If you’ve only used oregano to flavor your spaghetti sauce, pizza, or Greek chicken marinade, you may be surprised to learn that oregano oil is also good for your health. A genus of the mint family, Oregano is rich in volatile oils that are believed to help support digestion, reduce inflammation, and provide immune support.*
You can buy oregano oil as a liquid extract, essential oil, or in capsule form to experience its health benefits.* But oregano oil extract is easy for the DIYer to make at home. You can start with oregano you grow in your own garden or buy dried or fresh oregano in any grocery store.
Oregano oil is great to have on hand whenever you’re feeling off.* It takes less than a half hour to make an oregano oil extract and it will be ready to use in just two weeks. In this article, we look at the difference between an essential oil and oil extract, the ingredients you need, how to make and store oregano oil, and the different ways to use it.
The Difference Between Oregano Oil Extract and Oregano Essential Oil
Essential oils are created through a steam distillation process that extracts the oil from a plant’s flowers or aromatic leaves. The steam process results in condensation that can be separated into two parts: water and oil. While you can buy a still or create a makeshift one of your own, creating an essential oil is more complicated than making an oil extract. It also requires a lot more plant material to create just a small quantity of oil. An essential oil is generally more potent than an oil extract and should be diluted before being ingested or used on your skin.
An oil extract is made by simply soaking the plant material in olive or another plant-based oil and letting it sit for a period of time so that its aroma, flavor, or medicinal properties infuse into the oil. At the end of the wait period, you strain the plant material from the oil and save the oil in an airtight container. In this article, when we refer to oregano oil, we are referring to an oil extract.
The Ingredients: Oregano + Oil
Start with organic oregano
Because you can make oregano oil from fresh or dried oregano leaves, you can make it any time of year. You can buy dried oregano in the spice section of your grocery store, buy bunches of fresh oregano from the produce section or farmers market, or plant oregano in the spring and have a ready source of fresh herbs to harvest year after year. Whichever option you use, choosing organic is usually best to avoid pesticides.
If you’re going to grow oregano, look for Origanum vulgare, the most common species in the Origanum genus — and the one considered most effective for healing. Plant it in the spring, past any chance of frost, either from seed, from a cutting or as a transplant. This perennial plant will grow happily in a vegetable bed or a patio container if it’s in full sun (or partial shade where summers are very hot) and well-drained soil. Add compost to the soil before planting. If you want to grow multiple plants, set them 8 to 10 inches apart. They will grow 1 to 2 feet tall and spread about 18”.
Harvest oregano leaves in early June, right before the plant starts to flower. This is when the herb has the most intense flavor. Pruning a young plant too frequently can damage the plant, so you might get only one or two harvests the first year.
However, you should be able to get several more harvests from an older plant. In fact, if you live in a warm climate where it can grow all year, you can prune and harvest oregano leaves whenever you need them. They just won’t have the same strong flavor as the leaves picked before flowering.
If you cut more oregano leaves than you need, tie the sprigs together with a rubber band around the stems and hang the stems by the rubber band on a hanging rack in a sunny, dry place. They should be dry in one to two weeks. Strip the leaves from the stem and store in an airtight container.
Select Your Oil
Olive oil is commonly used for homemade oregano oil. If you’re going to use olive oil, we recommend the extra-virgin form, since this will make the purest oregano oil.
If you prefer, you can use other monounsaturated fats, including avocado oil, grapeseed oil, canola oil, and almond or walnut oil.
Recipe for Oregano Oil
Oregano oil can be made by heating the ingredients or cold-pressing to extract the essential oils. You’ll need a sterilized glass jar and lid for both processes.
1/2 cup dried oregano or large bunch fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (approx.)
Instructions for Heated Oregano Oil
- If you’re using fresh oregano, strip the leaves from the stems and wash them in a colander. Dry the leaves with a salad spinner or dish cloth. Then chop them with a sharp knife to release their oils. You can also crush them with a mortar and pestle, but this will take longer. If you’re using dried oregano, measure out 1/2 cup.
- Place the oregano in the glass jar and cover it to the top with oil. Use equal amounts of dried oregano and oil. Fresh leaves may wilt in the oil, so you may need to use less oil than the orginal volume of oregano leaves. Stir to combine the ingredients and adjust the oil if it doesn’t cover the leaves. Then seal the jar with the lid.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil, with enough water to cover the ingredients in the jar.
- Place the jar in the boiling water and turn off the burner, letting the mixture sit for 10 minutes to allow the natural oils to release from the oregano leaves.
- Remove the jar from its warm water bath and shake it. Tighten the lid if it has expanded.
- Store the jar in a cool, dry place for 2 weeks, such as on a windowsill.
- Shake the jar once a day.
- After 2 weeks, strain the oil from the oregano leaves, pouring the remaining oil into a clean airtight glass jar or dispensing bottle. It’s now ready for use.
Instructions for Cold-Pressed Oregano Oil
- Follow Steps 1 through 3 for Heated Oregano Oil.
- Store the jar in a dark place away from sunlight for two weeks.
- Shake the jar every two days.
- After two weeks the color of the oil should be green and ready to use.
- Strain the leaves through a sieve and pour the remaining oil into a container. Seal the container with an airtight lid.
How to Store Oregano Oil
Oregano oil can be stored in a dark dry place for up to several months, or in the refrigerator for up to a year. You can add a few drops of lemon oil or grapefruit oil to the extract as a natural preservative.
All oils can go bad if stored improperly. If you aren’t sure whether your oil has gone rancid, pour a little in a spoon and sniff it. If it has a strong, sour odor, you should toss it and make a new batch.
How to Take Oregano Oil
Oregano oil can be taken in a variety of ways, depending on what you are using it for. If you find it is too strong, you can use it at a lower concentration than what we suggest below. In that case, adjust the amount of oregano to oil when you make additional batches.
Use oregano oil for sore muscles and joint pain: Mix oregano oil with olive oil at a concentration of 1 drop of oregano oil to 1 teaspoon of olive oil (or other healthy oil). Massage the mixture into your skin to treat sore muscles and joints.
Use oregano oil for skin conditions: Mix equal parts oregano oil and olive oil and apply it with a cotton swab to the affected area to treat toe fungus or warts.
Use oregano oil as a health supplement: There are several ways you can take oregano oil orally to enjoy its health benefits. When taking it orally, avoid getting it directly on your tongue or lips because it’s spicy and may create a burning sensation.
- Take a sip of water, hold it in your mouth and add 1 to 3 drops of oregano oil into the water. Swallow. Follow with more water.
- Dilute 2 to 3 drops of oregano oil in one cup of water and drink the full cup.
- Add 1 drop of oregano oil to ½ cup of water and use it to gargle.
- Add several drops of oregano oil to a steam tent and inhale. Create the steam tent by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Remove the pot from the stove and set it on a hot pad. Lean over the steaming water and place a towel over your head and shoulders to capture the steam. Remain under the tent for 15 to 20 minutes, or until there is no more steam.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own oregano oil but want to experience its benefits, Gaia Herbs offers Oil of Oregano in vegan capsule form and Oregano Leaf as an alcohol-based extract. It’s a great supplement to keep on hand for short-term wellness support.*
Oregano oil should not be taken during pregnancy or lactation.You should consult with your doctor before taking oregano oil if you have any medical conditions or are taking medications.