With cold and flu season around the corner, it’s a good idea to prepare in advance as much as we can. Oil of oregano could win an award as one of the most effective natural preventives and treatments for the common cold and flu. And in case you’re wondering, this oregano is not the same as the herb you put in your pasta sauce.
One reason oil of oregano is considered an essential oil hero is the presence of carvacrol, among the most bioactive components of this herb. This kryptonite of oregano has demonstrated its anti-crime potential in a number of ways; that is, it has antibacterial, antivirus, antifungus, antitumor, anti-inflammation, and antiparasitic properties.
Oil of oregano, which is made from the leaves and flowers of the herb, also contains some other potent compounds that can be helpful when you want to prevent or treat a cold or flu. Here are four reasons why this herb is so potent:
• Thymol: a natural antiseptic that can enhance immune system function and promote healing
• Beta-caryophyllin: known for its anti-inflammatory benefits
• Naringin: enhances the antioxidants in oregano oil, which in turn can improve its ability to fight cold and flu viruses
• Rosmarinic acid: an antioxidant that also is a natural antihistamine
To enjoy the health benefits of oregano, it’s essential that you chose an oil produced from wild oregano (Origanum vulgare), which is native to the Mediterranean, or from Thymus capitatus, a variety found in Spain. More than 40 other oregano species are available, so be sure to read the label and buy from reputable manufacturers only.
How Powerful is Oil of Oregano?
For those who want to see what the scientists say, there’s a study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology in which researchers exposed a mouse norovirus (a human norovirus surrogate) to oregano oil and carvacrol. Both treatments were effective against the virus, but carvacrol was better, inactivating the virus within one hour of exposure.
If you want to help prevent the spread of cold and flu viruses on your hands and household surfaces, then you may want to use liquid soap that contains oregano essential oil or add the oil to an all-natural brand you are using now. An investigative team looked at the use of liquid detergent solution with added oil of oregano (0.5%) and found that it was as effective as a commercial antimicrobial soap, but without the harmful ingredients such as triclosan and chloroxylenol (and since the FDA recently banned many antibacterial chemicals why not make a safer homemade alternative?).
Use Oil of Oregano for Colds and Flu
Since the taste of oil of oregano can be strong (which is a good thing!), I recommend diluting several drops of the oil in orange juice, olive oil, or coconut oil. However, according to Theresa Ramsey, NMD, if you place a few drops under your tongue and keep them there for several minutes, the strong taste will be minimal and the results will be faster and stronger (because it gets absorbed faster). If you prefer not to taste anything, then you can purchase oil of oregano capsules at natural product stores.
The general dosing for oil of oregano for adults is 2 to 3 drops three to four times daily once you have a cold or flu. For preventive or maintenance purposes, take 2 to 3 drops twice a day. If you choose to take supplements, use 100 to 150 mg capsules in place of the 3 to 4 doses daily. To treat a sore throat, you can add 5 to 6 drops of oregano oil to a glass of water and gargle several times a day (I like to place the drops directly in my throat so I’m sure it is doing its magic!).
Oil of oregano can be given to children, although the strong taste makes convincing them a challenge. Fortunately there are oregano oil supplements specially formulated for youngsters (including natural mint oil to mask the taste of the oregano), and they should be dosed as recommended by the manufacturer. You can also add a couple of drops of the liquid to the bottom of their feet and then cover with socks to trap the vapors. We call this “pizza feet” in our house.
You also can add a few drops of the oil in a diffuser or vaporizer to help clear up a stuffy nose and sinuses. Breathe in the pleasant aroma for a few minutes several times a day.
Finally, you should limit your use of oregano oil to only 7 to 10 days. Oil of oregano is not recommended for infants, pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding or anyone who has high blood pressure or heart disease.
[Editor’s Note: We recommend choosing a quality oil of oregano supplement from our sponsor, North American Herb and Spice.]
Gilling DH et al. Antiviral efficacy and mechanisms of action of oregano essential oil and its primary component carvacrol against murine norovirus. Journal of Applied Microbiology 2014 May; 116(5): 1149-63
Rhoades J et al. Oregano essential oil as an antimicrobial additive to detergent for hand washing and food contact surface cleaning. Journal of Applied Microbiology 2013 Oct; 115(4): 987-94