Summary of Oregano Oil for UTI Treatment:
- Oil of Oregano is not approved by the FDA for UTI treatment or prevention.
- There are multiple lab and some clinical studies that demonstrated strong antibacterial properties of oil of oregano.
- Herbalists recommend oil of oregano to treat, rather than prevent, urine infections. The recommended dose is about 500 mg of oregano oil four times daily. (Stengler, 2016).
- There are important precautions and side-effects that need to be considered when taking oregano oil for UTI treatment.
- When choosing oregano oil for oral intake, go for the oil produced in Greece and with at least 60% of carvacrol (scroll for a review of popular brands).
The main problem with using Oregano oil for UTI is the lack of clinical research and the standard of manufacturing.
Studies show that oregano oil is at least as effective at killing bacteria than prescribed antibiotics.
In laboratory studies, oregano oil was able to kill 20 different strains of bacteria including the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are quickly becoming immune to all our available antibiotics. This is why oil of oregano has sparked quite a bit of excitement about its future as an effective alternative to antibiotics, especially as it doesn’t build antibiotic resistance.
At the same time, Oregano oil has been used for millennia to manage illnesses from the common cold to depression. It is even known for its immune-boosting properties due to its naturally occurring antioxidants. And, of course, many use Oregano oil for UTI treatment when you want to try an alternative to antibiotics but this is obviously risky.
Oil of oregano properties
Oregano oil (origanum Vulgare) is part of the Lamiaceae family, which includes other super-plants:
Oregano has a host of other compounds (up to 44) that are generally great for you. For example, it contains glucosides that help to control your blood sugar (which can dramatically increase your risk of getting infections) and may be useful in reducing high blood pressure.
Oil of oregano has the following properties (statement has not been verified by the FDA):
- antiviral properties.
Oil of oregano against infections
Oil of oregano contains two key ingredients- carvacrol and thymol- which we think are pretty important in killing infection-causing bugs.
Both compounds are naturally occurring phenols, which have many health benefits.
Carvacrol and thymol are infection-fighting powerhouses. They are able to kill strains of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that cause pneumonia, gastric ulcers and even fight intestinal parasites.
Carvacrol is an effective antibacterial that is used throughout the food industry as a food preservative and an alternative antibacterial for chickens.
Thymol is commonly used as an antiseptic and mouthwash and is an expectorant, meaning it helps break up the mucus in lung infections.
Oil of oregano has much more carvacrol than thymol, which sets it apart from other essential oils. In fact, when compared to other essential oils and herbs, oil of oregano often comes out on top as the most potent antibacterial.
While researchers are able to identify the properties of a variety of compounds, most likely you need all of them in order to realize the benefits of oregano.
For example, mice that were infected with bacteria were more likely to survive if they were treated with oil of oregano, rather than just the carvacrol itself. This indicates that the many ingredients in oregano oil work together to fight infection.
Another component found in oregano oil is rosmarinic acid. It has strong antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-viral properties.
Rosmarinic acid packs a strong anti-oxidant punch; as it is up to four times more potent than blueberries.
Can I use oregano oil to treat UTI without antibiotics?
For those of us who want to treat urine infections, oil of oregano works to block UTI causing E. coli ability to form biofilms. You can read more about biofilms and how they protect infection-causing bacteria in this post. Oil of oregano works in multiple ways:
- Disrupts the bacterial cell wall, essentially killing the bacteria and leaving it vulnerable to attack our immune system, which can more easily recognize it as a threat.
- Stops bacteria from sprouting its pili (the little finger-like projections it uses to latch on to the bladder wall).
- Blocks pili that have already sprouted from attaching to the bladder wall.
- Makes bacteria less mobile, a key step that allows them to get to the bladder in the first place.
Interestingly, Oregano also breaks up biofilms of pseudomonas aeruignosa, another bacteria that cause very difficult to treat urine infections that hospitalized patients are more likely to get.
Thymol is also great at destroying biofilms of Candida albicans, a common cause of vaginal yeast infections.
For these effects, herbalists recommend oregano oil to treat UTIs, prostatitis, and vaginitis (Stengler, 2016).
How do we know if oil of oregano works for UTI?
Simply put, there are no studies showing that oil of oregano effectively treats UTIs in people.
FDA does not recognize Oil of Oregano as a drug, officially it’s just a supplement that is not approved to treat or prevent any diagnosis.
Unfortunately, there are not many studies looking at how effective oil of oregano for UTI. Herbal medicines tend to lag behind in scientific studies.
Since oil of oregano is a widely available natural substance, there is less interest to conduct expensive human studies to prove its effects.
Rather, much of the information on the oil of oregano properties comes from in vitro studies (test tube and laboratory studies) or in animal models.
Anti-bacterial properties of oregano oil
The studies that look at humans using oil of oregano are few and far between. In one study, 14 people were asked to take 600 mg of emulsified oil of oregano every day for 6 weeks to treat intestinal parasites.
Oil of oregano was great at this; three-quarters of people were cured of their parasites and the rest had fewer parasites than when they first started. 13 out of 14 participants completed the entire 6 weeks without any reported side effects.
However, one study had participants take a large dose of oregano oil to see the results. They found very high levels of its compounds in participant’s urine, even higher than they had eaten. This is strong evidence that oregano oil is active in the urinary tract, which is a necessary step for it to be able to fight UTIs.
