Oregano oil has antiviral properties that may help your body overcome illness, similar to the way echinacea is promoted for use. You'll also see it called mountain mint, wintersweet and wild marjoram. Oregano oil can cause side effects and interact with medicines, so consult a health care provider before trying it.
Carvacrol and Other Substances
Oregano oil has a compound called carvacrol which is largely responsible for its biological activities, notes a 2008 "Current Pharmaceutical Design" study. In addition to antiviral properties, this compound also has antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasital effects and may also help protect cells' genetic material, according to a November 2003 "Cytotechnology" study. In all, oregano has at least 50 compounds that have antimicrobial action, including thymol and rosmaric acid.
Oregano is capable of destroying both RNA and DNA viruses, such as those that cause cold sores, shingles and genital herpes, according to "Natural Forms of Defense Against Biological, Chemical and Nuclear Threats," by John Brighton. The oil destroys the virus's outer coating. It does not, however, harm your cells.
Virus strains resistant to anti-viral drugs are a growing problem, leading researchers to seek alternatives, according to a May 2007 report in "Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy." Many naturopathic doctors and herbalists regard oregano as equally powerful as better-known herbs used to fight off viruses, including Echinacea and goldenseal, notes "Better Nutrition" magazine. Before using oregano to ward off a virus consult a health care provider. Follow your provider's instructions for dosage.
You can use oregano oil internally in capsule form or externally in essential oil form. Oregano, often used for respiratory disorders, is more typically used as a dried herb steeped in boiling water. Side effects may include vomiting, nausea and allergic reactions. Taking oregano with ferrous sulfate or iron-dextran complex may interfere with absorption of these drugs. Also avoid oregano oil during pregnancy.
- “Linda Page’s Healthy Healing Guide”; Linda G. Rector-Page; 2000
- “Natural Forms of Defense Against Biological, Chemical and Nuclear Threats”; John Brighton; 2002
- “The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide”; George T. Grossberg and Barry Fox; 2007
- “Better Nutrition” magazine; Mountain Mint – Oregano; December 1999
- “Current Pharmaceutical Design”; Biological and Pharmacological Activities of Carvacrol and Carvacrol Bearing Essential Oils; K.H. Baser; 2008
- “Better Nutrition” magazine; Oregano – More than a Nice Italian Spice; James J. Gormley; January 1999
- “Cytotechnology”; Effects of Carvacrol on Sister Chromatid Exchanges in Human Lymphocyte Cultures; E. Ipek, et al.; November 2003
- “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry”; Structural Requirements for the Antimicrobial Activity of Carvacrol; Edwin J. A. Veldhuizen, et al.; February 2006
- “Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy”; Susceptibility of Drug-Resistant Clinical Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Strains to Essential Oils of Ginger, Thyme, Hyssop, and Sandalwood; Paul Schnitzler, et al.; May 2007
- “International Journal of Food Microbiology”; The Antimicrobial Effect of Oregano Essential Oil…; A. Govaris, et al.; February 2010
- “Biology”; John W. Kimball; 1994