While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
Oregano oil: not just for a kickin’ pasta sauce. The essential oil made from the oregano plant has long been touted as a remedy for coughs and colds. But will it actually help you feel any better?
The truth is there’s not much proof behind this DIY cold remedy, and many healthcare professionals will tell you to steer clear of consuming this essential oil in any form. Here’s a look into what we know and how to use oregano oil if you’d still like to give it a try.
There’s a good amount of science showing that oregano oil is rich in antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal compounds. While it’s thought that these properties could help ease cough symptoms and spasms, there’s not yet enough evidence to conclude that it’ll be helpful for your cold or flu.
That’s because most of the studies looking at oregano oil have been lab studies, animal studies, or very small human studies.
For instance, a test tube study in 2011 found that carvacrol, a compound in oregano oil, was effective at fighting off viruses.
And research in rats suggests that oregano oil has pain-relieving properties, which could potentially be helpful for a sore throat or flu-related body aches.
As for the findings in people, they’re not super promising.
In a 2011 study, people with upper respiratory infections used a throat spray containing oregano oil (along with other essential oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, and rosemary) or a placebo multiple times a day for 3 days.
Both groups had a little improvement in symptoms, but there wasn’t much difference between the two groups, so it’s hard to say whether the oregano oil was helpful.
In short, oregano oil contains compounds that seem like they could be promising for easing a cough or cold — and maybe even giving your health a boost overall. But for right now, there’s not much concrete evidence.
Again, there’s not enough quality research to say whether using oregano oil will make a difference for your cold or cough. And, like all essential oils, pure oregano oil is highly concentrated and is not recommended to be consumed.
But if you want to give oregano a try, there are some alternative methods. Oregano extract capsules are one option.
As you might’ve guessed by now, there are no official recommendations on dosing if you’re going to take oregano extract capsules for your cough or cold.
Taking 100 milligrams three times a day might be a sensible starting point, but be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and, more importantly, run that by your healthcare provider before popping a single pill.
Your other option is to apply diluted oregano oil to your skin, since essential oils can be absorbed through your pores and carried into your bloodstream. But it’s important not to put pure essential oil on your body. Instead, either find an oregano oil that’s premixed with a carrier oil or dilute the oregano oil with a carrier oil like coconut or olive oil.
Your best bet is to start with a low concentration of oregano oil and see how that affects you before increasing it. For a 1 percent concentration, mix 6 drops of oregano oil into 1 ounce of carrier oil.
Once you’ve got your topical blend ready to go, where should you put it? Some herbalists recommend putting oregano oil on your feet for a cough or cold. But there’s not much explanation for why that would be helpful, and there’s no evidence that it works.
Your last option is the simplest: Put a drop or two of oregano oil in a bowl of steaming water and inhale the vapor. At the very least, the steam from the water will help temporarily ease your congestion. And who knows? Maybe breathing in the oregano will give you an extra feel-good boost.
Eating a pinch of oregano in your food is totally harmless. But consuming oregano essential oil or applying the stuff to your skin comes with some possible risks you’ll want to discuss with your doctor.
For starters, oregano oil can cause stomachaches and digestive issues — this goes especially for the pure oil, which docs don’t recommend consuming.
More seriously, oregano oil could lower your blood sugar and affect blood clotting, so it could be dangerous if you have diabetes, if you take blood thinners, or if you have a blood clotting disorder.
You should also steer clear if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Taking large amounts of oregano oil could potentially increase the risk of miscarriage, and there’s not enough evidence to say whether the oil is safe to use while breastfeeding.
Finally, keep in mind that oregano oil could trigger an allergic reaction (especially if you’re allergic to basil, lavender, mint, sage, marjoram, or hyssop), whether you pop a supplement or apply it topically.
And whether you’re allergic or not, putting it on your skin in concentrations greater than 1 percent could cause irritation.