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Each year, one in six Americans becomes ill from food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, and other offenders. Foods of all varieties, including meats, dairy, produce, and nuts, may become contaminated by pathogens such as norovirus, salmonella, Campylobacter, E coli, and Staphylococcus aureus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 97 percent of all cases of food poisoning result from improper food handling. Most commonly this involves leaving prepared food at temperatures that allow bacterial growth. Illness-causing bacteria that can’t be smelled or tasted can grow in many foods within two hours unless you refrigerate them. (During the summer heat, cut that time down to one hour.)
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Food poisoning results in a variety of symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal issues (abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting), to life-threatening organ failure. Luckily, most cases of food poisoning are short lived and not life-threatening. Furthermore, natural remedies for food poisoning may be able to shorten the illness and/or treat the symptoms to ease suffering.
The conventional treatment approach is to let the symptoms ride out and replace electrolytes to prevent dehydration. Some doctors will recommend over-the-counter anti-diarrheal drugs like Pepto-Bismol or Imodium. These medicines can help ease diarrhea, but they don’t alter the course of the illness.
If symptoms persist more than three or four days, conventional medical practitioners will typically examine a stool sample to try to determine the specific pathogen and prescribe specific antimicrobial drugs. But the pathogen can’t always be identified, leaving patients without specific treatment options.
Natural Remedies for Food Poisoning
Fortunately, there are some excellent natural options to consider. Natural treatments may be geared to one of these three objectives:
- Killing the pathogen by using botanical medicines (herbs) with antibacterial, antiviral, or other antimicrobial properties
- Preventing and/or reducing the severity and duration of symptoms such as nausea and vomiting
- Treating the dehydration that may occur from vomiting and diarrhea.
Let’s take a closer look at the first objective here. Part 2 will look at addressing nausea, vomiting, and dehydration.
Oregano Oil Uses: Food Poisoning Prevention?
The essential oil of the common culinary herb, oregano (Origanum vulgare), contains a powerful blend of antimicrobial compounds, such as carvacrol and thymol, that can destroy the most common foodborne pathogens.[3,4] Oregano oil is so effective that it is being extensively studied as a natural preservative to prevent food spoilage and as an alternative to antibiotics in farm animals.
When taken as a supplement, oregano oil may help treat food poisoning by directly killing the pathogenic bacteria that have taken over the gastrointestinal tract. You can take either the pure, 100 percent essential oil or take the oil in an encapsulated form.
The key is to start taking oregano oil at the first signs of possible food poisoning and to take enough of it at regular intervals. In general, the recommended dosage is 500 mg four times per day. Find a more detailed discussion of how to use the pure essential oregano oil here. For encapsulated products, look for a “supercritical CO2 extract” containing carvacrol, such as “Oil of Oregano” by Gaia Herbs, and follow the directions on the product’s label. Don’t use oregano oil if you are pregnant or nursing.
If you think you may have eaten something suspect, take a dose of oregano oil right away and a second dose three to four hours later. If you do come down with nausea and vomiting, you can still take oregano oil to help destroy the pathogen as quickly as possible. To ease the unpleasant symptoms of food poisoning, use the natural cures for nausea and dehydration outlined in part 2.
Share Your Experience
Foodborne illness is an increasing issue in the news. Have you ever had a food-related illness? What steps do you take to protect your family from food-related illnesses? Share your experience in the comments section below.
Editor’s Note: Don’t miss the second part of our series on food poisoning to learn about natural cures for nausea and dehydration.
 CDC. Food Safety. About Foodborne Illness.
This blog originally appeared in 2014 and has been updated.