Oil of Oregano: All anecdotes, no science

herbal-remedies

Oil of oregano has been around for several years, yet its ubiquity in pharmacies makes it worthy of scrutiny.  Is there any plausible science to support the claims made about oil of oregano? Does it belong in pharmacies that offer medicines that are based on good science?

How did herbs come to be used to treat infections?

One of the obvious signs of infection and disease can be a foul odour. Long before our scientific understanding of bacteria and antimicrobials, people treated wounds with different products in an attempt to minimize the odour, and hopefully speed healing. It’s likely that someone happened upon a fragrant herb and discovered that it seemed to help treat wounds (or at least, cover some of the smell.)

Plants and herbs have been tremendous sources of drug therapy research, as they contain many biologically active compounds. Several prescription drugs come from plant sources, and many others are based on compounds originally identified in plants. There’s been some investigation of oregano leaves to examine the components, and test if it might offer any medicinal effects.

What’s in oil of oregano?

Oregano leaves contain a wide variety of chemical compounds, including leanolic acids, ursolic acids, and phenolic glycosides. Phenolic compounds make up to 71% of the oil. Carvacrol, thymol, cymene, and terpinine and are found in oregano leaves and do appear to have biological effects. It’s these chemicals that are proposed to be the parts with beneficial effects.

What is oil of oregano supposed to do?

After reading some of the internet ads and pharmacy brochures, you may ask yourself, “Is there anything that oil of oregano doesn’t do?” The claims for oil of oregano are truly impressive: “Oregano P73 is the medicine chest in a bottle, especially since it is proven to never harm the internal organs, even when used daily for health maintenance,” according to one marketing article.

It’s been proposed as a therapy for the following conditions: [1] [2] [3]

External uses: ant repellent, insect repellent, acne, athlete’s foot, psoriasis, ringworm, rosacea, muscle pain, varicose veins, warts.

Internal uses: asthma, croup, bronchitis, upset stomach, arthritis, diabetes, immune “booster”, cancer, parasites, allergies, bladder infections, headaches, various heart conditions.

How a single product can bring so much benefit to so many conditions would make it truly remarkable – almost magical in its effectiveness. So let’s look at what the science says.

What does the science say?

Oil of oregano is a great example of how test tube studies can be misleadingly exaggerated to imply meaningful effects in humans. With oil of oregano, a few small studies have been conducted, mainly in the lab, and believers argue  we should expect the same thing when we take it orally.

When we think about using a substance to give a medicinal effect, we have to ask the following questions: (1) is it absorbed into the body at all? (2) Does enough reach the right part of the body to have an effect? (3) Does it actually work for the condition? (4) Does it have any hazardous, unwanted effects? (5) Can it be safely eliminated from the body?

1. Is oil of oregano absorbed? Some parts of the oregano do appear to be absorbed but these chemicals do not have any proven medicinal effects.

2. Does enough reach the right part of the body to have any beneficial effect? It’s not clear where the chemicals in oil of oregano act in the body, and no research has been done to show that it is adequately absorbed. However, there is some evidence to suggest that oregano may be implicated in inducing abortions [1] , so if this is indeed possible, some parts of the herb must be absorbed when taken at very high doses. When applied to body surfaces or skin, oil of oregano is more likely to reach high concentrations, and then possibly deliver a medicinal effect. Consequently, uses for these types of treatments are more plausible than internal uses.

3. Does it actually work for the condition? There is no published evidence to demonstrate that that oil of oregano is effective for any medical condition or illness. There is some very limited evidence to suggest that it might be useful for parasite infections – but given the evidence consists of only one study with 14 patients, and no placebo comparison, we really have no idea if the oregano oil was effective. The bottom line is that despite all the marketing, press, and sales, there is no research that exists to demonstrate that oil of oregano does anything useful in or on our bodies.

Let’s consider how oil of oregano might treat an infection. Bacteria are killed by antimicrobials based on a specific dose-response relationship. A minimum amount must be present at the site of infection, called the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC). Then there’s a range where the bacteria (or viruses, or fungi, or parasites, depending on what you’re treating) are killed, in rough proportion to the dose. Finally, you may hit a range where side effects and toxicity are noted. You repeat the dose as often as necessary to maintain the MIC at the site of infection.

There’s some evidence out there demonstrating that oil of oregano will kill different species of bacteria, etc in the test tube or petri dish – i.e., in vitro. Big deal. If I pour a pile of salt, lime juice, Cointreau, or tequila on a petri dish, it will likely kill most bacteria too. It’s not difficult to kill bacteria if you change the conditions enough that it cannot live. So while it’s easy to get high concentrations of oregano in a test tube and subsequent positive effects, these effects are meaningless in the human body unless we can achieve similar concentrations, without any toxicity to our body. And there is no evidence that this occurs with oil of oregano.

So just like you can’t cure an infection by drinking margaritas, you shouldn’t simply expect oil of oregano to kill any infections in your body – there is no evidence to demonstrate that you can safely consume the oil, absorb an adequate amount, and treat an infection or any other condition.

4. Does oil of oregano have any hazardous, unwanted effects? Just because a product is sourced from nature doesn’t mean it’s safe. Remember that cyanide, atropine, and poison ivy are all plant-derived, and quite toxic.

There are some reports of gastrointestinal upset with oil of oregano. [1] There are also reports of allergic reactions, so it’s possible that you might have some sort of undesirable reaction, whether you consume it, or put it on your skin.

There is no evidence to suggest that oil of oregano, used at high (medicinal) amounts, may be used safely in pregnant or breast feeding women [1]. However, when used in cooking, and as part of a regular diet, there is no evidence that it causes any harm to a fetus, or to breastfeeding babies. [1]

5. Can oil of oregano be safely eliminated from the body? So little published research exists on oil of oregano there is no way to determine if oregano oil is non-toxic. Certainly, at low doses, when used as a food, there is no reason to have any concerns. But at higher doses, and particularly with regular use, there is no data that has determined that it’s safe to consume all that carvacrol, thymol, cymene, and terpinine. As we have no idea if and how oregano oil works, we have no information to estimate what a proper dose might be. Consequently, dosing instruction you might read elsewhere are made up or simply anecdotal  – they’re not based on any science at all.

