CONFUSION can easily surround Oregano and its essential oil.
It mostly comes down to oregano’s common name, Wild Marjoram. Yes, oregano closely resembles its cousin marjoram Origanum marjorana, in the Labiatae family with similar properties.But oregano is more intense, like thyme oil, and thus more toxic because of its thymol content.
Oregano also contains more carvacrol constituent than marjoram and most other essential oils, which is the main marker that manufacturers look for in a high potency and good quality oil of oregano.
The ancients grouped several different species under this name and the herb has been considered an essential aromatic plant for both medicine and cooking.
It was a favourite bath oil for the Egyptians. Theophrastus, Aristotle and Hippocrates praised its beneficent action on respiratory diseases, especially tuberculosis, and prescribed for ulcers and poor digestion.
The Greeks also planted it in graveyards to bring peace to the departed. Its colourful history includes Aristotle’s apparently mysterious statement that tortoises will eat oregano after swallowing a snake!
Persian astrologers made oregano ointments against hostile planets. It was included in love potions to arouse ardour and was a common herb in monastic gardens around the 13th Century. Culpepper maintained that it would treat deafness, pain and noise in the ears.
One of the oregano oil’s most promising benefits is its high antimicrobial and antibacterial activity.
This is due to its high content of flavanoids, or secondary plant metabolites known for their antioxidant activity.
Its antimicrobial properties can counteract food borne pathogens, such as Listeria monocytogenes, which is responsible for the lethal illness, listeriosis. This could be put to use in food preservation. Further, it can be used to treat bacterial infections such as E Coli, Giardiasis and food poisoning.
Oregano’s hot, almost burning, quality is a clear marker indicating its medicinal action on infectious diseases, infected wounds and inflammations.
Indeed it is one of the finest antiseptic oils to fight infection of most kinds. Oregano oil, if used regularly, can also protect against fungal infections such as Athlete’s foot.
Use this invaluable oil to combat viruses and common colds or flu; it will add another layer of immune system protection when used appropriately.
If you feel a cold coming on, try placing 3-6 drops in 5mL olive oil and take 2-3 times daily before meals. Continue for 5-10 days. If taken internally, the oil is a good source of nutrients such as magnesium zinc, iron, calcium, potassium copper, manganese, and niacin.
Oregano’s main effect is on the digestive system, whereby it stimulates the stomach while calming intestinal spasm.
A firm abdominal massage using this blended oil can combat acidity, wind and poor appetite while also having a tonic action on the liver and the spleen. It is supposed to help hiccups and an unusual condition called aerophagia - when one gulps down air.
Oregano essential oil is reputed effective to rid the body of intestinal worms, including Blastocystis hominis, a small parasite that infects the intestinal tracts of humans.
Indeed a study published in Phytotherapy Research found that oral administration of oregano oil caused a disappearance of parasite activity in most patients, as well as an improvement of gastrointestinal symptoms.
Applied externally, it repels lice, bed bugs, mosquitoes, fleas and other insects. Again, a high dilution is crucial for skin safety. Place oregano in an oil diffuser overnight to help reduce congestion or sinus problems.
On the respiratory system it loosens phlegm, calms nagging coughs and soothes chronic bronchitis. Use this way to help alleviate symptoms of asthma and bronchitis.
Dilution is best
Infected cuts and wounds may be topically treated with oregano oil in a very diluted wash and the same cleansing effect can be beneficial for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Otherwise avoid direct contact with the skin.
Certainly oregano oil is warming and comforting when massaged into arthritic joints or the lower back to ease muscular pain and carpal tunnel may also respond well to its help.
Those suffering from sore muscles, sports injuries and backache may also reap benefit. Use it with a warm compress for menstrual pain. Some sources say it has some effect on migraines and facial tics. You could include oregano in cellulite rubs to deal with waterlogged tissues. Simply add 10 drops oregano oil to 10mL vegetable carrier oil and apply the mixture topically to the affected area for relief.
Packs a punch
Despite its reputation as a natural immune booster, oregano oil also packs a punch against unwanted body fat. A recent study that focused on the fat-burning capabilities of oregano oil demonstrated that the active ingredient known as carvacrol could modulate genes and reduce irritation in white adipose tissue. Mice were fed a fattening diet and those that were not given carvacrol, quickly became obese. In contrast, mice given as low as 0.1 percent carvacrol gained significantly less weight and even had lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in their blood.
There is a general consensus with most manufacturers that high quality grown Oregano will naturally contain 70 to 85 per cent of carvacrol. Some products have more carvacrol added from synthetic or natural source.
Oregano’s effects on the mind include being used in the treatment of mental illness, including hypochondria. Pertinent use is said to stimulate and revive the senses bringing a feeling of well being, although the smell is not so pleasant and not particularly suited to treating psychological conditions. Reserve this oil instead for its potent medicinal help.
Combine several drops of oregano oil to 5mL of olive oil, mix well, and this can also be used specifically in the following examples:
Mouth cleanser: Rub the diluted oil into the gums 1-2 times per day for infections.
Skin care: Apply to warts, boils, or even fungal infections such as athlete’s foot. Saturate the area, bind with a clean bandage, allow the oil to sit overnight, and then change the dressing. Continue until the infection is gone.
Body wash: Add several drops of the dilution to liquid hand soap or body wash to expedite healing of wounds, abscesses, or skin infections.
Around the home: Oregano oil can also be used as a disinfectant for use in hygiene in the home. Try adding several drops of the diluted oil to a clean cloth and wiping down kitchen surfaces to kill bacteria.
Botanical name: Origanum vulgare, Thymus capitatus (most commercial oregano oil).
Common names: Wild marjoram, common oregano
Family: Lamiaceae / Labiatae (mint family)
The Plant: There are actually 30 varieties of oregano. Here we will deal with the rustic variation of marjoram, the oregano that grows wild all over Europe and Asia. (Only the Mediterranean varieties yield a significant amount of essential oils.) The plant is a small hardy that grows to approximately 90cm high; with a rather hairy, woody stem bearing ovate purple/pink flowers.
The Oil: has a yellowish colour that turns a brownish red colour with age. It is steam distilled from the flowering plant of the herb and mainly produced in Spain, North Africa, and Greece.
Scent: Oregano oil has a hot, herbaceous and slightly spicy scent with woody undertones. This medicinal smell is not suited to perfumery. It smells quite similar to marjoram oil.
Blends well with: Basil, fennel, geranium, lemongrass, pine, thyme, rosemary, cedar wood, citronella, lavender.
Indications: Antiseptic, analgesic, aperitif, antifungal, carminative, antiviral, anti-toxic, sedative, expectorant, analgesic, counter-irritant, expectorant, laxative, parasiticide, rubefacient, (brings blood to surface) vulnerary (heals wounds).
Precautions: Oregano is a very potent oil that is likely to irritate the mucous membranes, so use very well diluted. Avoid during pregnancy or breast-feeding. For internal dosage, use only high quality pure oregano oil and ensure it is very diluted and blended in vegetable oil and taken with food.