Above: Freshly distilled oregano essential oil floating on top of hydrosol. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of essential oil collected during this distillation last summer. I had only collected a brown paper bag full of oregano from my mother’s raised bed and I was able to get a dram of pure essential oil, as well as over a pint of precious hydrosol.
Most know oregano as a common culinary herb, but there is much more to oregano than just a flavorful addition to cooking! This herb has been utilized for centuries by those who understand its true potential. The famous Greek physician Hippocrates was said to have used this herb as an antiseptic, in addition to a respiratory and digestive aid. With today’s technology, these uses are justified further by the discovery of several integral constituents that make up this plant.
Medicinal Compounds in Oregano
Thymol is a constituent in oregano that possesses antiseptic properties. This compound is named after another popular culinary herb, thyme, because it also contains high amounts of thymol. Thymol is often credited with giving oregano and thyme their strong flavors. Another useful compound in oregano is carvacrol. This compound has been shown to kill many types of bacteria, even salmonella. In addition, carvacrol is antifungal, making oregano a great remedy to beat fungal infections like ringworm and athlete’s foot. Carvacrol may also help fight inflammation. Cymene is another compound found in oregano. It is antimicrobial, antifungal, and may even help relieve pain. Other compounds found in oregano include borneol, terpinene, pinene, linalyl acetate, bisabolene, linalool, caryophyllene and geranyl acetate. Together, these compounds give oregano its antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant, digestive, anti-inflammatory, and immunostimulant properties.
How to Use Oregano
The great thing about oregano, at least where I live in the Missouri Ozarks, is that once you plant it, it won’t likely go away. My mom has to call me each summer to come get oregano out of her raised garden bed because it is taking over. I pull up a bunch, as well as trim some back, but it still persists in its attempts to choke out her other plants! This is a good thing for me, because I can take as much as I want and get to experiment with many different preparations to see what works best! I use oregano in several ways, depending on the issues I am trying to tackle.
Oil of Oregano
One relatively simple way to use it is to create oil of oregano. This is not the same as oregano essential oil. Oil of oregano is made by filing a glass jar with dried oregano and then covering it with olive oil. Let this sit and infuse for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily. Some people like to make sun infusions, but I tend to lean toward protecting my herbs from direct sunlight. Because of this, I put my jars of oil and herb in a brown paper bag and leave them in a warm place outside during the infusion period. When the time is ready, simply strain out your oil and bottle it for use. Store your infused oil in a cool, dark place in between uses to promote optimal shelf-life. A great way to use this is around the ear to treat ear infections. The addition of garlic and mullein flower-infused oil is also an effective treatment for this issue. Oil of oregano makes a much safer alternative to oregano essential oil, which is very strong and can cause skin irritation (especially if you have sensitive skin).
Oregano Tincture or Glycerite
I really like using oregano tincture for treating or preventing sore throats, especially in the case of chronic strep. Because oregano is so strongly antimicrobial, it is no wonder it can help fight the bacteria responsible for strep. I can attest to its prevention power because I have been using it to help prevent strep in my youngest son, who had previously been getting strep almost every month. Since I started having him gargle oregano tincture in a decoction of Echinacea, he has not had strep. You can make a tincture by filling a glass jar with oregano (chopped well) and completely covering the herb with at least 80 proof vodka. Let this sit for 4-6 weeks in a cool, dark place, making sure to shake daily (or as much as you can remember). Strain out and bottle the liquid at the end of the infusion period. It should be noted that the particular tincture I made was actually a glycerite, which made it easier on my son as far as taste goes. A glycerite is made in much the same way as a tincture, only you use non GMO vegetable glycerin instead of alcohol. You may choose to add some water to this to make it less thick. Try to make sure your glycerite contains at least 55 percent vegetable glycerin. For strep prevention, I give my son a dropper-full in 10 ml of strong Echinacea decoction twice a day to gargle and spit out. Oregano tincture/glycerite is also useful for digestive issues, immune health, and candida.
Above: Oregano glycerite I made for my son. I add a dropper full of this extract to a decoction of Echinacea (aerial parts and roots) to gargle twice daily for strep prevention.
Oregano Essential Oil
Of course, I cannot talk about oregano without mentioning oregano essential oil. This is certainly the strongest of the oregano preparations. I create my own via steam distillation. When I make oregano essential oil, my whole house smells like an Italian restaurant. That’s really the best way to describe it!
My favorite way to use the precious oregano essential oil I collect is diluted (around 1 drop per 1-2 tablespoons of carrier oil) and applied topically to kill bacteria and fungal infections. I also like to add four drops of oregano essential oil to my ultrasonic diffuser to fight airborne germs during cold and flu season. Other great essential oils to use in combination with oregano to kill pathogens include clove, cinnamon, thyme, melissa, and tea tree.
Because this is a strong oil, a little goes a long way. Be mindful of using oregano on open wounds or on those with sensitive skin. Oregano essential oil can interact with certain medications, especially blood thinners. Avoid oregano essential oil if you have a bleeding disorder, as well as before and after any surgery. Like many essential oils, this oil should not be used around pets. It is also best to avoid using oregano essential oil around children under the age of at least two.
Inhalation of this essential oil in an aromatherapy inhaler is one of the safest ways to utilize it in the treatment of sinus infections, colds, and other respiratory issues. This way, you are not needlessly exposing anyone else, especially children and pets, to this strong therapeutic oil. In addition, you are not risking any topical sensitization issues.
With my oregano essential oil comes oregano hydrosol. Never underestimate the usefulness of hydrosol! My favorite way to use hydrosol is with my children. It is a much safer alternative to essential oils when dealing with children. In addition, it is just as effective. I spray it on minor wounds to help cleanse and kill bacteria. I even spray it on some household surfaces to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Because it is much gentler than most preparations, we even take 5 ml internally as needed for immune health.
More Oregano Uses
For even more information on the power of oregano essential oil, as well as a detailed profile and highly therapeutic recipes, check out my book, Organic Aromatherapy & Essential Oils: The Modern Guide to All-Natural Health and Wellness. I chose oregano as one of the top ten essential oils for this book! You can order it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1646114027
Interested in learning how to distill your own oregano essential oil, or what other herbs complement this powerhouse plant? Enroll in one of our courses today! https://thebitterherb.com/