Conclusion

Despite its popularity, there is no science to support the use of oil of oregano for any medical condition. It’s not even pseudoscience. Suggesting that this herb is can effectively treat serious medical conditions like diabetes, asthma, and cancer is dangerous quackery. Unless your local drug store also sells groceries, oregano has no place in the science-based pharmacy. Save your oregano for your cooking, and use proven medicines for your illnesses.

References

[1] Oregano. In: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database [database on the Internet]. Stockton (CA): Therapeutic Research Faculty; 1995-2009 [cited 23 March 2009] Available from: http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Subscription required to view.

[2]Oregano. In: Drugs.com [database on the Internet]. Auckland, NZ [cited 23 March 2009] Available from: http://www.drugs.com/npp/oregano.html.

[3]Oregano. In CAMline [database on the Internet]. Toronto, ON [cited 23 March 2009] Available from: http://www.camline.ca

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69 thoughts on “Oil of Oregano: All anecdotes, no science

  1. Charles Dobbs says:

    So, as you say, you have no idea how oil of oregano (oreganol) works. How many drugs that have gone through 10-20 years of your “Science” and “Government” aproval end up being useless and or extremely harmful to the body. And read the side effects of these Science aproved drugs! I will give you just a simple example. Check out the drug called Toprol. It’s side effects are devastating to many people. And science has yet to figure out how Asprin works. Finally I must tell you of my “non-science” experience with Oreganol. I have suffered from 2-3 severe sinus infections every year for 15 years. After several months of taking 2 drops of oreganol twice a day, I noticed that I was not getting the infections anymore. It has now been about a year and a half and I have not had a sinus infection. I am so glad!

    • Where to start. We actually do know how acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) works. It’s been around since about 1899 so the mechanism is well understood. It’s a cyclooxygenase inhibitor that blocks the formation of prostaglandins from arachidonic acid. Don’t take my word for it, google “acetylsalicylic acid” and “pharmacology” or “mechanism of action” and you’ll find it all laid out for you in hundreds of articles.

      Not sure what you’re talking about with metoporolol (Toprol). This drug has multiple actions, but most importantly, it’s been demonstrated to reduce the risk of death following a heart attack. The scientific method determined this. It has side effects, yes, but so does any drug. You cannot have effects without some sort of side effects. There are alternatives to Toprol – but for many people it has meant the difference between life and death.

      I’m pleased you’re not having sinus infections anymore. But you are performing a scientific experiment. It’s an open label, n=1 evaluation of oil of oregano for the prevention of sinus infections. The problem is, we have no ability to know if the effects are due to the oil of oregano or not. That’s why we do clinical trials to test if the effects are real, or just a placebo.

      Oil of oregano has a lot of interesting chemicals in it. The fact is, they have not been evaluated in a way that is meaningful Consequently, claims of effectiveness are not supported. In order to make claims about a product, advocates should be required to support their claims with evidence. And the makers of Oreganol seem more interested in touting their product as the cure for just about anything, rather than spending any money to do the real science required to back up their claim.

      • Patrick says:

        Scott, I agree that well-controlled studies are required. But Big Pharma is not going to fund those studies because they can’t patent oil of oregano. So how do you recommend getting those studies started? I, for one, have had some positive experiences with Oregano. I’d love to know if my experiences could be replicated, but I see very little interest from the scientific community in conducting that sort of test on a long-established “traditional” remedy.

        Thanks,

        Patrick

  2. Charles:

    One example (or even a few examples) of drugs-gone-wrong proves little about the usefulness of an entire *system*. The side-effects of drugs (like Toprol) only become known *because* they are carefully studied and monitored. Sometimes such discoveries are made later rather than sooner — but better that it’s well-studied than not.

    As for your personal experience with oreganol: that’s a happy story. I’m glad your problem got better. But it could also be a coincidence. Drug companies are forced, by the legal and ethical standards that government them, to design drug trials carefully to rule out the dozens of ways in which personal, first-hand observation is likely to be biased. If drug companies were allowed to market a drug based solely on mere anecdotes from happy customers, can you imagine just how bad that would be?

    Chris

  3. George Spaeth says:

    Patrickconduct the study yourself.  get 100 (may not be enough but it’s  reasonable start) people and use a random numbers table to divide them into two groups. Tell them that you are conducting a study to see if oregano works. Tell them they will be given a bottle that contains enough to last 2 months, and then they will be given another bottle that will last another two months.  tell them all the known side effects of oregana.  Get them to consent to take part in the study, with the understanding that it is really important for them to keep in the study for the full four months. They must want to take part.  they must know that they may be getting a bottle with oregano in it ar a bottle with no aregan in it and that they will not be told which.  Study what you want (post nasal drip, “sinus infection”, you chose). Make up 100 bottles of olive oil, 1/2 half with oregon (you chose the dose) and 1/1 without. Develop a quatititive survey to measure the desired outcome (number of “sinus problems per month or whatever) then distribute the bottles.  Check with each person each week to make sure they are taking the oil and filling our the survey. After 2 months change the bottles (they all must look alike) so that those people getting the orengano now get no oregano and visa versa.  Don’t tell the people about the change.
    Make sure they continue to fill out the survey about the outcome you are studying. At the end of the 4 months use standard statistical methods to see if there is a difference between the outcome in those who took the oregano and those who did not. If you see a difference – great. There may be problems with the study (perhaps the oregano bottles tastedifferent from the non oregano bottles – etc etc. if so the study is no good). If you don’t see a difference it does not mean oregano doesn’t work. you may just not have studied enough people long enough.
    But, to cut to the chase. The stuff may work. Why doesn’t somebody who believes it may do a study to see if it really does??

  4. lu says:

    I couldn’t afford to finance a study, but I too, wish someone would. But I do have a success story for it. I have bad bronchitis & I take a few drops a few times daily when it is acting up & I’ve never found anything that’s helped it as much as this does. It sure cleans mucous from the chest fast also. Also use it for sinus & works great. I’d tried everything before & this works as well as antibiotic. I certainly would know if it wasn’t working, as would have to get an antibiotic for sure, as it gets bad if I do nothing & really get sick. Ths stuff is great for colds also & some skin problems. I can tell what works & what doesn’t on my body.

