Oregano isn’t just a fragrant herb that can spice up your cooking. Oregano oil has many health benefits that make it a popular home remedy for many health niggles, be it a sore throat, muscle pain, or even an insect bite. But like any herbal remedy, while natural, it is not without possible side effects when taken in medicinal doses.
Remember, oregano oil as a herbal remedy is not the same as an infused oregano oil or Italian herb oil you might use to season your pasta or meats. The essential oil, distilled from dried flowers and leaves of the oregano plant, is much more concentrated than the seasoning. Read on to understand what some of the possible adverse reactions of using the essential oil could be. Remember, many of these may be the result of not staying within the recommended dosage or not consulting your doctor before taking the oil.
1. Stomach Upset
Oregano oil as a herbal remedy is usually diluted in water or oil or used as part of a remedy that includes other ingredients. Unfortunately, it can cause problems for those with weak stomachs. It can also be problematic if you don’t adequately dilute it before use and may irritate the gastrointestinal tract. Going over the recommended dose is also likely to increase your risk of a stomach upset, so consult a practitioner to know what the right ratios and dosages are for your purpose.1
2. Skin Irritation
Oregano oil is a popular topical remedy in skincare. But using it in the wrong amounts or not diluting it enough can irritate the skin. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy even lists it as a dermal irritant.2 It can cause rashes or other forms of skin irritation. Never use it directly on the skin in any concentration over 1 percent because that’s likely to cause the skin to be irritated.3 What’s more, if you are allergic to it, you could break out in rashes or have other stronger reactions. That’s next.
3. Allergic Reactions
You must always test any essential oil first before you use it for any kind of therapeutic purpose. If you know you are allergic to plants from the Lamiaceae family like basil, mint, lavender, sage, or hyssop, you may have a problem with oregano as well as it belongs to the same family. Always do a small spot test to determine whether or not you have any kind of allergic reaction to it.4 Allergic reactions can cause any of the following problems, so watch for them.5:
- Sneezing, runny nose, asthma
- Anaphylaxis: this severe reaction can be fatal if unchecked and begins with breathing problems and lightheadedness, clammy skin, confusion, and anxiety. It could result in loss of consciousness and be life-threatening if unattended.6
4. Impaired Nutrient Absorption
Oregano and its oil can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb iron. This can prove problematic for anyone with low iron levels, more so if you’re anemic. It can also hamper the absorption of copper and zinc by the body – factors you must keep an eye on when you use the oil. Your doctor may suggest foods that you can eat to tank up on these nutrients or other alternatives.7
5. Drop In Blood Sugar Levels
Oregano can cause your blood sugar levels to drop. If you are already taking other supplements, herbs, or medication to lower your sugar levels because you are diabetic, having oregano oil may cause it to go too low or fall too suddenly. If you do intend to keep up the intake of both the drugs and oregano oil, consult your doctor to have your dosage of both modified accordingly. Also, remember to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly.8
6. Blood Thinning And Excessive Risk of Bleeding
Taking oregano oil alongside blood thinning medication or those that slow down blood clotting can increase your risk of bleeding or bruising. So be extra careful if you’re taking medicines like aspirin, heparin, and warfarin. It can also heighten the risk of bleeding in those who already have bleeding disorders. Even those who do not have such disorders but are due to have surgery soon are advised against taking oregano or oregano oil in the two weeks leading up to the surgery. This is because of the increased risk of bleeding when you take oregano oil.9
7. Adverse Impact On Pregnancy
Oregano has emmenagogue properties and can stimulate menstrual flow. It is also abortifacient or abortion-inducing. These properties make it potentially dangerous for pregnant women to take as it could harm the pregnancy. Also, not enough is known about the actual effects of oregano oil on pregnancy since there is no scientific research or tests available to confirm the exact impact. To be safe, it is better to avoid oregano oil and pick less risky alternatives.10
8. Interaction With Medicines And Other Herbal Remedies
Certain prescription medications or herbal supplements may interact with oregano oil and cause problems. We’ve already seen how it may enhance the effect of sugar-lowering medication or antidiabetic drugs. Similarly, if you take alternative remedies such as bitter melon, fenugreek, garlic, or ginseng to lower sugar, be warned that the oil may cause sugar to drop too much. Anyone on blood thinning medication or alternative remedies for blood thinning or for slowing blood clotting must also take the necessary precautions.11
How To Use Oregano Oil Safely
Oregano oil is a form of medicine for your body and needs to be treated as such. So here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind:
- Do check with your doctor first before you take oregano oil. Do not self-medicate. The form in which you need to use it and the dosage will depend not just on your medical problem or need, but also on your own medical history and health.
- Do stick to the recommended dosage and never overdose.
- Always do a patch test before using oregano oil on a larger area of your skin.
- Do stop intake of oregano oil at least two weeks prior to any surgery to avoid the risk of excessive bleeding.12
- Do not use oregano oil for prolonged periods. It can at best be used for a week or two, not more. Dosage and remedies using oregano oil are not designed for long-term use and prolonged use may cause problems.13
- Do not use it as a topical treatment on any open sores or broken skin.
- Do not let the oil come in contact with your eyes or genital area.14
Who Should Avoid Oregano Oil
Avoid medicinal use of oregano oil if you:15
- are pregnant or nursing
- have gallbladder disease
- have kidney disease
- have liver disease
Never give oregano oil to infants or child under two, either. Follow these broad guidelines and you should be able to use oregano oil safely and effectively!
|↑1, ↑13, ↑14, ↑15||Schuetz, Barbara. Oil of Oregano: Nature’s Antiseptic and Antioxidant. Healthy Living Publications, 2016.|
|↑2||Safety Information. National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.|
|↑3||Oregano. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑4||Oregano. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.|
|↑5||Allergy. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑6||Anaphylaxis. National Health Service.|
|↑7||Oregano. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑8||Oregano. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.|
|↑9, ↑11, ↑12||Oregano. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑10||Kintzios, Spiridon E. “Oregano: the genera Origanum and Lippia/edited by Spiridon E. Kintzios.” Medicinal and aromatic plants–industrial profiles; 25.|