Oregano Oil: How This Inflammation-Fighting Oil Might Help Soothe Candida
You're probably already familiar with the rich, pungent, spicy smell of oregano—a staple in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. But did you know that the oil of the dried herb has also been shown to be a powerful medicine? I've seen oregano oil be incredibly effective at helping treat issues like bacterial, parasitic, and fungal overgrowth in the gut, especially candida overgrowth. Here's a peek into its beneficial properties.
What is oregano oil—and how can you use it?
Oregano oil is made from dried, wild oregano plants, perennials native to the Mediterranean. Sorry, spice lovers: Simply eating the plant or drinking it as tea won't unlock its benefits—the real power comes when you distill a lot of it down into an essential oil.
These days, you can find oregano essential oil in softgel capsules and tinctures. Since it has a pungent flavor, I usually recommend that people take it in capsule form as a supplement so it's more palatable. Plus, this way it's easier to monitor dosing. If you're taking it in liquid form, you can either put a few drops of the oil on the tongue to unlock its disease-fighting properties or use it topically with a carrier oil like coconut, jojoba, or almond oil to help soothe skin and prevent adult acne. However, do NOT apply it directly to skin as it may cause irritation. (Be sure to check out this comprehensive guide to choosing effective essential oils before you go out and get it, especially if you plan to ingest it.)
Oregano oil is a potent antioxidant that has been used to treat everything from inflammation1 to bacterial infections2. Studies have even shown it might be effective at helping with upper respiratory tract infection3, GI (gastrointestinal) infections, parasites and bacterial overgrowth (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or an imbalance of microbiota (dysbiosis), urinary tract infections4, skin rashes5, as well as numerous yeast infections6 both topical and internal, such as athlete's foot and vaginal yeast infection. But always talk to your doctor if you think you have an infection or are thinking of using a natural remedy.
The oil comes with its side effects, and some people should steer clear of it. As beneficial as it may be for warding of candida—an overgrowth that can cause infection, digestive problems, and leaky gut—it can also negatively kill off good healthy gut bacteria, increasing your chances of having diarrhea. Extended, long-term use of oregano oil is highly discouraged. Taking oregano oil isn't a good idea if you're pregnant or have an iron deficiency since it can affect iron absorption. Don't start taking the oil without consulting a doctor—especially if you're on any other medication that might affect its absorption. Again, you always want to purchase a high-grade, USDA-certified organic oregano oil.
The science behind this powerful oil.
There are numerous7 studies8 that cite the beneficial response of oregano oil in warding off candida infections. But how does it work? Let's dive into some science: Oregano oil interacts with the cell wall by killing the membrane of yeast buds. It's also great at killing candida by dehydrating the yeast cells. Carvacrol and thymol, agents in oregano oil, also react by inhibiting the biofilms of the candida.
Candida does not form resistance to oregano oil like it does to some other fungal medications. Some studies9 actually found that oregano oil is just as effective, if not more effective, than traditional oral antifungal pharmaceutical medications. Oregano oil can be used to treat candida overgrowth in the body, vaginal yeast infections, topical yeast rashes, as well as dandruff. You can even use it on pets to clear yeast infections in the ear10.
Oregano oil is a good, well-rounded broad-spectrum antibacterial agent since it covers both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. It contains natural agents like thymol and carvacrol, which are the main potent inhibitors of candida and bacterial infections. Carvacrol destroys the cell membranes of bacteria so it doesn't replicate.
Rosmarinic acid is also another component found in oregano oil. It's a potent antioxidant that fights free radicals and is packed with antioxidants. It is great for people with arthritis, colitis, as well as heart disease, to keep inflammation at bay. It also is believed11 that carvacrol has properties that stop cell death and might even help fight certain cancers.
Considering adding oregano oil to your rotation? Here's a comprehensive guide to choosing the right supplement.
Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an American Board Family Medicine–certified physician who studied family medicine at Georgia Regents University/Medical College of Georgia. She completed her undergraduate training at the University of Georgia with a bachelor's of science in biology and psychology in 2004 and her doctor of medicine at American University of Antigua College of Medicine in 2010. She completed an integrative medicine fellowship at the University of Arizona with Dr. Andrew Weil. She is also currently working on her functional medicine training with the Institute of Functional Medicine. Her interests include integrative, holistic, and functional medicine; women's health; preventive medicine; international medicine; and health care reform. She's also a certified yoga instructor and Reiki master. She enjoys writing and educating everyone on important health matters.