    • Karen says:

      I also find that it cleans mucous out marvelously. And I have found that if I take oil of oregano when I am catching a cold, I am not sick for nearly as long as when I am not taking it.

      I haven’t been taking oil of oregano for long, but I plan to continue to take it and observe the effects on my body.

      It frustrates me that there are no proper studies done on oil of oregano. Just because there is little money to be made from it doesn’t mean that the FDA should be able to ignore it an focus on more expensive medications.

  5. One issue. I am not an expert, but I believe the cooking variety and the “healing” variety are completely different plant species, however the author seemed to imply they were the same. What oregano was being written about?

    • The same herb is used for cooking and “oil of oregano” production. The scientific name is Origanum vulgare (Family: Lamiaceae/Labiatae)

    • From that study:

      Six of the mice received oregano oil for 30 days, and 50% of this group survived the 30-day treatment. ”

      Not a promising safety profile.

      • Tina says:

        Actually, I would consider that VERY promising considering ALL of the mice who didn’t receive the oregano oil died. I’ll take a 50% chance over no chance any day.

        From that study:

        Six of the mice received oregano oil for 30 days, and 50% of this group survived the 30-day treatment. Six received the carvacrol in olive oil, not oregano oil, and none survived longer than 21 days. Six mice received olive oil alone with no active agents (the control group) and all died within three days.

      • @Tina No comparison is reported to efficacy compared with antibiotics, which is the true comparator, and the standard of care. That’s the basis of my comment about the safety profile. You are correct that compared to olive oil, this finding is consistent with what may be a treatment effect. There are chemically active components in the oil, as I pointed out.

      • Jackie says:

        Hooray! Thank you for writing that! Why, “hooray”? Because you have marked yourself as INTELLECTUALLY DISHONEST.

        CONGRATULATIONS! Reading what you’ve written has, in one fell swoop, gone from “perhaps relevant” to “beyond irrelevant.”

        Thanks for saving me (and probably others) the time of reading anything else you write.

      • Jackie says:

        Well, aren’t you a pretentious shit.

        You don’t like my comment, so you censor it?!

        Shame on you for not only being dishonest in the content of your comments but also for your dishonesty.

        Jackass.

      • Well you are right in that Scott is a pretentious shit, but remind me how that indisputable fact makes oil of oregano work? :) (PS…I like how you waited 24 hours and 19 minutes to decide that Scott is evil.)

      • ErikD says:

        Jackie, I know this is whole intertubes thing is confusing, so a couple of helpful tips:

        1) It’s not uncommon for blogs to moderate comments to avoid the discussion filling up with spam — most blogs get thousands a week. If you take a moment to look at the other comments, you’ll notice there’s lots of people who’ve disagreed with Scott and not gotten censored. And indeed, neither did you.

        2) When debating the other humans, it’s best to qualify your statements with something we like to call facts. Facts differ from personal attacks and accusations by their inclusion of facts, which are almost entirely fact-based.

        3) Although swearing at people you disagree with will usually convince them you’re right and they’re wrong, there are times when it’s not the best strategy. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.

        Go in peace.

        Bitch.

      • Jackie says:

        Interesting.

        My first comment was initially posted but also shown as pending moderation. The next time I checked, it was just plain *gone*. That’s not the “pending moderation” with which I am familiar.

        I attempted to post a new response. I hit “post comment” and, while the page refreshed, that comment never showed up at all.

        Suspicious, I used a different e-mail address. That posting did show up.

        From my perspective, before those posts reappeared, it looked like 1) dissent would not be tolerated and 2) those dissenting would be prohibited from further participation (via e-mail-address blocking).

        Combine that with the intellectual dishonesty so thoroughly in evidence in Scott’s reply. That kind of behavior should be called out, not protected.

        So, yeah, my comment was a bit spicier than I usually (or almost ever) send.

        @Kim – I was reading this site because I was curious about OoO, not so much because I was on one side or the other. :)

        @ErikD – Well, aren’t you impressed with yourself. That seems to be going around in this neck of the woods.

        In reply to your comment:

        1) Some moderation. The post is there. Then the post isn’t there. Then you can’t make a subsequent post with the same e-mail address. Then you CAN make a post with a different address. I still find the lot of it rather atypical, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

        2) “Facts differ from personal attacks and accusations by their inclusion of facts, which are almost entirely fact-based.”

        Woot! Hot dog and criminy! Such highfalutin talk!

        Phew. So sorry. I got overexcited there for a second by the presence of such greatness. Back to the subject at hand.

        Scott was intellectually dishonest; that’s the most relevant fact. How did someone of your intellectual caliber fail to miss it? I mean, really, it’s such a JUICY fact. But thanks for the chuckle.

        3) Oh my, my, YES, I used NAUGHTY WORDS! I did! If you would notice, however, they were not in response to a substantive disagreement regarding the subject matter (Oregano Oil) but rather in response to my friggin’ post disappearing (ohmygosh–naughtynaughtywords!–Ididitagain!!!)

        Cheers.

  6. Jackie says:

    Oil of Oregano has relieved me of unproductive and annoying cough. I have only taken about 6 times over last two weeks. However, an eye exam today showed small vessels in back of eye may indicate low iron. I have never had low iron and wonder if the oil of oregano could be causing this? I don’t have any symtoms of low iron but know poor absorbtion of iron is a side effect or Oregano oil.

  7. ken.absolute says:

    Good health these days tends to be bestowed on quiet types and is increasingly something kept private since health and diet has exceeded politics and religion as a taboo conversation topic. Any increased quality of life I have from following a [none of your business] diet and using non-FDA approved natural remedies is usually something I just keep to myself, but given the topic of the blog…

    I make a 1:8 mix of oregano oil and coconut oil as a foot ointment. No more stinky feet/shoes. Not half bad on grilled eggplant either.

