Oregano oil: Benefits, side effects, uses and dosage

Have you ever wondered how a common kitchen herb could hold the key to numerous health benefits? Oregano oil, derived from the fragrant herb commonly used in pizzas and pasta, packs a potent punch against various health issues, from bacterial infections to inflammation. 

Research reveals that carvacrol, a key component in oregano oil, exhibits impressive antibacterial and antifungal properties. 

What is oregano oil?

Oregano oil is a concentrated liquid that contains the essence of the oregano herb, scientifically known as Origanum vulgare [1]. 

This perennial plant, part of the mint family, is native to Europe, although it thrives in various regions worldwide. 

The oil is not merely an extract but a powerhouse of potent compounds that have been used for centuries in medicinal practices worldwide.

Extraction process

Extracting oregano oil is a careful process that begins with distilling fresh oregano leaves and shoots. 

This crucial stage is timed just before the herb blooms to ensure the highest oil content and potency. 

Using steam distillation, the essential oils are vaporized and then condensed back into liquid form, capturing the plant’s essence while preserving the active compounds.

Chemical composition

Oregano oil is renowned for its robust composition of phenolic glycosides, primarily carvacrol and thymol. 

Carvacrol is noted for its antimicrobial and antifungal properties, making it a key component in the oil’s effectiveness [2]. 

Thymol complements carvacrol, supporting the immune system and protecting against various toxins. 

The oil also contains other compounds like p-cymene, gamma-terpinene, and beta-caryophyllene, contributing to its unique efficacy and aroma. 

These compounds collectively make oregano oil a powerful antioxidant and a staple in natural health treatments.

This structured approach helps delineate each critical aspect of oregano oil, from its origins and extraction to its chemical makeup, making the information more accessible and easier to digest for readers.

What are the benefits of oregano oil?

What are the benefits of oregano oil?

Oregano oil is not just a flavorful addition to culinary dishes; it is a multifaceted herbal remedy with a range of health benefits backed by scientific research. Here’s a detailed look at how oregano oil can be essential to your wellness toolkit.

1. Antibacterial and antifungal properties

The phenolic compounds carvacrol and thymol are the superheroes of oregano oil, offering robust antibacterial and antifungal benefits. 

Studies have shown that carvacrol disrupts the integrity of bacterial cell membranes, effectively neutralizing pathogens like Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus [3].

Thymol complements this by providing a similar spectrum of action against fungal infections, such as those caused by Candida yeasts. 

Together, these compounds make oregano oil a potent remedy for bacterial and fungal infections, providing a natural alternative to synthetic antibiotics and antifungals.

2. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects

Oregano oil is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. The same compounds that offer antimicrobial properties also help to reduce inflammation in the body. 

Carvacrol, for instance, has been studied for its ability to lower inflammatory markers in the blood significantly [4]. 

Additionally, oregano oil’s high antioxidant capacity helps combat oxidative stress, which is linked to a range of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer. 

This dual anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect contributes to overall health and can help prevent chronic conditions.

3. Digestive health

Oregano oil may offer relief for those suffering from digestive ailments such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and candida overgrowth. 

The oil’s antimicrobial properties help balance the gut microbiota, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria while inhibiting harmful ones. 

This balancing act is crucial for restoring digestive health and can alleviate symptoms associated with SIBO and candida, such as bloating, gas, and indigestion. 

Moreover, the phenolic compounds in oregano oil have been shown to help soothe the gut lining, reducing gastrointestinal discomfort [5].

4. Respiratory health

Oregano oil can be particularly beneficial for respiratory health. Inhaling the vapor from oregano oil has been found to help relieve symptoms of respiratory infections, bronchitis, and asthma [6]. 

The antimicrobial properties of the oil help clear the airways of pathogens that can cause respiratory distress. At the same time, its anti-inflammatory effects reduce swelling in the respiratory tract, making breathing easier. 

This makes oregano oil an excellent natural remedy for those looking to enhance lung health and fight respiratory conditions.

