Oregano Oil: Nature’s Antibiotic
How often have you heard – or even thought – I'll just go in and get a round of antibiotics – for an ailment of any sort? Usually, the physician concurs, and today's antibiotic of choice is prescribed. Childhood ear infections, cold symptoms, you name it.
The problem with automatic prescription of antibiotics, due to patient demand or physician ignorance, is that they are only effective against bacterial infections. If our illness is viral and we take an antibiotic, we're risking the loss of beneficial bacteria in our bodies and aiding the creation of bacteria-resistant superbugs, all with no healing benefit. Even when we are facing a bacterial illness, finding the right antibiotic is much more effective than prescribing a broad-spectrum antibiotic.
The Wall Street Journal brought this significant public health concern to light in a 2013 article about antibiotic overuse and misuse, stating: (1)
“Overuse of antibiotics, and prescribing broad-spectrum drugs when they aren't needed, can cause a range of problems. It can make the drugs less effective against the bacteria they are intended to treat by fostering the growth of antibiotic-resistant infections. And it can wipe out the body's good bacteria, which help digest food, produce vitamins and protect from infections, among other functions.
- In a July study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, researchers from the University of Utah and the CDC found that 60% of the time physicians prescribe antibiotics, they choose broad-spectrum ones….
- A similar study of children, published in the journal Pediatrics in 2011, found that when antibiotics were prescribed they were broad-spectrum 50% of the time, mainly for respiratory conditions….
Both studies also found that about 25% of the time antibiotics were being prescribed for conditions in which they have no use, such as viral infections.”
Essentially, our current approach to prescribe broad spectrum antibiotics out of reflex is like sending the atomic bomb where the A-Team would have sufficed.
Natural Antibiotic Alternative
No, pizza is not going to cure your bacterial illness.
Medicinal grade oregano (Origanum vulgare and Origanum majorana) is grown in the Mediterannean, and its essential oil is extracted via distillation. Each pound of oil is a product of over 1,000 pounds of wild oregano, forming a potent and valuable medicine that has been valued for thousands of years and countless cultures.
Most consumers have no idea that antibiotics come in multiple forms. Beyond the indication of broad-spectrum antibiotics, there are more qualifications that determine how an antibiotic is most effectively used – Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria are affected in their own ways, and certain antibiotics will be more effective against one than the other.
The Journal of Medicinal Food published an analysis of oregano oil's efficacy against three Gram-negative (Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa) and two Gram-positive ( Staphylococus aureus , Bacillus subtilis) bacteria. Medicinal, true oregano (Origanum vulgare) harvested at various growth stages were tested, and all three were effective against all five bacterial strains. (2)
With clear results against these common bacteria – especially the food safety-related E. coli and Salmonella – including oregano essential oil in meals seems wise for gastrointestinal protection and disease prevention.
We could go on for pages about the antibiotic effects of oregano oil, but there's more to it than that. Unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics that are essentially one trick ponies, oregano oil carries with it so many more benefits. It is truly the ultimate natural treatment and an answer to standard antibiotics.
Within the oregano essential oil extract, a phenol component called carvacol is arguably the reason that oil of oregano is so strong. When you search the PubMed database of peer-reviewed literature, carvacol is referenced in more than 800 separate returns. Researchers are intrigued by this component, to say the least.
Some of the conditions carvacol and oregano oil have been indicated for, aside from bacterial infections, include fungi, parasites, viruses, inflammation, cell death, tumors, pain, histamine reactions, and oxidative stress.
Carvacol stepped out among the crowd of medicinal components when the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences highlighted its ability to detoxify and protect against side effects caused by Methotrexate. (4) Methotrexate (MTX) is well known as dangerous but used anyway for its treatment capability in severe illness such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.
In order to measure the interaction between MTX and carvacol, MTX-treated mice were observed with and without carvacol. The anti-inflammatory effects were able to inhibit the negative effects of MTX. Similarly, carvacol has also been shown to potentially, “”prevent pathogenic overgrowth and colonization in the large intestine during oral iron therapy” – a therapy for anemia associated with severe gastrointestinal complaints. (5)
The research that follows will be exciting to watch, because the implications of a natural remedy able to limit the effects of necessary prescriptions are vast. Beyond fascination, someone taking harsh treatments such as iron therapy or chemotherapy could face a very different future with the side effects controlled.
Although the scientific literature is very quiet regarding specific essential oil protocols, many people have found the following to be helpful:
- Apply diluted oregano oil on the bottoms of feet. Proper dilution depends on individual sensitivity: 1 drop of EO per 3-5 drops of carrier oil is a good start for adults. For children use extra caution and be sure to use even more carrier oil.
- Put 1 drop of oregano + 1 drop of tea tree in a gel capsule and consume. For people battling a cold, consider taking up two capsules a day.
Practical Oregano Oil Use
After lambasting unnecessary use of antibiotics, then singing the praises of a powerful one, you are no doubt wondering what limits we should place on oregano oil and how it should be used properly.
At this point, we can't be sure, really.
Because of its potency and capabilities, oregano oil should be used carefully alongside the guidance of a natural health expert or naturally-minded health care provider. Always dilute it, and be sure to take orally in a gel capsule instead of straight with water.
If it's strong enough to tackle MTX, it's strong enough to be taken seriously. Seek out a natural health provider today and see how oregano oil might fit within your lifestyle and regimen.
Safety & Contraindications
When it comes to drug interactions and contraindications, there are literally textbooks devoted to the study of essential oil safety, and I must defer to the chemists, pharmacists and experts who understand this complicated topic more than I.
With that said, as a trained researcher and doctor, I think it’s important to note that there is virtually no research out there discussing how essential oils interact with drugs in human clinical trials. Essentially, what this means is that essential oil safety is still a wild frontier in the science community and no one really knows (for certain) how essential oils will interact with drugs or your body.
Let common sense be your guide. Still, be sure to maintain proper dilutions, and general safety considerations still apply. As always, discontinue use if any adverse reactions occur and consult your physician immediately.