I do not recommend that breastfeeding mothers use oil of oregano to treat thrush…
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Oil of oregano (Origanum vulgare L.) is sometimes suggested for treatment of thrush (candida/yeast). The recommendations I have seen for the use of oil of oregano for thrush treatment include topical use of the oil on baby’s feet and mother’s nipples and internal use of the oil by the mother.
There is nothing in the professional lactation literature thus far about oil of oregano, and little information elsewhere. There has been some discussion about it on Lactnet (an email discussion group for lactation professionals). Most agreed that without more substantive information it was not good practice to recommend it at this point.
In-vitro studies have indicated that oil of oregano has antifungal and antimicrobial properties, however these effects have not yet been studied in humans.
- Hammer KA, Carson CF, Riley TV. Antimicrobial activity of essential oils and other plant extracts. J Appl Microbiol 1999 Jun;86(6):985-90.
- Hammer KA, Carson CF, Riley TV. In-vitro activity of essential oils, in particular Melaleuca alternafolia (tea tree) oil and tea tree oil products, against Candida albicans. J Antimicrobial Chemother 1998;42:591–5.
- Stiles JC, Sparks W, Ronzio RA. The inhibition of Candida albicans by oregano. J Applied Nutr 1995;47:96–102.
Here are a few quotes on the efficacy and safety of oil of oregano:
- The claimed efficacy for this herb has not been documented… Since efficacy has not been documented, a therapeutic use of this herb cannot be recommended.
Source: Oregano (Origani vulgaris herba), from The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. The American Botanical Council. Blumenthal, Busse, Goldberg, Gruenwald. Hall, Klein, Riggins, & Rister, 1998, Austin, TX.
- Oregano should not be used during pregnancy as it stimulates menstruation and may cause miscarriage.12 The oil should not be used internally by anyone. Topically, the volatile oil of oregano may be moderately irritating to skin and can be a potent mucous membrane irritant. It should not be applied topically to mucous membranes in greater than a 1% concentration.13 Children less than two years of age and people with damaged or very sensitive skin should not use the oil topically.14
12. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publishers, 1998, 181.
13. Tisserand R, Balacs T. Essential Oil Safety. New York: Churchill Livingston, 1996, 156-7.
14. Tisserand R, Balacs T. Essential Oil Safety. New York: Churchill Livingston, 1996, 156-7.
- Safety Information: Skin irritant, mucous membrane irritant, can cause skin irritation. [Robert Tisserand, Essential Oil Safety (United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone, 1995), 156.]
- Particular care should be exercised with Cinnamon, Lemongrass, Oregano, and thyme, as they are some of the strongest and most caustic. Always dilute these oils before use. Do not add more than 3 drops of these oils in the bath… For babies 0-12 month, use only 1 drop of Lavender, Rose, or Chamomile, diluted in 1 tsp. Of Vegetable Oil for massage or bathing (please, do not use other oils). For infants 1-5 years old, only use non-toxic and non-caustic oils.
Origanum vulgare L.
Should not be used when pregnant or by children. Possible skin, mucus membrane irritant. Possible hepatoxic in large levels.
- Most sources recommend that oil of oregano should not be taken internally, particularly by infants and young children. Anything applied to the nipple is likely to be ingested by baby unless it is washed off very well before nursing. Oils can be difficult to wash from the nipples, and trying to remove the oil thoroughly from already-sore nipples can be quite painful — better to use something that does not need to be washed off.
- Because oil of oregano is very irritating to the skin and mucus membranes, there is a very real concern about applying this oil to baby’s skin or to mom’s skin where it might come into contact with baby.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that eating excessive amounts of oregano can decrease milk supply (the small amounts used to spice food are generally not considered to be a problem). A method used to decrease milk supply when weaning is to use a breast massage oil made with oil of oregano. Therefore using oil of oregano, either internally or topically, to treat thrush has the potential to decrease milk supply.
Because this essential oil has not been shown to be effective for thrush treatment in humans and because of safety and milk supply issues, I do not recommend that breastfeeding mothers use oil of oregano to treat thrush. There are a number of thrush treatments that are known to be effective and safe, and thus would be a better choice over oil of oregano.