Herbiary, or Why Oil of Oregano is Not as Benign as it Sounds

The interminable sniffles caused by the shift from summer to fall was getting me down. Seemed like I couldn’t live without a box of Kleenex at hand (or suffer the consequences on my clothes and in my hair). A coworker offered a suggestion–oil of oregano. “Take a few drops every day,” he said. “It’s pricey but it totally works. You’ll never get a cold again.” He tried to explain, something about antiviral properties, but I didn’t listen very closely. I’m constitutionally predisposed to take the advice of the young and healthy. “It’s really strong,” he cautioned.

Where better to go than the Herbiary at Reading Terminal Market? Lined with shelves holding books full of maybe-ancient wisdom and small bottles of extracts with untold properties, I walked into the shop and approached the freshly-scrubbed woman working by the register. I asked whether they stocked oil of oregano. She reached over and grabbed the minuscule blue bottle and began leafing through various volumes to let me know what it was I was intending to ingest. “Are you pregnant?” she asked. “Dear god, I hope not.” “Hm. It only seems to say that you shouldn’t take this if you’re pregnant. But I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do with it.”

No worries–I knew.

My companion joined me and we found a spot to sit and eat our lunch. Afterwards, I took out the oil of oregano, opened it and tipped two or three drops into my mouth. Apparently someone had mistakenly filled the bottle with a corrosive acid which immediately began eating through my tongue. Not having studied anatomy, I hadn’t realized how many layers my tongue was composed of until I felt each dissolving, one by one. The question of whether taste buds regenerate fell out of my mind as those three drops forged a burning path down my esophagus and into my gullet and formed a harsh ball somewhere near my stomach, leaving behind a taste that can best be described as strip mall pizzeria spice rack explosion.

In a moment of stupidity, bravery or–possibly?–camaraderie, my companion decided to try it too. He took three or four drops and instantaneously his eyes got red, tears streamed down his cheeks and he looked like he might vomit. By instantaneously I mean exactly that. Outside of the scene in Pulp Fiction where Uma Thurman gets a shot of adrenaline I’d never seen anyone react faster to the intake of a chemical. The stranger next to me became extraordinarily interested in us, thinking, perhaps, I’d just broken my companion’s heart or kicked him in the crotch under the table. Like a pair who had dropped bad acid, we suffered through together, wincing through what may have been 45 seconds, but felt like 12 or 14 hours of absolute discomfort.

Getting into work Monday, I told my coworker about our adventure. He looked at me incredulously: “I told you to put it in something, not take it straight.” Lesson learned.

Recommended: browsing the shelves, smelling fancy soaps and lotions and not taking oil of oregano internally.

Oil of Oregano bottle

Oil of Oregano

About Mary Rizzo

No denying it, I like the sensual things of the world, especially good food and drink, though I'm no snob when it comes to either. A background in American cultural history and food studies makes me approach the world with a desire for contextualization and connection on the way to synthesis.
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1 Response to Herbiary, or Why Oil of Oregano is Not as Benign as it Sounds

  1. Margaret says:

    H0pefully at least your cold cleared up?

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