    I Don’t know if it is good for other things, as I’ve not really had issues I needed to try it out on. Topical application results certainly is not a indication of how it will work internally. Regardless, natural remedies are the bane of pharmaceuticals and unless you have $700 million to get FDA approved testing, you can forget about mainstream medical professionals taking it seriously. Unfortunate, since such approvals can ensure quality and a more accurately labeled product and warning labels – like a warning to anemics who should not take it within two hours of iron supplementation since it may inhibit iron absorption in some people.

  8. Bruce Hale says:

    I understand that there’s not a great deal of science to back the claims of Oil of Oregano.
    But for myself I have been taking it every time I get a sore throat or cold for the past 3 years.
    I can say 100% that it will knock a sore throat out of me in one or two days compared with doing nothing or going to the doctor & taking penicillin where I will have the sore throat for a entire week.
    I find it reduces the overal recovery time of colds and is indeed very effective against sore throats.
    I take a pretty high dose for the sore throat.
    The bottle says 1 to 5 drops in the mouth 1 to 6 times a day, I usually take around 20 drops 2 or 3 times a day to achieve the benefit I mentioned above.

    Bruce.

    Toronto.Canada

    • Does it knock out your sore throat? Or did it go away in 2 days? Or are you perceiving less discomfort because you took something? You can’t be sure. That’s where scientific testing is useful because it can test whether there’s a real effect, if the ailment just went away on its own, or if you are experiencing a placebo effect.

      Are you sure you’re comparing it to nothing? Are you sure the only change you’ve made is to add oil of oregano to the situation? Are you sure you are comparing similar ailments (sore throats can have a variety of causes)? Why do you have to take well above the recommended dose to get relief? People are generally not skilled at objectively evaluating things. Again, scientific research can isolate certain variables to get a clearer, more objective picture of what’s going on, comparing the treatment with a placebo or doing nothing to ensure there’s a real effect.

  9. Aleila says:

    The problem I have with this article is the condescending tone; re: “It’s not even pseudoscience.”

    I think we can all agree that scientific methods are generally the best way of measuring the efficacy of products. However, science and scientists have let us down in the past (DES, Thalidomide, Pondimin, Propulsid, Raplon, Raxar, Hismanal, Seldane, Vioxx, Serzone, etc, etc.)

    It’s time that certain hard-nosed scientists understand that just because they have not yet found a reason or devised a test for why something works that is no reason to conclude that it therefore does not work.

    A true scientist can allow for mystery (example: why prayer seems to work) while doing their best to protect people from hokum.

    And we’ll pass on the reductive asides, thank you very much (“Save your oregano for your cooking, and use proven medicines for your illnesses.”)

    BTW: I have been using Oil of Wild Oregano For about a week now and I have to say, it really is quite remarkable stuff. Normally I have to use inhalers and nose sprays (with steroids) to control my asthma cough. I called my MD (a man of science!) when my cough began and left a message on his voicemail asking him to call in a prescription for me. He never replied and never called anything in. (Thanks, doc!) Left to my own devices while I got sicker every day, I stumbled upon this stuff.

    Is it as effective as the steroids? No.

    Does it work? Yes, it does.

    I do have to use it more often but it is less expensive and I prefer it.

    Scientists: Get to work! The rest of us will do what we have to in the meantime.

    • Problems with prescription and nonprescription drugs neither invalidates real medicine nor does it validate alt-health nostrums like oil of oregano. The issue with oil of oregano is that there is zero persuasive evidence to demonstrate it has any meaningful clinical effects. There isn’t even any compelling pre-clinical evidence to suggest it would be effective for something like asthma, or most of the other purported uses. All claims of efficacy are based (at best) on anecdote.

      Health professionals want to help people with their illnesses. Whether a treatment is “natural” or not, if it’s effective, it’s medicine. When there are established treatments with favourable risk-benefit ratios, it is unethical for a health professional to recommend a product for which there is no prior plausibility and no evidence of efficacy.

      • Aleila says:

        I am the “evidence of efficacy.”

        You have missed the point, my friend.
        Problems with prescription drugs does indeed invalidate what you call, “real medicine” ie: pharma. True medicine (whether herbal or pharma) is that which works. Not that which harms.

        Your stubborn belief that clinical trials are full-proof is naive at best.
        I personally know two people who were left sterile because their mothers took DES. The harm that it did to these individuals who were never able to have children and the enormous pain they and their spouses suffered is wretched. And neither one was ever compensated in any way.
        What do you say now? Still believe that big pharma is the only way to go?

      • Michael says:

        I agree with Aleila – your bias against “alt methods” as you put it, is so blatant, that it renders most of your words meaningless to me. There are FAR more incidence of ‘accepted’ drugs killing people, delivering horrible side effects than any herb has to its credit. This DOES matter when considering the entire scenario.
        On oregano oil, your ignorance shows – there ARE studies that prove its efficacy. You’re just not aware of them and clearly haven’t attempted to find them. No doubt, if you do find them, you will shred them to pieces, mainly to fulfill your agenda of touting that only “accepted” methods reign, and that most “alt” methods are useless. Just because the FDA has not “approved” a demonstrated, published study, does not mean that the study is not valid.
        If you can’t see the absolute in-congruency of what the FDA has accepted and rejected (accepted despite dire side-effects demonstrated, rejected despite clinical evidence of efficacy), you’re either ignorant or one of them.
        To ignore thousands of people who have observed tremendous benefit from oregano oil and to insist there is no “evidence” is well – just plain unscientific (and pretty stupid too.)

      • If there’s evidence, please point me to the citations and I’ll review them. You can look at the PubMed search yourself. If oregano oil provides even a fraction of the benefits that are claimed, then I’ll be pleased to write about a product that can drop the ‘alternative’ tag – it will just be medicine. Look at neti pots as an example of a product that was considered “alternative” but has been demonstrated to be effective.

      • ErikD says:

        I think if you read Scott’s writing, you’ll find that he’s pretty even-handed and very willing to point out cases where the evidence supports traditional / natural / drug-free treatments. His coverage of neti-pots comes to mind: http://sciencebasedpharmacy.wordpress.com/2010/02/07/neti-pots-for-sinus-congestion-validated-science/

        The problem is that relatively few such treatments have proven efficacy. In some cases that’s because little research has been done, though mostly it’s because the research fails to find anything significant.

