The antimicrobial properties of volatile aromatic oils from medicinal as well as other edible plants has been recognized since antiquity. Origanum oil, which is used as a food flavoring agent, possesses a broad spectrum of in vitro antimicrobial activities attributed to the high content of phenolic derivatives such as carvacrol and thymol. In the present study, antifungal properties of origanum oil were examined both in vitro and in vivo. Using Candida albicans in broth cultures and a micro dilution method, comparative efficacy of origanum oil, carvacrol, nystatin and amphotericin B were examined in vitro. Origanum oil at 0.25 mg/ml was found to completely inhibit the growth of C. albicans in culture. Growth inhibitions of 75% and >50% were observed at 0.125 mg/ml and 0.0625 mg/ml level, respectively. In addition, both the germination and the mycelial growth of C. albicans were found to be inhibited by origanum oil and carvacrol in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, the therapeutic efficacy of origanum oil was examined in an experimental murine systemic candidiasis model. Groups of mice (n = 6) infected with C. albicans (5 x LD50) were fed varying amounts of origanum oil in a final vol. of 0.1 ml of olive oil (vehicle). The daily administration of 8.6 mg of origanum oil in 100 microl of olive oil/kg body weight for 30 days resulted in 80% survivability, with no renal burden of C. albicans as opposed to the group of mice fed olive oil alone, who died within 10 days. Similar results were obtained with carvacrol. However, mice fed origanum oil exhibited cosmetically better clinical appearance compared to those cured with carvacrol. The results from our study encourage examination of the efficacy of origanum oil in other forms of systemic and superficial fungal infections and exploration of its broad spectrum effect against other pathogenic manifestations including malignancy.