Nevertheless, many herbalists continue to extol the benefits of oil of oregano. It does have millennia-long evidence, even if this has not been recorded in medical journals. It is prescribed for a wide range of viral, fungal, and bacterial infections throughout the body.
A quick note: what works for others may not always work for you. While the lack of scientific studies, does not mean it is ineffective, we do have to take some of the claims with a grain of salt as they have not been tested in humans who have UTIs or most other illnesses.
We may have to rely on anecdotes from faithful users of oil of oregano for quite some time.
Review of oil of oregano products: Which one to buy?
1. Food grade.
Make sure to take a food-grade oil of oregano as many of the aromatherapy (therapeutic) versions are NOT safe to eat.
2. High Carvacrol content.
Another thing to look for in your oil of oregano is the percentage of carvacrol. While carvacrol is not the only source of oregano’s effect, it remains a significant part. There is some controversy over how much is ideal, but generally, the oil should have between 60% to 80% carvacrol.
3. Low thymol content.
Also, be aware that high levels of thymol are toxic. Make sure that your oil has low amounts of thymol, at doses higher than 5% can cause neurological side effects.
4. Made in Greece.
Oregano is grown throughout the world, but high-quality Oregano oil generally comes from the Mediterranean region, especially Greece.
Generally, studies have tested the Greek (or Mediterranean) wild oregano (origanum vulgare hirtum). There are many other varieties of oregano, however, the scientists consistently choose Greek Oregano Oil for their experiments.
It can take fifty pounds of oregano leaves to extract a meaningful amount of the oil with its infection-fighting compounds, that’s why it’s quite pricey.
The following two options check off all three parameters: food-grade, high Carvacrol, made in Greece:
- Oil of Oregano, Super Strenght 83-85% Carvacrol, Food Grade. Wild Oregano From Greek Mountains. (drops) $$ (OZ/$)
- 100% Pure Greek Oregano Oil. Food Grade Quality UNDILUTED ESSENTIAL OIL. Certified. (drops) $$$ (OZ/$)
One of the most popular brands, however, is made In Turkey:
- Certified Organic Oregano Essential Oil – WildCrafted Mediterranean Turkish Oil (drops) $$$$ (OZ/$)
Remember that pure essential oil of oregano is potent and can burn the skin or mucous membranes, so never take it undiluted.
Oil of oregano dosage for UTI treatment
Oil of oregano dosages and concentration
- You can take oil of oregano as a tincture or in capsules, as both forms are effective. Tincture dosing may require a little more effort as it can be tricky. This is because the dosing depends on the strength of the oil. Check the label of the oil you buy for the best results.
- At modest concentration (60% carvacrol), you can start with one or two drops daily, then work your way up to 4-6 drops daily, depending on the strength of the tincture.
- Try to spread your dose throughout the day, rather than all at once. (Stengler, 2016)
- Some herbalists recommend even higher doses; make sure to touch base with a provider experienced with oil of oregano before committing to megadoses.
- Herbalists recommend oil of oregano to treat, rather than prevent, urine infections. The recommended dosage is about 500 mg of oregano oil four times daily. (Stengler, 2016).
- You can take the same amount of vaginal and prostatic infections as it is effective against the bacteria and fungi responsible.
- Generally, you should not take oil of oregano for longer than a month at this dose, although some people do take lower doses daily.
- Since oil of oregano is such a strong antibacterial, many herbalists recommend drinking liberal amounts of water after taking it to flush out toxins. This is, of course, always a good idea if you have a urine infection. Aim for at least 8-10 glasses of water daily while you are taking oil of oregano.
Improve your diet
A key aspect when considering Oregano Oil for UTI treatment is a healthy bladder diet. What you eat fuels bacterial growth, so make sure you are not sabotaging your efforts by eating the foods the bad bacteria love.
This means limiting sugar and sodas and staying away from bladder irritants such as caffeine, spicy foods, and processed foods (Stengler, 2016).
Also, there can be too much of a good thing. Oil of oregano is an equal opportunity antibacterial, which means it can kill the good guys like lactobacilli, just like other antibiotics.
It is a good idea to take an effective probiotic while you are using oil of oregano. Read our post on the best probiotics for UTIs, for more tips.
Side effects of oil of oregano for UTI & precautions
- Don’t use oil of oregano if you are pregnant since it can cause your uterus to contract before you or your baby are quite ready for this.
- Again, because there aren’t many tests done on humans, be very cautious before you give the oil of oregano to children and touch base with your pediatrician before.
- While it is generally very well tolerated, some people get an upset stomach when they take oil of oregano. This is because the ingredients, including carvacrol, are very potent and can burn your mucous membranes.
- Always, always dilute pure oil of oregano with a carrier oil! The pure essential oil of oregano can be diluted in olive or coconut oil. Use at least one or two parts carrier oil to one part oil of oregano.
- If you continue to have an upset stomach, lower your dose, or increase the amount of carrier oil.
- Remember to check with your doctor if you decide to take the oil of oregano. It contains many ingredients that can interact with medicines and antibiotics that you are already taking.
- Also, as always, if your symptoms get worse or you notice back pain or fevers, talk with your doctor, as this could be a sign of a kidney infection.
Have you taken oil of oregano for a UTI? What were your results? What is your go-to brand?
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