        Even when there is efficacy, often it’s not as efficacious on a cost basis as commercially available alternatives. Or the safety profile of the natural version is of serious concern. How is dosage of a natural remedy determined? How consistent are different batches? Where’s it made and is that an appropriate environment? Red Rice Yeast comes to mind as a good example of a natural remedy that’s efficacious but still inadvisable: http://sciencebasedpharmacy.wordpress.com/2009/08/06/red-yeast-rice/

        The drug companies are not perfect. They’re profit driven and sometimes prone to serious , even criminal, lapses in judgement. But whatever failings they have, they generate an awful lot of data on what works, what doesn’t, and what the safety tradeoffs are. And they report it publicly in a government administered approvals process that often takes years of review.

        By contrast, the natural health industry provides no transparency whatsoever. You can choose not to care because you think the natural world is inherently safer, but don’t get upset when people point out that such a belief system doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

        You’re welcome to drink a cup of hemlock tea if you disagree.

  10. Oil of oregano WORKS, I’m telling you! All you do is allow the leaves to dry, crush them and add them to a bolognaise sauce. Oregano oils function to make the sauce very tasty indeed. Now how can you say that the stuff doesn’t work, woddaryou, somekinda shill for Big Farmers?

    • stan says:

      finally! a comment that actually makes sense. i’m off to my local italian joint for some spaghetti bolognese and a glass of chianti!

  11. kristine pirone says:

    January 22. 2010

    I had the oil of oregano tablets prescribed by a holistic practitioner–I had told her I had sinus problems. I had thought she had given me it for that.
    Then the info I read on the web said it was basically for respiratory use. But on my form she put it was for my ‘teeth’. Somehow I think she lost something in the whole translation. All it did for me regretfully was begin to give me a horrible rash. Yet she continued to tell me I was supposedly allergic to everything edible. I don’t know how she missed this.

  12. Mike says:

    Anecdotal my ass. Your an idiot.

    This site is part of the quack watch site and all it’s other bullshitter sister channels. You’ll notice that all the bullshitter spin-off sites all have the same website format.

    Dental watch, chirowatch and all the rest.

    Your on the web for a reason and its to spread propaganda and bullshit, knock whats natural, threaten those who practice natural and pay doctors under the table to create bullshit ghost written studies that you plaster all over the web to confuse, mislead and manipulate the public so they are steered into pharma drug use.

    That also explains why nothing on quackwatch or on its sister bullshitter channels, nothing negative is ever said about pharma drugs by the hosts of these sites.

  13. @Mike
    You sir, are the idiot. First of all, learn to write:
    You’re=You are. As in “You’re an idiot” or “You’re on the web.”

    “That also explains why nothing on quackwatch or on its sister bullshitter channels, nothing negative is ever said about pharma drugs by the hosts of these sites.”

    Nothing negative is said about drugs on these sites because “Big Pharma” has the obligation to actually prove that the drugs they make and sell actually work in real, scientific, double blind clinical trials. The “all natural” world of “Big Placebo” that you like to advocate is under no such restriction. There are plenty of reasons to criticize pharmaceutical companies (as well as other companies) but that does not support your argument at all. Saying that big corporations are bad so we should use “natural cures” is a huge non sequitur. And did I miss something? Since when does the alternative medicine industry give away their snake oil for free? They are also a multi-billion dollar industry. They only difference is that they can make up anything they want. Herbs are drugs too. All natural is a logical fallacy.

  14. MJ says:

    “We actually do know how acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) works.”

    That’s false. Aspirin has numerous effects (anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, analgesic, blood thinner, etc.), and only some of them are understood. That’s after extensive study.

    For most synthetic drugs, the situation is far worse: those drugs are designed for a particular purpose and other effects are often not understood at all. But if you look at the long list of side-effects of most drugs, it’s clear that they do have lots of other biological effects in addition to the desired one, those other effects are often never studied or understood.

    • The mechanism if action of ASA is well understood. Try here, and here for starters. Any pharmacology book also provides an explanation of salicylates.

      With any administered chemical, the biological effects need to be evaluated in in-vitro, in-vivo, pre-clinical, and clinical trials. There is no difference to the body if a chemical is synthetic or not. Anything that has positive biologic effects can also have unwanted biologic effects. The challenge with herbal products (as opposed to isolated single ingredients) is that there are numerous constituents, and it can be difficult to (1) identify which elements are causing whatever effect is being observed (positive or negative) and (2) verify those constituents are always present, in the same amount, to ensure that effects they produce are predictable and reproducible.

  15. MJ says:

    “Despite its popularity, there is no science to support the use of oil of oregano for any medical condition.”

    That’s a preposterous statement; since oil of oregano contains carvacol and thymol (as you yourself observe), it has clear, well-documented medical uses. Like many essential oils, it also has other effects. And like other essential oils, it does get absorbed and eliminated. Since it’s been used in cooking for millennia, it’s reasonably clear that it is fairly safe, at least in modest doses. You can find numerous articles in established journals if you search on Google Scholar or Medline.

    Sure, there are fraudsters that make exaggerated or unproven claims (cancer cure etc.), but that doesn’t change the fact that many essential oils, including oregano, have a lot of medically useful and documented properties.

    • If there are well documented medical uses for oil of oregano, please cite them with the links to the published papers. I would be particularly interested to see clinical trials that have evaluated the pharmacology and pharmacokinetics.

  16. Nick says:

    I tried oil of oregano internally for the first time trying to treat a sore throat. The directions on the bottle said to use “30 drops in a little bit of water or juice.” I used 20 drops in 8 oz. of water, and continued to add water to dilute it as I drank it. I still have a sore throat, but now it also feels like I have internal burns, so everything I eat or drink causes me great pain all the way down. I am going in to the doctor for a strep test today. I would not recommend taking oil of oregano internally to anyone, and if you do take it you might want to think about using a small dose. Most of the people here who seem to experience positive benefits mention taking a couple of drops. If I use oil of oregano again, it will only be externally.