5. Protection against side effects of medication

An often-overlooked benefit of oregano oil is its ability to mitigate the side effects of certain medications, including chemotherapy and antibiotics. 

The antioxidative properties of the oil protect cells from oxidative damage typically caused by these medications, while its anti-inflammatory effects help reduce the overall stress on the body. 

Furthermore, oregano oil has been shown to protect the gut microbiome from the often harsh effects of antibiotics [7], which can lead to issues like antibiotic-associated diarrhea and yeast infections.

The comprehensive benefits of oregano oil span various health aspects, from microbial defense and inflammation reduction to digestive and respiratory health support. 

With its natural composition and multipurpose applications, oregano oil is a valuable addition to a holistic health regimen, offering protection and relief without the heavy reliance on pharmaceuticals.

Where is oregano oil used?

Oregano oil has diverse benefits, including skin care, medical treatments, and aromatherapy.

Here’s a deeper dive into how this powerful oil can be incorporated into your daily health and wellness routines.

1. Medical uses

Oregano oil is known for its potent antimicrobial properties, which make it effective against various pathogens, including bacteria, fungi, and parasites. 

It is often used as a natural treatment for bacterial infections such as E. coli or staph infections [8], which are common culprits behind food poisoning and skin infections. 

Additionally, its antifungal abilities make it a valuable remedy for combating fungal infections like athlete’s foot and yeast infections. 

Due to its broad-spectrum antimicrobial activity, parasitic infections, including those caused by amoebas or giardiasis, can also be addressed with oregano oil.

2. Aromatherapy and topical applications

Oregano oil is beneficial not only when ingested but also when used in aromatherapy or when applied topically. 

For skin conditions such as acne, applying diluted oregano oil can help reduce breakouts by eliminating bacteria that cause inflammation and pimples [9]. 

It’s also effective against dandruff and other scalp issues, thanks to its antifungal properties that target the underlying fungal conditions often responsible for flakiness and irritation. 

Furthermore, its potent anti-inflammatory properties can soothe irritated skin and reduce redness.

3. As a natural antibiotic alternative

With antibiotic resistance increasing, oregano oil presents a natural alternative that might help curb reliance on traditional antibiotics. 

Its compounds, carvacrol, and thymol, disrupt bacterial cell membranes, leading to the bacteria’s demise without encouraging the development of resistance. 

This broad-spectrum effectiveness makes oregano oil a suitable preventive measure and a therapeutic option for various infectious ailments without the typical side effects of antibiotics, such as gut flora imbalance and immune system suppression.

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How to prepare and apply oregano oil

To utilize oregano oil safely and effectively, it is crucial to understand the proper preparation and application methods. 

Oregano oil is highly concentrated and should only be applied directly to the skin or ingested with adequate dilution. 


For topical use, mix a few drops of oregano oil with a carrier oil such as coconut or olive oil — typically, one part oregano oil to three parts carrier oil is a safe ratio. 

This mixture can then be used to treat fungal infections, acne, or other skin issues.


For internal use, oregano oil should be diluted in water or mixed with a carrier oil before consumption. 

A common method is to add one or two drops of oregano oil to a glass of water or mix it into a tablespoon of carrier oil and take it once or twice a day, depending on the health concern being addressed. 

Always start with a low dose to see how your body reacts, and consult with a healthcare provider to ensure it does not interfere with existing health conditions or medications.

The diverse applications of oregano oil, from treating infections to soothing skin and supporting overall wellness, highlight its utility as a multi-functional natural remedy. With proper usage, oregano oil can be a valuable addition to your healthcare arsenal.

What are the side effects of oregano oil?

While offering numerous health benefits, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects of oregano oil and take necessary precautions to ensure safe usage. 

Understanding these risks can help you integrate oregano oil into your wellness routine without adverse effects.

