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Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

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Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • Anthocyanins, betulinic acid, catechin, carvacrol, cyanidin, cymene, dostenkraut (German), eugenol, flavonoids, gallic acid, Greek oregano, Italian oregano (Origanum x majoricum), kekik (Turkish), Lamiaceae (family), Mediterranean oregano, mountain mint, O. minutiflorum Hausskn, O. vulgare ssp. vulgare, oil of oregano, oregamax, oregano oil, oregano spirits, Oregpig®, Origani vulgaris herba, origano, origanoside, origanum, Origanum acutidens (Hand.-Mazz.) Ietswaart, Origanum compactum, Origanum compactum Benth., Origanum compactum L., Origanum cordifolium (Aucher et Montbret ex Benth.) Vogel, Origanum creticum, Origanum dayi Post, Origanum dubium, Origanum dubium Boiss., Origanum floribundum, Origanum heracleoticum, Origanum heracleoticum L., Origanum libanoticum, Origanum micranthum, Origanum microphyllum, Origanum microphyllum (Bentham) Vogel, Origanum minutiflorum, Origanum minutiflorum O. Schwarz & P.H. Davis, Origanum officinalis, Origanum onites, Origanum onites L., Origanum scabrum, Origanum syriacum, Origanum syriacum L., Origanum syriacum var. bevanii, Origanum tyttanthum, Origanum vulgare L. ssp. hirtum, Origanum vulgare L. ssp. hirtum Ietswaart, Origanum vulgare L. ssp. hirtum (Link) Ietswaart, Origanum vulgare ssp. virens, Origanum vulgare L. ssp. vulgare, Origanum x applii, Origanum x intercedens, Origanum x majoricum, P73 oreganol, phenolic glucosides, polyphenols, quercetin, Spanish oregano, Syrian oregano, Syrian oreganum, tannins, thymol, Toka oregano, Turkish oregano, Turkish Origanum acutidens, wild marjoram, wintersweet, zaatar.
  • Note: This bottom line does not include marjoram (Origanum majorana). This is discussed in the marjoram bottom line. The main species of interest in this bottom line is Origanum vulgare. However, due to the nature of oregano and the use of more than one species in the commercial spice, other species are discussed.

Background
  • Oregano is an herb that has been used to preserve and add flavor to food. The leaves, stems, and flowers have been used as medicine for menstrual, lung, and stomach or intestinal disorders.
  • Modern herbalists recommend taking oregano oil by mouth or applying it to the skin to treat infection. Strong human evidence for any clinical use of oregano is lacking.
  • Oregano is thought to have antifungal, antioxidant, antibacterial, and insect-repelling effects, although evidence is mixed. The antibacterial and antioxidant effects of oregano are of interest to the food industry as oregano may hold promise as a natural preservative.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *


The use of an herbal infusion containing oregano has been studied for use after tooth removal in people with hemophilia, a bleeding disorder. More research is needed in this area.

C


Early research suggests that oregano may improve cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. However, further study is needed before conclusions can be made.

C


Early study shows that taking oregano oil by mouth for six weeks may help treat some parasite infections. While promising, further research is needed to confirm these results.

C


Early study suggests that an ointment containing oregano may improve color and scar softness as well as reduce bacteria. However, more research is needed in this field.

C
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Abortion, acne, aging, allergies, altitude sickness, Alzheimer's disease, anthrax, antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, antiseptic, antiviral, arthritis, athlete's foot (applied to the skin), bad breath, bloating, blood thinner, bursitis (swelling between muscles and joints), cancer, canker sores (applied to the skin), colds, colon inflammation, cough, croup, dandruff, dental conditions (abscess, infection), diabetes, diabetic complications, diaphoretic (increases sweating), diarrhea, digestion, earache, flu, food flavoring, food poisoning, food preservative, gas, headaches, heart conditions, H. pylori infection, herpes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, immune function, improving urine flow, inflammation, insect repellent, joint pain, lice, liver damage, lung disorders, malaria, menstrual cramps, MRSA infection, nausea, pain, preservative (cosmetic), ringworm (applied to the skin), sinus infection, skin conditions, stomach disorders, tonic (mild), ulcers, urinary tract infections, varicose veins, warts, weight loss.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