    • JEbus says:

      Much smaller dose. Whoever made that product is dangerously nuts. Oregano, although it isnt a chili pepper, has a very similar effect, spice wise. VEry similar to tea tree oil, and must be mixed with another oil like coconut or olive to be taken interanlly, and in small doses, gradually building the bodies tolerance to the spicyness they way we warm up the chain of salsaa and hot sauces as we grow accustom to their spice.

  17. Vijay Sekar says:

    Studies have been done. Enough for it to be proven to kill so many pathogens in the body that too much of it can cause toxicity in the body from all the dead pathogens it kills. It should be taken in small doses. Unfortunately, this site, or at least this article, seems to have a bias towards organic chemistry and not broader science to make all it’s references, and I must warn you all, that the cures and preventatives we seek, don’t simply come from medcine, and medicine is so far off from being effective, that it is doing more harm than good. No one will fund research in something that can be grown freely, in fact more money will be spent in preventing something from achieving scientific credibilty. Do all the studies you want, it will never end up in the mainstream scientific media, without being debunk and ridiculed by scientists that may as well be lawyers working for death merchants that stock pile their chemicals in our bodies daily.

  18. SandraC says:

    I’ve used oil of oregano drops but I’m not convinced of the safety, partly because of that internal burning sensation (even with olive oil). How could this not do some kind of damage over time? I occasionally use the gelcaps and believe I’ve seen some benefit at times, but if my life depended on it I would use my common sense and go for the documented pharmaceuticals. For the most part, I try not to base decisions on testimonials and hearsay, which raise red flags in my opinion–to do otherwise is a step back to the dark ages. There’s some comfort when a substance is proven by a science of higher standard–where benefits, risks, and accurate dosages are defined. Although I find value to many of the comments here, I also believe in basing important decisions on the most credible knowledge of the day.

  19. David says:

    It’s strange to me that people would believe that a medicine could suddenly become effective if it wasn’t produced by big pharmaceutical companies. Chemically speaking, a medicine is effect because of its content, not its origin.

    The article is basically saying one thing: there are no widely accepted clinical trials on this particular medicine. Without a proper comparison and examination on the effect, a patient might be cured by something else (the general placebo effect.) This is not saying the medicine may not be effective – it is saying “We can’t be sure it is THIS medicine that cures that disease.”

    Clinical trial is to establish the effectiveness of a medicine. That’s why a drug is approved by the test results, rather than approved based solely on the ingredients. As many suspected, companies that invested millions into a new drug may try to temper the result or downplay certain ill side-effects. It’s a way to protect their interests. As the receiving end of any medicine, we need to demand the transparency, the verifiability, and the repeatability of trials. That’s why the article keeps going back to this point.

    On the other hand, if someone is not a big company, it doesn’t automatically make him/her less inclined to profit from a medicine. People lie too.

    That’s why we need the trials, to say with high certainty, that this oil work as advertised across different people in different conditions.

    Clinical trial surely has its limitation, but the alternatives, such as not doing any examinable trial or collecting uncontrolled evidences, are not obviously attractive to me.

    The science here is not to frighten people. It is the method to do as much as can, in order to get a guarantee (or, with a high probability) on the advertised result.

    This applies to all medicine. Old and new. Organic or not.

  20. Andrew says:

    This article is false in regard to health benefits
    of this oil.

    I suffered from chronic prostatitis for 2 years and was on antibiotics for months at a time with very little relief and when I would stop taking them the infection returned within days which was very depressing to me.

    I searched for hours on the net looking for natural cures and tried many to no avail. Then I tried oil of oregano in mega doses cause at the time I was having pain and had no antibiotics left from the doctor. Within the first few days I had little to no relief then at about the 5th to 6th day it was completely gone it cured my chronic infection of 2 years within about a week. My infection returned about 4 months later and I took the oregano again in mega doses and it guess what it worked again.

    My conclusion is this: pharmaceutical antibiotics are excellent at treating acute infection but fail miserably at treating chronic infections. I would suggest to this narrow minded individual who wrote this article to do some more research. It pisses me off when I see people unwilling to ascribe any kind of benefit to alternative medicine when I know in my
    own case it worked. If you don’t believe me then go ahead and take antibiotics for the rest of your life and enjoy all the wonderful side effects that most of them produce.

  21. Just to let you know the oregano used in cooking and that which is used as an extract and sold as oil of oregano are different types. In the kitchen you use an oregano that is actually in the same family as marjoram and the wild oregano is origanum vulgare. Obviously this means there will be a chemical difference between the two. As for studies, see this link http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig/sardi6.html
    I would just like to add that there is something to be said for traditional knowledge and folk medicine, of course people have to smart and careful and do their own research but I grow frustrated with people who hold everything in life only up to the standards of the Western world which has a bad habit of ignoring innate knowledge and traditional knowledge. People have survived for milenia without “science”

  22. MTrevett says:

    Just dropped in to say, I get sick with a cold/flu/fever about 3-4 times a year (pitiful, I know). The symptoms usually hang around a week or ten days. Yesterday I got really sick (dizzy, congestion, headache, fever) I had recently heard about oil of oregano, and used capsules of 50mg oil (with 85% carvacrol). I held them under my tongue, once an hour on the hour while I was awake (until they melted and leaked all the oil). My nose cleared up immediately (due to the spice perhaps?) My symptoms lessened within an hour after the first dose, and are completely gone on the second day. This might be a fluke, but I’m definitely going to try again next time I get sick.

  23. Dori says:

    As long as it is safe and makes a person feel good, whether placebo or worth it’s weight in claims, then what’s the harm? I’m not sure if it has any health benefits but I like to put it in my vaporizer when I have a cold because it smells medicinal. I hate it in spaghetti sauce. The one problem I do have is the price. It is ridiculously expensive. I feel that if they are going to price it so high then they should live up to the benefits they claim this product will do. The oregano oil isn’t the only one. I quit buying many a health product because I can no longer afford the ridiculously high prices of such items. Such products should be tested before they go on the market and deceive the public. Oil of oregano probably doesn’t cost all that much to produce, but if they add outrageous claims to it, it becomes a wanted commodity. Something like perfume.

