Kathy Quirk-Syvertsen/Digital Vision/Getty Images

A rising star in alternative medicine is oil of oregano. Oregano is universally famous as a seasoning in Mediterranean dishes, but concentrated doses of the oil of this herb have been used for centuries as a panacea for numerous afflictions, including digestive and respiratory diseases. With such a stellar track record, you may be tempted to use this aromatic oil to treat your child. But the jury is still out where safety for children is concerned.


Oregano oil made its North American debut in the early 20th century, but it was widely used in ancient times. Hippocrates wrote extensively about oil of wild oregano, singing its praises as a cure for digestive ailments, skin conditions and respiratory diseases. In the 1400s, Paracelsus used the wild herb to treat skin afflictions, jaundice, fungal infections, vomiting and diarrhea. However, there is no historical documentation of the oil being used to treat children.

Research Affirms Curative Properties

Recently, oil of oregano is receiving renewed scientific acclaim. A 2001 study conducted at Georgetown University Medical Center by Dr. Harry G. Preuss, et.al., found oregano oil potent and effective in fighting yeast infections. Another study by the same team pitted oregano oil against staphylococcus bacteria and found it to be as effective as antibiotics. It has also been shown effective against coronaviruses responsible for upper respiratory infections. Though the research sounds promising, the experiments were conducted in test tubes and on a small number of mice. Dosing your child based on the findings of these experiments would be precipitous.

Applications for Children

Opinions vary on whether the oil should be used for children. Some manufacturers advocate topical application only, while others support oral dosing for children age 5 or older. It is generally agreed that oil of oregano should not be used by pregnant or nursing mothers, and most agree it should not be used on young infants, although some advocate applying it to the soles of the feet or in the bath water of infants as young as 6 months. As of 2010, there is no consensus on safe use for children.

Potential Side Effects

Oregano oil can have many noteworthy side effects. Allergic reactions and skin irritation are most common. Topical application can cause a burning sensation and rash. When ingested by pregnant women, the oil may overstimulate blood flow to the uterus and weaken the uterine lining. Oregano oil has also been found to interfere with iron absorption. This is particularly important for children because the body uses dietary iron to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein.

Before You Buy

When buying oil of oregano, be certain it is derived from the species origanum vulgare, which grows wild in mountainous regions of Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, The variety of oregano used for cooking in North America comes from a Mexican plant, origanum marjoram, that does not possess the same medicinal properties.

A Word of Caution

Consult your health care provider before administering medicinal substances to children. Herbal remedies can vary in potency from one product to another and can be toxic. Oil of oregano is sold in a highly concentrated form and should be consumed conservatively. Start out with small doses of the oil to ensure you are not allergic and to avoid overdosing. Keep oil of oregano locked safely out of children's reach.