Side Effects of Oregano Oil and How to Use it Safely

Oregano oil has gained popularity in recent years as a natural supplement touted to have antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties. Derived from the oregano plant (Origanum vulgare), oregano oil contains phenolic compounds including thymol and carvacrol which give it its health-promoting effects.

A bottle of oregano essential oil with blooming oregano twigs on a wooden background

However, there are some potential side effects to be aware of when using oregano oil. While considered safe for most people when used appropriately, overuse of this potent oil can cause unwanted reactions.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover:

  • How oregano oil works
  • Benefits of oregano oil
  • Proper dosage and dilution
  • Side effects and safety precautions
  • Who should avoid or be cautious with oregano oil
  • Interactions with medications
  • How to use oregano oil safely

How Oregano Oil Works

The active ingredients in oregano oil responsible for its therapeutic actions are thymol, carvacrol, cavacrol, terpinene and rosmanol. These phytochemicals have strong antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory effects in the body.

Oregano oil is thought to work by:

  • Destroying bacterial cell membranes and disrupting bacterial growth and replication
  • Inhibiting biofilm formation which helps protect and strengthen colonies of bacteria
  • Neutralizing dangerous free radicals that can damage cells and DNA
  • Calming inflammatory pathways that lead to swelling, overactive immune responses, and chronic disease
  • Suppressing the growth of candida, fungi and molds
  • Relaxing gastrointestinal muscles to ease cramping and bloating

Evidence shows oregano oil can be effective against drug-resistant bacteria like MRSA and treats conditions including yeast infections, parasite infections, urinary tract infections, SIBO, and acne. The phenols may also help lower cholesterol.

Benefits of Oregano Oil

Some of the top evidence-based benefits of using oregano oil are:

  • Has antibacterial effects – Active against staphylococcus aureus, E.coli, listeria, salmonella
  • Fights fungal infections – Effective against candida albicans yeast
  • Treats parasites – Kills intestinal parasites and amoebic infections
  • Eases digestive issues – Relieves bloating, gas, indigestion, and cramps
  • Supports gut and immune health – Stimulates blood flow, reduces inflammation and fights infections
  • Improves skin issues – Treats warts, rashes, dandruff, acne, fungal infections
  • Promotes heart health – Lowers LDL cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Provides antioxidant protection – Neutralizes free radicals and oxidative stress
  • Alleviates allergies and sinus congestion – Opens up airways and acts as a decongestant

As you can see, oregano oil has a wide range of uses and benefits for health promotion and treating common conditions. However, it must be used properly to avoid potential side effects.

Proper Dosage and Dilution

Oregano oil should always be diluted before use because it is so concentrated. Applying it topically or ingesting it undiluted can result in skin irritation, rashes and burns. A typical dilution is 1 part oregano oil to 3 parts carrier oil. Oils like olive, coconut, jojoba, almond or avocado oil are commonly used.

For adults, the typical oral dose is 4 to 6 drops of oregano oil diluted in 4 ounces of liquid, up to 3 times daily.

To treat things like yeast infections, respiratory infections or sinus issues, it can be diluted with coconut oil or olive oil and applied topically. Always do a patch test before wider application.

Due to its potency, oregano oil should be used for short time periods of 2-6 weeks maximum. Children and pregnant women should avoid ingesting oregano oil.

Be sure to read packaging for specific dilution, dosage and cautionary information before using. Also, oregano oil should always be bought from a reputable source.

Side Effects and Safety Precautions

Used correctly, oregano oil is safe for most people. However, there are some potential side effects to be aware of:

  • Skin irritation – rashes, redness, stinging or burning
  • Gastrointestinal distress – nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Allergic reactions – hives, itching, swelling
  • Low blood pressure
  • Liver toxicity at high doses – only use for 2-6 week periods
  • Drug interactions – interacts with lithium, diabetes and blood pressure medications

Other precautions for safe use of oregano oil include:

  • Avoid near eyes, ears, genital areas, mucus membranes
  • Keep away from infants and young children
  • Don’t use if pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Don’t use directly in the mouth or nose
  • Monitor for allergic reactions and stop use if they occur
  • Don’t exceed 4-6 drops per day if taking orally

Oregano oil should also always be stored properly in an airtight dark glass container away from light and heat which can degrade the active compounds.

Who Should Avoid Oregano Oil

The following people should exercise more caution or avoid using oregano oil:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women – Not enough research on safety
  • Children under 7 years old – Risk of toxicity due to smaller body size
  • People with liver conditions – Can tax liver function at high doses
  • People with blood clotting disorders – Oregano acts as a blood thinner
  • People taking lithium – Interacts and can cause side effects
  • People allergic to oregano, mint or basil – Higher risk of allergic reaction
  • People getting surgery – Stop at least 2 weeks prior as it thins blood

Talk to your doctor before using oregano oil if you have any ongoing health issues or take prescription medications. Stop usage immediately if you experience headaches, dizziness or flu-like symptoms.

Interactions with Medications

There are some known medication interactions to be cautious about when taking oregano oil. These include:

  • Diabetes medications – Oregano oil may lower blood sugar so these meds may need adjusted
  • Anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs – Oregano acts as a blood thinner so can increase effects of these drugs like Coumadin, Plavix, etc.
  • Immunosuppressant medications – Oregano acts as immune stimulant so may decrease effectiveness
  • Birth control pills – Oregano oil may reduce efficacy of contraceptives due to hormone-like activity
  • Lithium – Oregano can increase how much lithium is flushed out causing lower blood levels

Always check with your doctor about potential oregano oil interactions with your prescriptions, especially diabetes, blood clotting and blood pressure medications. Stop taking oregano oil 2 weeks before any scheduled surgical procedures.

How to Use Oregano Oil Safely

To recap, here are some tips for safely using oregano oil:

  • Always dilute oregano oil before use with a carrier oil like olive or coconut oil
  • Use proper dosage of 4-6 drops per day and avoid long term use
  • Never apply undiluted oregano oil directly in eyes, ears or nose
  • Do a skin patch test before wider application to check for rashes or irritation
  • Ingest oregano oil with food or water rather than alone
  • Monitor for side effects like low blood pressure, nausea, or dizziness
  • Read product instructions carefully and buy from trusted manufacturers
  • Store the oil properly in an amber bottle away from light and heat
  • Avoid use if pregnant, breastfeeding or giving to children under 7
  • Talk to your doctor before use if you have a medical condition or take prescription medications

Used wisely, oregano oil can be a beneficial addition to a holistic health routine. However, moderation is key as well as taking precautions to avoid adverse reactions. With safe use, oregano oil may provide relief from bacterial infections, parasites, fungal overgrowth, inflammation and more without the need for endless rounds of antibiotics. As with any supplement though, use discretion and consult your healthcare provider.

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