  24. Kevin says:

    I’ve used oregano oil to success in treating a respiratory infection, however we have to realize that we have immune systems. Can I be sure that it was the oregano oil that cured me? No, I cannot. Plain and simple. But I do know that antibiotics give me MASSIVE diarrhea, so if I can avoid using them you’ll be damn certain I will. Why is it that all of these people in the comments claiming that there are studies on this stuff never follow you up with citations, Scott? Lol.

  25. Kristl Walek says:

    I am naturally skeptical about pharmaceuticals as well as “alternative medicine”.

    My very limited direct experience with (25% diluted) Oil Of Oregano was to treat very particular (mostly external) problems I have previously dealt with using only “pharmaceuticals”. For these conditions, I must say, I will only now use the Oregano, because I was incredibly impressed with efficacy, ease of use and the relatively insignificant cost of treating the problems. My original investment in the oil was $7.00 and the vial is still near full.

    Direct application on a budding cold sore wiped it out overnight, literally (no comparison to any other over-the-counter “snake oil” I have ever tried.

    As dramatic was diluting it even more for a vaginal yeast infection (being rather nervous about the burning). The infection, treated at bedtime, was gone by morning. Nothing I have ever used has ever affected such a fast (and complete) cure.

    I am conducting my third test at the moment, on recurring intense itchiness and raised welts on the back of my neck, which nothing pharmaceutical I have tried has helped with. The oregano stopped the itching almost instantly (after the burning subsided) and I am now into day 2 to see if the welts will also subside.

    Kristl, Nova Scotia Canada

  26. Mary Beth says:

    I have not read the entirety of these comments but an underlying theme, from Scott specifically, is the dependence on clinical trials to prove worthiness. This argument would be legitimate if pharma would perform clinical trials on ALL substances determined by personal anecdote or observation to be beneficial. The problem is that the only companies that will fund massive trials to prove the validity of any natural or man-made treatment are pharmaceutical companies and they WILL NOT fund trials on natural remedies because they cannot make money on them (can’t patent natural ingredients). So then the medical community’s circular reasoning states that “oil of oregano” (or any other alternative treatment) has not been clinically proven and therefore studies do not support that the product does what those who have used it, says it does. The typical news journalist says something like: “There have been no clinical trials to support these statements.” Of course, there haven’t been any trials!!! The pharma companies won’t fund them and the health industry doesn’t have the billions of dollars necessary to run their own tests. It would be one thing to make that statement if the playing field was level but it is not. The medical community’s and “scientific” community’s standard is clinical trials but they refuse to do them on natural products. Therefore, their argument is invalid based on logic. Your clinical trials would find some of these treatments valid if you took the time to do the trials but please don’t act like the trials have been done and found wanting. No one has any intention of testing natural products and you, Scott, based on your experience in the industry know that. So please don’t treat the rest of us like uneducated people by insisting on seeing something that will never be available based on the pharma’s bias toward their bottom line profits.

    • Scientific methods to test efficacy are not the exclusive domain of drug manufacturers. They are a set of tools and processes that any company, whether they make drugs or supplements, can use to determine whether a product is effective or not. Stating that “they refuse to do them on natural products” is a straw man argument, as manufacturers of natural products have equal access to these methods to validate their claims. Clinical trials don’t cost billions of dollars, nor does the “natural” source of a product limit intellectual property protection (look at Cold-fx, as an example).

      The issue that I point out in the post is that without any scientific tests to sort out whether the effects observed are simply mean regression, or placebo effects, or otherwise, there is no credible basis for stating the the product has therapeutic effects. Yet manufacturers of these products are making fully testable claims of effectiveness – without any credible evidence to support their arguments. Quite simply, stating that products are effective based on anecdotes, when the problems with anecdotal evidence are well documented, and well understood, is unfair to consumers who are seeking credible information.

      Natural product manufacturers are just as for-profit as pharmaceutical companies. Yet few seem interested in doing some basic tests to substantiate the claims they make about the products they sell.

    • Zach says:

      Mary Beth uses the typical “big pharma only wants to make money and there is no money in this for them” argument, which is somewhat true…but mostly irrelevant. Maybe you have never heard of the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, run out of NIH? They have been funding research into herbs and alternative treatments for a while now and have validated almost nothing. My point being that there is funding out there for this type to stuff and my guess is that if they had a reasonable (by their past actions, they may even accept anything from not-plausible to impossible)expectation that Oregano had potential…then maybe they would fund a study. If you think the seller’s of these supplements are more concerned with your health and not making money, then you are naive at best and delusional at worse. Their ability to make money from you is dependent on their propagation of the “Big Pharma is Corrupt and only wants your money and doesn’t cure anything” myth. They help spread miss-information and lies to undermine Pharmaceutical companies and create a market for themselves. It’s all marketing and your falling for it hook, line and sinker. It is also worth noting that several large pharmaceutical companies are now in the business of selling supplements as well. Why spend billions on research to find one effective drug or treatment, when you can put oregano (or any other “supplement” in a capsule for cheap? With little to no quality control, no requirement to demonstrate it works…slap a vague wishy-washy claim on the bottle (and don’t forget the quack Miranda Warning in .06 font) and you have yourself a cash-cow.

  27. ErikD says:

    Why would they? It sells just as well without evidence. If they test it, they risk finding out there’s nothing there. No business logic behind that.

  28. Nelly says:

    See, there’s where you are wrong. While other companies may use the same oregano in their oil of oregano as in cooking, Oreganol P-73 does not. I suggest you go to the maker’s website and read about it first. they have more the just 1 study there to prove their point. Oreganol P-73 is absolutely THE BEST product there is to cure just about anything!!

    • Zach says:

      Nelly, I don’t think you have any idea what you’re talking about. As far as the research on the site, there are only a few tests ( I think test is far more appropriate than “study” in these cases) that were performed in petri dishes on Human Coronovirus and Human Cytomegalo Virus. No clinical trials, no replication, no testing at all in humans under real world conditions. As it was pointed out above, you could probably pour 100 proof rum on the petri dish and also kill anything there, that doesn’t mean 100 proof rum is the new cure-all. How does this prove their point and how does that, in any way, support your assertion that it’s the best product out there to cure just about anything?