Common side effects

  • Topical reactions – Application of undiluted oregano oil can cause irritation [10], redness, and a burning sensation, especially on sensitive skin.
  • Gastrointestinal distress – Ingesting oregano oil might lead to stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting if taken in large doses or without adequate dilution [11].
  • Gut flora disruption – Overuse can upset the balance of digestive flora, causing discomfort and digestive issues.

Potential irritations and allergic reactions

  • Allergic reactions – Oregano oil can trigger allergies, presenting as skin rashes, swelling, or respiratory difficulties in sensitive individuals.
  • Family sensitivity – Those allergic to Lamiaceae family plants (like mint and lavender) may also react to oregano oil.
  • Patch test recommended – Conducting a patch test on a small area of skin before widespread use is advisable, particularly for those with known sensitivities.

Specific risks and precautions

  • Thymol toxicity – High concentrations of thymol can affect the liver and kidneys; follow recommended dosages and consult healthcare advice.
  • Pregnant women – Avoid oregano oil as it may stimulate blood flow in the uterus, posing risks to the fetus or triggering premature labor [11].
  • Medication interactions – Oregano oil can interact with medications such as anticoagulants [12] (increasing bleeding risks) and anti-diabetics (affecting blood sugar levels).
  • Children’s use – Use in children should be strictly supervised by a healthcare professional due to their sensitivity to the potent compounds of essential oils.

Always consult with a healthcare provider before beginning any new treatment, especially if you are taking other medications or belong to a vulnerable group. This ensures you can benefit from oregano oil without experiencing adverse effects.

How much oregano oil should you take?

How much oregano oil should you take?

Proper oregano oil dosage and administration are crucial for maximizing its benefits while minimizing potential risks. 

Oregano oil is available in various forms, including capsules, liquid tinctures, and as an essential oil for topical use. Here’s how to use each form effectively:

General dosage guidelines

1. Capsules

Typically, oregano oil capsules are preferred for internal use because they provide a precise dosage without the strong taste of the oil. 

Standard dosages range from 100 to 200 mg, taken up to three times daily, usually with meals to reduce the risk of stomach upset.

2. Liquid tinctures

Liquid forms of oregano oil should be diluted in water or juice according to package instructions—commonly, two to three drops in at least 8 ounces of liquid, taken one to two times daily. 

Starting with a low dose and gradually increasing it allows monitoring of body reactions.

3. Topical application

For skin applications, dilute oregano oil with a carrier oil such as coconut or olive oil. A safe ratio is typically one part oregano oil to three parts carrier oil. Apply the mixture directly to the affected area up to three times daily.

Specific dosage recommendations

1. Bacterial and fungal infections

Oregano oil capsules or liquid can be particularly effective for combating infections. Stick to the recommended doses on the product label, or consult a healthcare provider for a personalized treatment plan.

2. Digestive issues

When dealing with digestive problems like bloating or indigestion, taking oregano oil in capsule form with meals can help alleviate symptoms. 

It’s essential to follow a structured treatment regimen, often several days or weeks, as a healthcare professional guides.

3. Skin conditions

Topical application of diluted oregano oil can relieve issues like acne, dandruff, or fungal infections. Regular application while monitoring for any skin irritation is important.

Adhere to these dosage guidelines to ensure you use oregano oil safely and effectively, tailored to your specific health needs and the form of oregano oil being used.

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When should you consult a doctor?

Oregano oil, while beneficial, carries certain risks that necessitate caution and, sometimes, the advice of a healthcare professional. It’s crucial to recognize when to seek medical advice to ensure safe usage.

Allergic reactions

If you are allergic to oregano oil, avoid inhaling it [13]. It can cause severe inflammation of the airways, which can quickly escalate into a more serious condition. 

Immediate medical attention is necessary if you experience difficulty breathing or other signs of a severe allergic reaction.

Symptoms requiring medical attention

Extended exposure to thymol, a major component in oregano oil, may lead to various symptoms. If you experience any of the following after using oregano oil, it may be time to consult your doctor:

  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Excessive salivation
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Vertigo

These symptoms could indicate an adverse reaction to oregano oil, especially if they persist or worsen over time.

