Does Oregano Oil Kill Probiotics?

Written by: Kari Raman, PharmD, RPh
Published November 12, 2023

A pharmacist explains how the good bacteria in probiotics interact with oregano oil supplements.

Oregano oil, derived from the leaves of the oregano plant, is a natural substance that has gained popularity for its potential health benefits. At the pharmacy counter, I wish patients would ask more about how supplements interact with their medicines and probiotics – because some supplements can contain powerful ingredients that can cause interactions. 

So, to get to the purpose of this article, does oregano oil kill probiotics? 

To cut to the chase, you probably have to take a lot of oregano oil to cancel out the benefits of probiotics by killing them off. If you are taking an essential oil, it might be very concentrated, you could actually be getting a lot of the active ingredients in the supplement – which, as a pharmacist, I’d be a bit worried about. So my first thought is that you should tell your primary care physician if you are taking any supplements, and talk to your pharmacist about possible interactions. 

All that being said, I also suggest patients don’t take their probiotics with coffee, and think about how apple cider vinegar interacts with bacteria supplements, consider the time of day when they take probiotics, so, since you are here, let’s look at the medical research and get all sciency about how these supplements interact. 

Understanding Oregano Oil

Before we discuss its interaction with probiotics, it’s helpful to understand what oregano oil entails. This oil, particularly its component carvacrol, is known for its antimicrobial properties. Research indicates that it may fight off bacteria, viruses, and fungi, making it a common recommendation (on the internet) for various minor health issues. It contains compounds such as carvacrol and thymol, which might contribute to its ability to combat certain pathogens. Some individuals take this oil as a supplement, believing it may support their immune system and overall health. 

First of all, if you have a bacterial infection, you need to see a doctor to get an antibiotic prescription. Infections are serious and can be deadly. Supplements may be useful, but are not a substitute for FDA approved medicines, especially when dealing with an infection.

While it’s true that oregano oil may exhibit antibacterial activity, it’s not entirely clear how selective this activity is between harmful and beneficial bacteria. Research in this area is still ongoing, and results could vary depending on factors such as dosage, the specific strains of bacteria involved, and individual responses. So we can’t say for sure if it only targets bad or unhelpful gut bacteria, or if it also takes out the good part of your gut’s microbiome, and if it hits beneficial probiotic supplements.

The Power of Probiotics

Probiotics, on the other hand, are beneficial bacteria that may contribute positively to our health, particularly gut health. Common probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium, and others work by possibly balancing the gut flora, may enhance immune function, and even potentially alleviating symptoms of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There is a lot of research on probiotics, some of it quite well done. But it’s not clear which people will benefit from specific strains, if any, so it takes some experimentation to find one that might help your gut. 

The Interaction: Oregano Oil and Probiotics

Given that oregano oil has antibacterial properties, it is reasonable to question whether it could also harm the beneficial bacteria in our bodies.

Research Findings – Does Oregano Oil Kill Probiotics?

Research on oregano oil predominantly shows its efficacy against pathogenic bacteria, and how it might help preserve manufactured foods. However, the extent to which it might affect probiotics is less clear. While it is plausible that the oil could have some impact on beneficial bacteria, studies have yet to definitively demonstrate that it selectively spares probiotics while targeting harmful pathogens. So it might kill off the bacteria you are trying to take as a supplement if you take them too close together.

Potential Synergy

Some researchers are studying the idea that using oregano oil and probiotics together may actually offer synergistic benefits. The theory is that while the oil may deal with harmful bacteria, taking a probiotic supplement could ensure that the beneficial bacteria in the gut are replenished and maintained. However, this theory requires further scientific validation. I would say that this research is very, very early-stage (and seems to mainly focus on farm animals, not people). So it’s super early.

How to Use Oregano Oil and Probiotics

So, if you are a person who likes to take essential oil supplements and who wants to add probiotics to the mix, what should you do? Given the uncertainty surrounding their interaction, a cautious approach might be to take them at different times of the day to minimize any potential conflict. It is also always prudent to consult a healthcare professional before starting any supplementation.

Conclusion: A Balanced Approach

While there is no conclusive evidence that oregano oil kills probiotics, understanding that it does kill bacteria and that it has antimicrobial properties is vital. A balanced and informed approach, while always keeping individual health circumstances in mind, can be beneficial.

For anyone considering using oregano oil or probiotics, or both, consulting with a healthcare professional is crucial. Understanding the nuances of natural supplements ensures that we use them effectively and safely, and we have to incorporate them into the other medicines and treatments that you might be taking. Remember, what works for one individual may not work for everyone, and it is always essential to seek personalized advice for optimal health outcomes.

Some of my other probiotic articles

Bio Complete 3 Review:

Dive into our comprehensive Bio Complete 3 Review to explore insights from a practicing pharmacist on the potential benefits and considerations of this probiotic supplement developed by Dr. Gundry. Get a balanced perspective based on scientific literature and real patient feedback.

Microbiome Plus+ Review:

Curious about online probiotic supplements? Check out our detailed Microbiome Plus+ Review where a seasoned pharmacist delves into the science behind this product not commonly found in pharmacies. Discover if this could be the right supplement to support your gut health.

Florastor vs Culturelle – Which One to Choose? 

As a retail pharmacist, I often encounter questions about the best probiotic choices. Understanding the nuances can be challenging, so I’ve created a thorough comparison titled “Florastor vs Culturelle: Which One to Choose?”. This article breaks down the differences and similarities between these two leading probiotic brands. From Florastor’s unique probiotic yeast that helps with diarrhea and gut stability during antibiotic treatment, to Culturelle’s renowned Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG strain, this piece provides valuable insights to help you decide which probiotic might be right for your health needs.

Pharmacist Kari Raman

I’m Kari Raman PharmD, RPh, and I am a licensed, practicing pharmacist. I hold a Doctorate in Pharmacy from The University of the Pacific, and I’ve served patients in retail, compounding and hospital pharmacies.

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I hope Pharmacist Probiotics helps you find out if there is a type of probiotic that works for you!