      • Nelly says:

        I am living prove of it. I dont need any other. For years, i have been on med after med. Doctors had no idea wth was wrong with me. I have no energy, and my bones would break very easy. I began to lose some of my vision. at the end, i was throwning up blood and couold not control my bowel movement. With 4 months of taking nothing but the p73, i am healthy once again. I owe my life to it, as many ppl do.

      • Zach says:

        While I am certainly glad you got better, I think you’re still missing the point. All of those issues and all of those doctors and none of the doctors were treating you with conventional medicine? They just shrugged their shoulders and said they couldn’t help you? I find that hard to believe. What commonly happens is that people take some conventional, evidence based intervention, progress is not fast enough for the patient and they seek some alternative medicine (i.e Oregano) then they get better. Instead of even considering that the evidence based intervention is actually responsible or even that it was something that may have coincidentally went away on its own…they attribute it to whatever alternative therapy they used. This is why we must be careful not to confuses correlation for causation and this is exactly why personal stories “It worked for me!” are worthless as far as evidence is concerned. I have no doubt that you believe that Oregano cured you, but take a step back and look at the whole picture and maybe you will see that there are probably many other factors that are more probable.

  29. Zach says:

    I would also like to share this study that was funded by the McCormick Science Institute (yes, the same McCormic that makes and sells spices) I was unaware that they had a science institute, but this study seems to be well researched and cited. Note that for every single category, the best rating Oil of Oregano get’s is “Preliminary, Inconclusive Evidence” and this is coming from a company that would probably profit very much from Oil of Oregano claims. I have to tip my hat to them a little bit for being responsible.

    http://www.mccormickscienceinstitute.com/content.cfm?ID=10532

  30. karen says:

    Well, all this negative talk regarding oil of oregano is really sad to me.

    I looks like ultimately the only proof someone has, is whether or not this substance works for them personally.

    Let me tell you my story—for anyone out there who cares…I’m not going to get into a back and forth thing, I’m just going to tell you my story…

    10 years ago I was living in an old apartment with my husband which was 2 blocks from the beach…a very damp environment. I had a newborn baby that I was nursing…Because of a leaky roof, the apartment building would have water build up in various areas ( including the walls), and the smell of mildew and mold became overwhelming…we decided to move because the apartment owner wasn’t really getting rid of the problem (long story). I had severe fatigue and dizziness problems that I associated with being a new mom, or hormones or something, and tried to just live with it even though it was debilitating…after we moved to a house away from the beach, I felt slightly better, but still very fatigued and chronic off and on dizziness. I ended up going to 8 or 10 different doctors who literally tried EVERYTHING to help me feel better—NONE OF THEM HELPED ME. I have been living in this hell for 10 years, trying to have a life the best I can—and NEVER FEELING WELL.
    2 weeks ago I saw a doctor on TV who said “Oil of oregano kills the fungus in your sinuses”, and “mold can live in your sinuses and cause ALL KINDS of health problems”…well let me tell you I immediately thought back to that moldy apartment and how I hadn’t felt well since then. I looked on the internet and found
    someone selling little spray bottles of oil of oregano (that had been properly diluted) at a reasonable price, sent away for it and tried it—2 sprays under the tongue twice a day (it mixes with the saliva for maximum effect).
    This is the god’s honest truth: MY DIZZINESS IS GONE—MY ENERGY IS BACK—I FEEL LIKE I USED TO 10 YEARS AGO BEFORE I GOT SICK. I am still pinching myself to see if I’m dreaming…but I can assure you, I’m not. I know it sounds gross, but I had fungus living in my head that was killed by oil of oregano…and it’s a GOOD thing. We all have good and bad fungus living in our body—oil of oregano ( the wild oregano—not the cooking kind!) kills the bad fungus…I AM LIVING PROOF!
    I am writing this not for the skeptics, but for anyone out there who is suffering with fatigue and sinus issues—I have nothing to gain by telling my story except sincerely wanting people to try this to have a better life…I personally feel like it’s a miracle.

    So—don’t just accept the skeptic’s view—independently investigate for yourself!!!!!

  31. Matt says:

    Vitamin C: All anecdotes and science. This whole drugs verses herbs thread is laughable. How about giving your body the building blocks for every cell in your body. Not just the magic of vitamin c, (although vitamin c is absolutely paramount in curing many diseases), but the magic of all the vitamins.

  32. Brian says:

    I am as logical a man as there is. I have an abundant common sense. I take things at face value. I am Ivy League educated. I am not bragging, but rather providing a little background to my following comments as I am mighty suspicious of alternative medicines and often find the books written about them to reek of quackery. After having sinus surgery and spending years going to doctors I am also somewhat wary of established medicine being the “one and only.” I have tried the elimination diet, surgery (as mentioned), acupuncture and acupressure, nasal steroids, neti pots, the Grossan nasal irrigator, wilson’s nasal wash, antifungal nasal sprays, conventional steroid packs, antibiotics, singulair, am currently seeing an immunologist who is administering cluster therapy, have spent months avoiding drink entirely, all to try and fix the chronic sinusitis that is literally DESTROYING what otherwise is a very happy life and a depressing an otherwise great guy. And believe me, I did not go into sinus surgery lightly. My girlfriend’s family is of the homeopathic camp to an extreme degree. In fact, I like to tease her about this. However, I am at my wit’s end. And on top of all of this my career is in voice overs, so the resonance and constancy of my “sound” is of vital importance and something I struggle with at every job. My girlfriend’s mother suggested oil of oregano the other night and well, I’ve just started taking it. I am here to say I will serve as guinea pig for this thread. I know this is not a scientific study, but I noticed this thread has lasted over two years. It is clearly something that people are passionate about. I would never in a million years have ended up on this thread had I a normal, healthy sinus. This is the most rambling thing perhaps I have ever written (I’m also a freelance writer), but I’m not here for style points. I am here to reply back in a month or two with the results on how I feel. I left out some other things I’ve tried (Bee propolis, niacinamide, comb q…basically every anti-inflammatory indicated vitamin or homeopathic remedy). Re-reading this I am truly embarrassed at my prose, but again, I just wanted to fart out all that info so that you’d have the back story when I tell you if this has failed me like every other aspect of medicine, whether it be FDA approved or “alt.”

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