OREGANO OIL & LEAF (Origanum vulgare)

Latin: Origanum vulgare, O.  species

WHAT IT DOES: Oregano oil is pungent in taste, aromatic and warming.  It penetrates into the system, breaks up congestion and kills microbes.  Oregano leaf stimulates appetite and detoxifies food.

• Leaf:  gold
• Oil: red

SAFETY ISSUES: Do not use oil without diluting it.  Do not exceed recommended dosage.  Direct contact with oil to sensitive areas of skin, eye or mouth can cause severe burns.

• Capsules with leaf and oil added – preferable method of taking oil internally. 500 mg. capsules. Take 1 capsule 2-3 times per day.
• Internal use of oil: one to three drops of oil diluted in one ounce of water, several times per day.  Shake well before using, and use oil put into capsules if possible due to irritative effects.
• Leaf: add fresh or dried leaf freely to foods

The Greek name for this useful herb spice is origanos, or “delight of the mountains.” Oregano can and should be used freely as a spice in salads and soups, as it lowers the concentration of microbes in food.  The essential oil contains volatile oils, complex chemicals that are known for the odor they emit as they turn to gas.  These gases generally have antiseptic, anti-microbial and anti-oxidant effects as they disperse aggressively throughout the body.  Carvacrol and thymol, two volatile oils found in oregano, are known to thin mucus, relieve coughing, and relax muscle spasms.  These actions make the herb a very useful treatment for lung disorders, including pneumonia, sinus congestion, hay fever, chronic bronchitis and rhinitis.  I have found it very effective to help reduce the annoying lung congestion that follows episodes of upper respiratory infections.

In our clinic, we add oregano oil to water or olive oil to make sinus drops—snort two or three drops as often as desired to open congestion and kill microbes. Be very careful, however, in that only 2-3 drops is added to a full ounce of water, and make sure to shake well before using – due to the strength, using too much can irritate or even burn the sinus. Patients who are plagued by frequent sinus infections (accompanied by gunky green mucous) find that keeping these drops around the house can stop these infections before they take hold.  To kill stubborn toenail fungus, make a solution of vinegar (50%) oregano oil (25%)and olive oil (25%). Put 5-10 drops on a cotton pad and tape it directly to the toenail.  You might need to do this twice per day for a couple of months.  The penetrating quality of the vapors permeates deeply enough to root out and kill fungus lurking below the nail bed.  For a stronger effect, add some neem leaf extract to the solution. If it irritates the skin, decrease the percentage of oregano oil, and increase the olive oil.

Research Highlights

• In a test of oregano, mint, basil, sage and coriander essential oils for activity against yeast and fungi, oregano proved to be the strongest, inhibiting the yeast broth completely at 1,000 parts per million (Basilico and Basilico, 1999).

• In studies against food borne pathogens, oregano oil proved effective against numerous species, including Bacillus cereus (Ultee et al., 1999); Salmonella enteritidis (Koutsoumanis et al., 1999); Acinetobacter baumanii, Aeromonas veronii biogroup sobria, Candida albicans, Enterococcus faecalis, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella enterica subspecies enterica serotype typhimurium, Serratia marcescens and Staphylococcus aureus (Hammer et al., 1999); and Giardia duodenalis (Ponce-Macotela et al., 1994).

• Oregano leaf is one of six herbs found in a particular screening to contain a high concentration of phytoprogesterones (Zava et al., 1998).

• Food studies on oregano leaf indicate that it stimulates appetite when added to pasta in tomato sauce (Yeomans et al., 1997), and has the same effect when added to animal feed (Villalba and Provenza, 1997).  In an interesting show of instinctive intelligence, 250 pregnant women reported aversion to meats, poultry and sauces flavored with oregano (Hook, 1978).

• In an investigation of 60 plants, Dr. James Duke, author of The Green Pharmacy, and one of the world’s leading experts on medicinal plant chemicals, reported that wild oregano contained the highest levels of antioxidants (reported in Duke, 1997).  It is especially high in vitamin E compounds, especially gamma-tocopherol (Lagouri and Boskou, 1996).