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The first thing to know about oregano oil is that it tastes absolutely awful. The second (and perhaps more helpful) thing to know is that it really, really works.

Natural health junkies swear by the stuff, and we're seeing more mainstream experts begin to tout the oil's abilities to fight colds and flu, along with a slew of other ailments, such as food poisoning and eczema. Even Dr. Oz is a fan!

So, what is it exactly?

Essentially, oregano oil is a potent liquidextracted from the herb of the same name. It bears the same flavour as oregano sprigs, but because it's highly concentrated, just one drop is strong enough to blow your head off (figuratively, we should mention).

Also see: Mom-approved home remedies for kids' colds and flu

What does it do?

As proponents of the oil claim, each spicy little droplet contains antibacterial, antiviral and antioxidant properties that can fight cold and flu bugs in your body, as well as provide a slight decongestant effect and sooth irritated throats.

How does it work?

Oregano itself boasts the essential oils carvacrol and thymol – they're what give the herb its signature scent – and these two compounds have strong antibacterial and antiviral properties, which makes them ideal for fighting bacteria and viruses in the body when ingested, as well as tackling common skin irritations when applied topically. These properties are signifantly more effective in oil than the herb because it's super-concentrated.

Also see: Best and worst foods to eat when you're sick

How should you use it?

For a stuffed-up nose or tickled throat, Dr. Oz recommends adding a few drops of oregano oil to a bowl of hot water, then holding your head over the bowl to inhale the vapours – for maximum effect (and if you can stand it!) drape a towel over your head while you do this to trap in the steam.

Hardcore oregano oil enthusiasts are known to take a few drops of the oil straight under their tongue, but we recommend diluting it in a teaspoon of olive oil or a cup of herbal tea to make it a little more palatable. You can also try adding a few drops to a steam vapourizer while you sleep.

While there is no conclusive evidence that oregano oil is harmful, pregnant women should avoid it, assome doctors believe it can lead to miscarriages. The jury's still out on whether oregano oil is safe for kids, so if you do decide to try it on your little ones, be sure to dilute it well.

Also see: Feel a cold coming on? Do this!

Where can you find it?

Most natural health food stores carry oregano oil -- look for diluted versions if you're nervous about the intense flavour. You can also find it in capsule forms, but if you're looking to steam or vapourize it, opt for the liquid version.