  • Oregano has been taken by mouth in the following forms: capsules (containing 45 milligrams of pure oregano oil), 1-3 times daily with meals; 250-500 milligrams of leaf extract three times daily; 3-6 drops of oil, pure or diluted with olive oil, added to milk or juice 1-2 times daily; and a tea made from hot water and finely ground herb. Traditionally, 5-6 drops of oregano oil have been taken by mouth 2-3 times daily with sugar, and 1-4 drops of oregano tincture have been diluted in water and taken by mouth 2-3 times daily.
  • For heart disease prevention, 25 milliliters of oregano distillate have been taken by mouth after each meal for three months.
  • For the prevention of bleeding after tooth removal, 30 milliliters of an oregano infusion have been taken by mouth six times daily for 10 days.
  • For parasites, 200 milligrams of oregano oil have been taken by mouth three times daily with meals for six weeks.
  • For the common cold, 1-3 drops of oregano oil have been taken by mouth in a teaspoon of olive oil.
  • For cosmetic uses, oregano oil has been added to commercial shampoo and applied to the hair for a few minutes before rinsing.
  • For wound healing, a 3 percent oregano extract ointment has been applied to the skin twice daily for 10-14 days.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for oregano in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in people with known allergy or sensitivity to oregano, its parts, and other members of the Lamiaceae family.
  • Changes in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, difficulty speaking, itching, and swelling (eyelids, face, lips, and tongue) have been reported after oregano intake.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Oregano is likely safe when taken by mouth in amounts commonly found in foods by non-allergic individuals. Oregano leaf and oil have been given GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • Oregano in medicinal amounts may cause abortion, allergic skin reactions (bacterial skin infection and tenderness), central nervous system (CNS) depression, and changes in mineral absorption (copper, iron, and zinc).
  • Oregano may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in people with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
  • Oregano may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or low blood sugar, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood sugar levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Oregano may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs or herbs and supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Use cautiously in people who have autoimmune disorders.
  • Use cautiously in people who take agents that affect the immune system, CNS depressants, and mineral supplements.
  • Use cautiously in children, due to a lack of safety information.
  • Avoid in pregnant women when using at levels greater than those found in the diet, or when using the herbal combination product Carachipita®.
  • Avoid in people with known allergy or sensitivity to oregano, its parts, and other members of the Lamiaceae family.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • There is a lack of scientific evidence on the use of oregano during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Avoid in pregnant women when using at levels greater than those found in the diet, or when using the herbal combination product Carachipita®. Oregano in medicinal amounts may cause abortion.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Oregano may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
  • Oregano may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. People taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Oregano may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs that lower blood pressure.
  • Oregano may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be altered in the blood, and may cause altered effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. People using any medications should check the package insert, and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
  • Oregano may also interact with agents that affect blood vessel width, agents that affect the immune system, agents that cause abortion, agents that prevent blood vessel formation, agents that prevent muscle spasms, agents that treat skin disorders, agents that treat stomach and intestinal disorders, Alzheimer's agents, anti-anxiety agents, antibiotics, anticancer agents, anti-diarrhea agents, antifungal agents, antihistamines, anti-inflammatory agents, anti-malaria agents, anti-parasite agents, anti-protozoa agents, antiviral agents, central nervous system (CNS) depressants, cholesterol-lowering agents, fertility agents, furosemide, and hormonal agents.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Oregano may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
