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What is Oregano?

Common or wild oregano is a perennial plant native to the Mediterranean region and Asia and cultivated in the United States. Its creeping rootstock produces a square, downy, purplish stem with leaves that are dotted with small depressions. Purple, two-lipped flowers grow in clusters.

O. vulgare subspecies hirtum has a spicy flavor. This subspecies of oregano has furry leaves and floppy white flowers. Mexican oregano is similar in properties but comes from a different plant, Lippia graveolens Kunth.

Scientific Name(s)

Origanum vulgare L., Origanum onites L., Origanum syriacum L.

Common Name(s)

Wild marjoram, mountain mint, Mexican oregano, winter marjoram, wintersweet, kekik (Turkish), and Mediterranean oregano.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Oregano has been a common ingredient in Spanish, Mexican, and Italian dishes as a spice and flavoring agent for hundreds of years. Its initial purpose was as a warming digestive and circulatory stimulant. It also has been used in perfumery, especially in the scenting of soaps. The antiseptic qualities of aromatic and medicinal plants and their extracts have been recognized since ancient times.

Antispasmodic, sedative, indigestion, sweating, and stimulant actions have been reported. An infusion of the fresh herb may have beneficial effects on an upset stomach, headache, colic, and nervous complaints, as well as on coughs and other respiratory ailments. An infusion of the flowers is said to prevent seasickness. The oil is also used externally in liniments and lotions and to ease toothache. It has also been used as an insect repellant.

General uses

Aside from its food uses, oregano has antibiotic and antioxidant qualities and has possible activity against cramps and in diabetes. However, there is no clinical evidence to support the use of oregano in any indication.

What is the recommended dosage?

There is no clinical evidence to support specific therapeutic doses of oregano; however, due to its wide use in foods it has been designated GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In a small study, 200 mg/day emulsified O. vulgare oil was administered for 6 weeks.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. GRAS status when used as food. Ingestion beyond amounts found in food should be avoided because safety and efficacy are unproven. Some studies indicate hormonal effects.


None well documented.

Side Effects

Oregano has caused reactions when applied to the skin. When oregano is eaten, rash, and, rarely, severe, whole-body allergic reactions can occur.


Information in humans is lacking.


1. Oregano. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; November 2011.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.