How do you choose the right oregano oil?

Selecting a high-quality oregano oil is essential to ensure that you reap the full benefits of this potent herbal remedy while minimizing risks. 

Here are key factors to consider regarding quality, purity, concentration, and how to choose reputable brands.

Quality and purity considerations

1. Purity

Look for oregano oil that lists “100% pure oregano oil” or mentions being unadulterated. Products should ideally specify that they contain no additional oils or additives.

2. Carvacrol content

Carvacrol is a key active ingredient in oregano oil, responsible for many of its antimicrobial and antifungal properties. 

High-quality oregano oil should contain more than 50% carvacrol [14]. The higher the carvacrol content, the more potent the oil.

3. Organic certification

Opt for oregano oil that is certified organic. This ensures the oregano plants were grown without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers, which can contaminate the oil.

4. Extraction method

The best oregano oils are extracted using steam distillation [15], a process that helps maintain the integrity of the active compounds without using chemicals.

Product selection advice

1. Read labels carefully

Beyond looking for high carvacrol content and organic certification, check labels for the botanical name, Origanum vulgare, to ensure you are getting genuine oregano oil.

2. Brand reputation

Choose products from companies that have good reputations for producing high-quality essential oils. Researching online reviews and consumer testimonials can provide insight into the efficacy and safety of the product.

3. Packaging

Quality oregano oil should come in a dark glass bottle to protect it from UV light, which can degrade the oil’s active compounds over time.

4. Ingredient list

The ingredient list should be short and clear. Avoid oils with unnecessary fillers or additives, which can dilute the oil’s effectiveness and potentially cause adverse reactions.

Closing thoughts

Oregano oil is a potent natural remedy with many health benefits, ranging from antimicrobial properties to anti-inflammatory effects. 

It’s effective against bacteria, fungi, and viruses, making it a valuable addition to any wellness routine. 

This oil also supports digestive and respiratory health and offers a natural alternative to synthetic antibiotics and antifungals.

When incorporating oregano oil into your wellness plan, it’s crucial to select a high-quality product, use it at recommended dosages, and consult with a healthcare provider, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or are taking other medications. 

With careful consideration and responsible use, oregano oil can be a safe and beneficial supplement to enhance your health and well-being.


Is it safe to drink oregano oil with water?

Oregano oil contains potent compounds that can be beneficial in small amounts, but consuming it undiluted or in large quantities can lead to irritation or adverse effects. It is advisable to dilute oregano oil with a carrier oil or water and consult with a healthcare professional before ingesting.

Can you take oregano oil everyday?

Oregano oil is a potent essential oil that may offer health benefits, but prolonged daily use can lead to potential side effects. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating oregano oil into a daily routine.

What is 100% oregano oil good for?

100% Oregano oil has antimicrobial properties. It can be applied topically for skin conditions or diluted for internal use to combat infections. However, it’s essential to use it with caution and under guidance, as its potency can cause irritation or adverse reactions.

What is the best way to take oregano oil?

The best way to take oregano oil is by diluting it with a carrier oil or water, as it’s very potent when undiluted. Always follow recommended dosages and consult with a healthcare professional before ingestion or topical application.

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[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6508890/
[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21772760/
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9699308/
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9632228/
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6508890/
[6] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2210803323000295
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9314563/
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10489134/
[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6225355/
[10] https://www.webmd.com/diet/oregano-oil-good-for-you#1-4
[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK591556/
[12] https://www.rxlist.com/supplements/oregano.htm#Interactions
[13] https://www.healthline.com/health/oregano-oil-side-effects#when-to-see-your-doctor
[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5260481
[15] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/266079843_Distillation_Time_Changes_Oregano_Essential_Oil_Yields_and_Composition_but_Not_the_Antioxidant_or_Antimicrobial_Activities

Photograph: Dionisvero/Envato
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