  • Oregano may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may be altered in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements possibly have on the P450 system.
  • Oregano may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
  • Oregano may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Oregano may also interact with alpha-tocopherol, Alzheimer's herbs and supplements, anti-anxiety herbs and supplements, antibacterials, anticancer herbs and supplements, anti-diarrhea herbs and supplements, antifungal herbs and supplements, antihistamines, anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements, anti-malaria herbs and supplements, antioxidants, anti-parasite herbs and supplements, antiviral herbs and supplements, basil, capsicum oleoresin, cinnamaldehyde, copper, cranberry, cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, fenugreek, fertility herbs and supplements, formic acid, garlic, green tea, herbs and supplements that affect blood vessel width, herbs and supplements that affect the immune system, herbs and supplements that cause abortion, herbs and supplements that prevent blood vessel formation, herbs and supplements that prevent muscle spasms, herbs and supplements that treat skin disorders, herbs and supplements that treat stomach and intestinal disorders, hormonal herbs and supplements, iron, lactic acid, methyl gallate, Mucuna pruriens, phytoestrogens, prebiotics, phytoprogestins, sedatives, sunflower oil, sweet marjoram, thyme, and zinc.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Chaouki W, Leger DY, Eljastimi J, et al. Antiproliferative effect of extracts from Aristolochia baetica and Origanum compactum on human breast cancer cell line MCF-7. Pharm.Biol. 2010;48(3):269-274.
  2. Dambolena JS, Zunino MP, Lucini EI, et al. Total phenolic content, radical scavenging properties, and essential oil composition of origanum species from different populations. J Agric.Food Chem. 1-27-2010;58(2):1115-1120.
  3. de Souza EL, de Barros JC, de Oliveira CE, et al. Influence of Origanum vulgare L. essential oil on enterotoxin production, membrane permeability and surface characteristics of Staphylococcus aureus. Int J Food Microbiol. 2-28-2010;137(2-3):308-311.
  4. Earley S. Endothelium-dependent cerebral artery dilation mediated by transient receptor potential and Ca2+-activated K+ channels. J.Cardiovasc.Pharmacol. 2011;57(2):148-153.
  5. El Babili F, Bouajila J, Souchard JP, et al. Oregano: chemical analysis and evaluation of its antimalarial, antioxidant, and cytotoxic activities. J.Food Sci. 2011;76(3):C512-C518.
  6. Frangos L, Pyrgotou N, Giatrakou V, et al. Combined effects of salting, oregano oil and vacuum-packaging on the shelf-life of refrigerated trout fillets. Food Microbiol. 2010;27(1):115-121.
  7. Gupta SK, Tshikaya M, Kingston M, et al. Comparative evaluation of herbs and spices against bacterial pathogens. Dent.Implantol.Update. 2012;23(10):73-79.
  8. Henning SM, Zhang Y, Seeram NP, et al. Antioxidant capacity and phytochemical content of herbs and spices in dry, fresh and blended herb paste form. Int.J.Food Sci.Nutr. 2011;62(3):219-225.
  9. Johnson JJ. Carnosol: a promising anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agent. Cancer Lett. 6-1-2011;305(1):1-7.
  10. Luna A, Labaque MC, Zygadlo JA, et al. Effects of thymol and carvacrol feed supplementation on lipid oxidation in broiler meat. Poult.Sci. 2010;89(2):366-370.
  11. Ragi J, Pappert A, Rao B, et al. Oregano extract ointment for wound healing: a randomized, double-blind, petrolatum-controlled study evaluating efficacy. J.Drugs Dermatol. 2011;10(10):1168-1172.
  12. Rosenbaum CC, O'Mathuna DP, Chavez M, et al. Antioxidants and antiinflammatory dietary supplements for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Altern.Ther.Health Med. 2010;16(2):32-40.
  13. Skrovankova S, Misurcova L, and Machu L. Antioxidant activity and protecting health effects of common medicinal plants. Adv.Food Nutr.Res. 2012;67:75-139.
  14. Wieten L, van der Zee R, Goedemans R, et al. Hsp70 expression and induction as a readout for detection of immune modulatory components in food. Cell Stress.Chaperones. 2010;15(1):25-37.
  15. Zou S, Carey JR, Liedo P, et al. Prolongevity effects of an oregano and cranberry extract are diet dependent in the Mexican fruit fly (Anastrepha ludens). J Gerontol.A Biol.Sci.Med Sci. 2010;65(1):41-50.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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