Thank You, Oregano Oil!

Sunni's picture

For me, oregano oil’s reputation as an effective antimicrobial has been proven. Read on if you’re interested in the details (not gross, but hardly scintillating content).

I’ve had an itchy patch in a fold in my arm for I don’t know how long now. It’s waxed and waned, and unless it was extremely itchy (such as during training in the summer months), I never paid it much attention. A while back, a bout of hives caused it to spread and begin itching much worse, so I began my quest for a cure.

Having read about (and experienced) the antibiotic effects of garlic, I increased my intake, to no avail. Coconut oil on the troublesome area made just a small difference. Having researched online the rash’s appearance and symptoms, I suspected the infection was caused by Tinea, a fungal genus that can affect the scalp, skin, and nails (varying species). With no relief from a variety of milder remedies (including apple cider vinegar and hydrogen peroxide topical application, plus ingestion of the former), I sought help from the pharmaceutical big guns.

Over the counter creams did practically nothing; if they did help, that benefit seemed to be offset by the increased moisture retained in the skin... and as I spread the cream in, so the size of the patch spread. I then turned to oral antibiotics, knowing that the risk of side effects were higher, but I was getting desperate. Even after the hives subsided, the itching of this patch did not; I often awoke in the night, vigorously scratching my arm. I’m sure that contributed to the spread as well.

I ended up trying two different oral antibiotics, each of which is marketed as being effective against Tinea. The first did practically nothing. The second seemed to be the solution at first, but then it maxed out well short of eradication. That, of course, meant when I discontinued taking it, the symptoms returned, and the rash resumed its apparent intent of covering my entire arm. This was making karate—and even wearing a shirt on some days—almost too itchy to bear.

I’d taken oregano oil internally for some time (well diluted with oil or water; full-strength oregano oil will cause chemical burns when ingested or applied topically), but I don’t recall if that was prior to developing this rash. At any rate, I wasn’t sure that the product I had on hand—labeled “oregano spirits”—would work well enough if ingested, so I applied it topically. Again, I diluted it quite a bit in coconut oil (chosen to take advantage of whatever antimicrobial properties it has).

I didn’t measure anything... just melted a good chunk of coconut oil in a ramekin and added enough oregano spirits to turn the stuff a light green. As the mixture solidified, I stirred occasionally to make sure the oregano was mixed throughout. I applied this concoction liberally and frequently—and it worked!

It’s taken a while, though, and I did some other things that I think helped. I became fanatical about keeping my skin clean and dry: no more relaxing soaks in the bath; no more recycling lightly worn shirts; and much more frequent changings of bed linens (for a while, I changed them daily; as my skin showed improvement, that dropped down to every 2-3 days, and now back to my weekly schedule). I showered and applied the oil mixture before training; upon returning home from the dojo, I washed again and reapplied it. Whenever the rash started to itch, at the very least I’d apply oil—if possible, I’d wash it thoroughly first and then apply the oil mixture. I washed, dried thoroughly, and applied oil first thing every morning and last thing every night. I slept with socks over my hands so that if I did scratch the rash in my sleep, I’d be much less likely to break or irritate the skin. At first, the oil did sting a tiny bit, but I took that as a sign it was working. I did not use anti-itch creams out of fear of them trapping moisture; I did on occasion take an oral antihistamine (diphenhydramine) to help with the itching, but it seemed to never provide much relief, so I stopped.

I also discovered that other factors influenced the rash. Stress caused flareups, as did heat. Increasing my intake of white sugar did as well, but fruit did not. Eating wheat brought massive flareups. My beloved scrumpy also needed to be exiled for the duration.

But it was all worth it. For the first time in a very long time, I am rash-free. I can train and get all sweaty without itch and discomfort. I don’t pay for an occasional indulgence of scrumpy or something harder (I try to stay away from processed sugar and wheat as a general rule; keeping fungus under better control adds to my motivation to stick to that). A hit of stress doesn’t bring on a round of itchiness... and of course, my sleep is much better, and I no longer wear my sock-mittens to bed.

A quick bit of searching reveals that research findings support the claim that oregano oil has potent antimicrobial properties on a variety of critters. For all but the most sensitive areas—eyes, inside the nose, etc.—I’d give an oregano oil blend a try, along with concomitant hygiene and dietary improvements. Olive oil is a good alternative to coconut oil as the base, as evidence suggests it too is antimicrobial. I wouldn’t use any seed oil, such as corn, soybean, canola, etc. For nail infections, it may take a lot longer to work, but I’d definitely give it a try—and be very diligent about applying it. I bet oregano oil will work for that, too.

Fairly inexpensive; much easier on the body; very easy to obtain; and no risk of antibiotic resistance to it. Thanks, oregano oil!

Essential herbs

So glad you found the answer for your rash, Sunni. Didn't we talk about oregano a long time ago?

My use of herbals has shrunk substantially over the last 30 years, not because they are ineffective, but because I've found that I don't need more than a few myself. But oregnao is one of the solid basics, so I grow a lot of it. I even pot some to bring into the house for the winter. It grows well on the kitchen window ledge. This winter I also have pots of thyme, catnip, rosemary and parsley - those being the herbs I like best fresh.

