There are over 30 different species of oregano. In the herbal world oregano and marjoram are interchangeable. When it comes to essential oils less than 10 varieties of oregano are utilized with Origanum vulgare being the most commonly found variety for sale. The oil is created by steam distilling the leaves and flower upper portion of the plant. It has a strong camphoraceous, spicy, herbaceous fragrance.
Many trained aromatherapist will turn to this oil to assist with respiratory discomforts. Properly diluted the oil can improve circulation and reduce pain. The essential oil is high in phenols, specifically carvacrol. Some of the therapeutic benefits of phenols include antibacterial, antifungal, antitoxic and disinfectant. In The Essential Guide to Aromatherapy and Vibrational Healing author Margaret Ann Lembo breaks down some of the positive emotional and mental uses of this oil. She mentions it helping with mental imbalances and possibly alleviating some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. “With its strong medicinal aroma, oregano helps shake out feelings of weakness and hopelessness.” (pg. 161)
Oregano is considered a hot oil and lends its therapeutic benefits to the respiratory and digestive system. It is beneficial for loosening mucus in respiratory concerns, but if not used properly can also damage mucus membranes. The essential oil does have a variety of safety precautions including avoidance during pregnancy or breastfeeding. The recommended topical use is 1.1% (Tisserand and Young pg. 375-376) due to the possibility of skin irritation. Ensuring that oregano is properly diluted in a good carrier oil and combined with skin nourishing oils will help with successful use.
Much of my work at a farm animal rescue has been with smaller animals; rabbits and chickens. Since oregano is a strong oil that can cause mucus membrane damage I don’t feel that it would be safe with these small sensitive animals. As I mentioned in my article about use with chickens a cleaning spray could be created to clean out an area after illness. I prefer to use the whole plant as a combination of greens for a treat. This provides the animals with similar therapeutic benefits and without the safety concerns.