antibacterial activity of oregano oil against five different types of bad bacteria. After evaluating the anti-bacterial characteristics of oil of oregano it showed significant anti-bacterial properties against all five species. The highest activity was observed against E. Coli, which suggests that oregano oil could potentially be routinely used to promote gastrointestinal health and to prevent deadly food poisoning.
A 2013 study published in Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture concluded that “O. vulgare extracts and essential oil from Portuguese origin are strong candidates to replace synthetic chemicals used by the industry.” Researchers from the study found that after studying the antioxidant and antibacterial properties of oregano that Origanum vulgare inhibited the growth of seven tested strains of bacteria that other plant extracts could not.
One study involving mice that was published in the journal Revista Brasileira de Farmacognosia also found impressive results: in addition to fighting bacteria like Listeria and E. Coli, they also found evidence that oregano oil may have the ability to help pathogenic fungi.
Other evidence shows that oregano oil’s active compounds (such as thymol and carvacrol) can help fight toothaches and earaches caused by bacterial infections. A 2005 study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases concluded that “Essential oils or their components placed in the ear canal can provide effective treatment of acute otitis media.”
3. Helps Reduce Side Effects From Medications/Drugs
In recent years many studies have found that one of the most promising oregano oil benefits is helping to reduce side effects from medications/drugs. These studies give hope to people who want to find a way to manage the horrible suffering that accompanies drugs and medical interventions, such as chemotherapy or use of drugs for chronic conditions like arthritis.
A study published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine showed that phenol in oil of oregano can help protect against methotrexate toxicity in mice. Methotrexate (MTX) is a drug commonly used to treat a wide array of issues from cancer to rheumatoid arthritis, but it’s also well-known to have dangerous side effects. After evaluating oil of oregano’s ability to keep these factors at bay, researchers believe its due to oregano’s antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Oregano was shown to work better than drugs that are ineffective at providing full protection against MTX’s adverse effects.By evaluating various markers in the sciatic nerve in mice, it was observed for the first time that carvacrol decreased the pro-inflammatory response in mice being treated by MTX.
Similarly, research conducted in the Netherlands showed that oregano essential oil can also “prevent bacterial overgrowth and colonization in the large intestine during oral iron therapy.” Used to treat iron deficiency anemia, oral iron therapy is known to cause a series of gastrointestinal issues like nausea, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn and vomiting.It’s believed that carvacrol targets the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria and increases membrane permeability, thereby causing depletion of harmful bacteria.
In addition to its antimicrobial properties, carvacrol also interferences with certain pathways for bacterial iron handling which helps to lower side effects of iron therapy.
4. Helps Treat Athlete’s Foot
One study found that a combination of heat, salt and use of essential oils (including oregano) had inhibitory effects against mycelia of T. rubrum and conidia of T. mentagrophytes, bacterial strains that commonly cause the fungal infection known as athlete’s foot. The researchers concluded that “Thermotherapy combined with essential oils and salt would be promising to treat tinea pedis in a foot bath.”
After testing the fungicidal activity of 11 essential oils against the bacteria known to cause athlete’s foot, oregano oil was found to be the most powerful (followed by thyme, cinnamon bark, lemongrass and clove).
5. Helps Treat Digestive Issues (Including SIBO & Heartburn)
Several of the active compounds found in Origanum vulgare can help to aid digestion by relaxing the muscles of the GI tract and also helping to balance the ratio of good-to-bad bacteria in the gut. Thymol, one of oregano’s active compounds, is a similar compound to menthol, which is found in peppermint oil. Like menthol, thymol may help relax the soft tissue of the throat and stomach which can help to decrease GERD, heartburn and discomfort after eating.
Because it helps balance bacteria and fights yeast overgrowth, oregano essential oil is also a popular natural treatment for Candida and SIBO, or small intestine bacterial overgrowth. SIBO is a common digestive problem that causes gas, bloating and intolerances to many carbohydrate-containing foods (especially FODMAPs).
Origanum vulgare hinders bacterial replication and can be used similarly to antibiotic medications such as rifaximin (Xifaxan) for treating infections that affect digestive health and nutrient absorption.
A 2014 study published in Global Advances in Health & Medicine found evidence that use of herbal antimicrobials is just as effective as the antibiotic usually given for the treatment of SIBO. When 104 patients diagnosed with SIBO (via lactulose breath test) were treated either with rifaximin (1,200 milligrams) or herbal antimicrobials over the course of four weeks the results showed that 46 percent of the patients treated with herbal antimicrobials experienced symptom improvements, compared to only 34 percent treated with the antibiotic rifaximin.
Additionally, 14 of the 44 patients who still had SIBO after a course of rifaximin were then treated with herbal antimicrobials. Fifty-seven percent responded positively to the herbal treatment even after failing to feel better from the antibiotics!
6. Can Help Treat Parasites
One study found that when adults whose stools tested positive for enteric parasites (including Blastocystis hominis which causes digestive distress) supplemented with 600 milligrams of oregano for six weeks many experienced significant gastrointestinal symptoms. There was a “complete disappearance of Entamoeba hartmanni (four cases), Endolimax nana (one case), and Blastocystis hominis in eight cases.” Gastrointestinal symptoms improved in seven of the 11 patients who had tested positive for Blastocystis hominis, which tends to cause symptoms like nausea, gas, bloating and abdominal pain.
7. Helpful for Managing Inflammatory Conditions (Such as IBD or Rheumatism)
Oregano retains its strong antioxidant capacity in both fresh and dry form. Due to its high concentration of antioxidants oregano essential oil can help reduce oxidative damage and help in preventing mutagenesis, carcinogenesis, and aging due its “free radical scavenging activities.”
Free radicals are believed to be a contributing factor to common chronic conditions including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative disorders, and drug toxicity.
One study found that combined treatment with thyme and oregano essential oils helped to reduce the production of proinflammatory cytokines, and thereby may help attenuate colitis (a type of inflammatory bowel disease) in mice. (16) Other studies show that oregano oil is beneficial for treating reoccurring respiratory disorders, tumor growth and rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers from the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina found evidence that essential oil isolated from Origanum vulgare “presents antibacterial, antioxidant and chemopreventive properties and could be play an important role as bioprotector agent.”