Oregano essential oil is a seriously concentrated form, and must be used carefully as Sunni explained. There are any number of other tinctures and preparations possible, and you can make them with the essential oil, or even the fresh plant. I made an infusion with some wild oregano growing here, and it was difficult to dilute it enough not to sting!

My scalp has itched for years. I have Seborrheic Keratoses (thickened, sometimes flaky skin) all over, but most annoyingly in my scalp. Hair doesn't grow where there are keratosis spots, so I have lost a lot of full length hair (not broken or split ends) constantly over the years and last year it was getting so thin I was ready for a bald man's "comb over." No kidding.

I began to use a concentrated "rinse" made from fresh, garden oregano (you can use the oil, but I don't know what proportion), water, apple cider vinegar and a little sea salt. Add half a cup of chopped oregano leaves and stems to two cups of boiling water. Allow to cool and strain. Mix with 2 or 3 tablespoons of vinegar and a teaspoon of salt. Use generously as a rinse - but don't rinse it out! When my hair is dry, I apply virgin coconut oil as a conditioner, rubbed deeply into the scalp and brushed out to the hair ends. I smell like a coconut pizza, but that's ok... it fades fast. Or at least *I* don't smell it for long.

My hair is now bright and healthy, I lose far less hair on a daily basis, and the increasing volume tells me I'm actually getting rid of at least some of the keratosis. My scalp feels smoother and no longer itches.

If anyone has access to Jewel Weed (Impatiens capensis) you would have a valuable herb to add to the rinse or other skin treatment, for itch or rash of almost any kind. I wish I could find some seed. It is offered at times, but I've never seen any that wasn't marked "out of stock."

There are many other beneficial herbs for skin care, but these two have been the best for my purposes.

I’m sure we’ve talked about it several times.

What do you use catnip for?

I wish I could grow some herbs indoors over the winter; but concerns over mold and fungus in the soil being a problem for my lungs have kept me from having any indoor plants for years now.

Herbs indoors

Catnip is good mixed with chamomile and green tea as a sleep aid. I don't have any problems sleeping anymore, so don't use much, but give it away to those who need it.

Catnip is actually a member of the mint family, and will grow in water alone for at least a while. But most other herbs won't, of course. You might have far, far less problems with mold if you started out with sterile potting soil and mixed it with sterile fine orchid bark. Plant young seedlings into that mix and keep only minimally watered. Most people badly overwater any indoor plant, which is where the mold and mildew take over. Herbs don't need or (except for mints) tolerate a lot of water, especially water logged soil, so you might be able to keep a few on a sunny window ledge.

I have orchids and other plants in my upstairs bathroom, which maintains 60 to 80% humidity and 60 degrees all the time. I have no mold or mildew problems in there because I am very careful not to overwater or allow water to stand in the saucers under the plants.

You can also lightly spray the plant and soil with tea tree oil solution at intervals, maybe even mix that with oregano tea or other natural anti-fungals.

In your climate, however, I suspect that most of the common medicinal herbs would grow outside all year long, especially with a good southern exposure and, maybe, a light cover for the coldest time or when it snows. My oregano and sage are still doing ok, even though it has already been below zero here several times. And they will both come back vigorously in the spring. Rosemary is more tender, but should do well there. It wintered just fine in the desert with two or three months of night time temps well below freezing.

You probably won't be able to buy plants this time of year locally, but you might get some from Gurney or Burpee mail order. I'd suggest you start with oregano, and see how it goes. Let's talk about it more if you want to do this! :)

I do have some herbs outdoors

We have a few herbs outdoors already: oregano, rosemary, peppermint (which killed my thyme plant), and chives, which are the weirdest thing—there’s a sweetness to the flavor that is the exact opposite of what one expects in chives. Thus, I almost never think to use it. I bought some garlic bulbs from Seed Savers Exchange, but haven’t gotten them in the ground yet.

Since sunshine is practically nonexistent here during a typical winter, I think it’s best to continue keeping the plants outside. I’m hopeful I’ll get things together early enough to expand our herbs and create a vegetable patch as well next spring.

Probably best

Sounds good. Yes, peppermint is very invasive, especially in a damp climate. I'll never forget the herb garden I planted in So. Calif. when my boys were young. We had a sloping front yard there, and only a little grass and weeds when I started. I brought in hundreds of pounds of goat manure and tilled it in, then planted a large number of bulbs and different herbs with strawberry plants in tiers behind railroad ties.

It was beautiful that first year... and then the peppermint, spearmint and a few other spreading herbs took over. What a jungle. Impossible to harvest the strawberries except on the edges and I mowed it close to the ground just before spring growth started so the bulbs would have a fighting chance to bloom. Wish I had some pictures.

You might try growing the thyme in a large pot up on stones. I don't think the peppermint would climb up to invade that.

I'd have a hard time in that climate myself. It got down to -8 here last night, and is only up to 3 degrees now at 11:AM, but the sun is pouring through every window.