Thyme Essential Oil

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Thyme Essential Oil
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Thyme Essential Oil – General Description

The use of thyme for therapeutic and medicinal purposes dates back to early civilization where the ancient Egyptians, for instance, incorporated thyme in bathwater, burned this herb as temple incense, and utilized it for their embalming. The Greeks, as pointed out by Hippocrates in his collection of early ancient Greek medical works (i.e., Hippocratic Corpus), employed the plant for respiratory and other related conditions, the herb being largely cultivated and harvested in the countryside. [1]

During the Middle Ages in Europe, thymes were traditionally secured beneath the pillows to keep nightmares at bay and help promote good sleep. [2] At present, thyme is widely medically used for conditions such as bronchitis, hair loss, colic, movement disorders in children, colic, ear infections, sore throat, and oral and pulmonary inflammation, among others. [3]

The common thyme (aka English or French thyme, summer thyme), scientifically labeled as Thymus vulgaris, is an evergreen perennial herb flourishing in sunny areas with well-drained soil. The plant is distinguishable through its pale purple or white flowers; a branched stem; and small, curled, elliptical aromatic leaves that have a greenish-gray top and whitish underside. These leaves and the flowering tops, either fresh or partially dried, undergo steam distillation to extract thyme essential oil. Pale yellow to reddish yellow in color and with a thin and slightly oily consistency and middle perfumery note, thyme essential oil produces a powerfully strong, spicy, herbaceous aroma often described as “penetrating, sharp and warming, uplifting, and mentally stimulating.” Thyme essential oil blends without any concern with bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, lavender, rosemary, and pine
essential oils. [4]

Thyme Essential Oil – Uses and Reported Benefits

The list of thyme essential oil’s purported beneficial effects is as long as its history of use as a medicinal herb, with the numerous active ingredients that thyme contains being responsible for most of its medicinal properties. Thyme is chiefly used for its antihelminthic, expectorant, antispasmodic, antimicrobial, antifungal, antioxidative, antivirotic, carminative, sedative, and diaphoretic effects. Thyme essential oil is highly antiseptic and has an antioxidant effect and thus can improve the longevity of body cells. It is one of the most well-regarded and extensively used oils in aromatherapy, especially for cases of exhaustion, depression, upper respiratory tract infections, and skin and scalp problems. [5]

Thyme Essential Oil – Contraindications and Safety

Being a potent oil, thyme essential oil should not be given to pregnant women and hypertensive individuals. Although thyme essential oil is generally safe when applied on the skin, this essential oil can however irritate the mucous membranes and cause skin infection due to its phenol (i.e., carvacrol and thymol) content and thus should be used ideally in low concentrations. [4]

Thyme Essential Oil – Scientific Studies And Research

Thyme Essential Oil As Antibacterial: Thyme essential oil is one of a few essential oils that have been adequately evidenced to demonstrate extremely pronounced antibacterial properties. In a 2011 Polish study that tested the antibacterial activity of thyme essential oil against clinical strains of different genera of bacteria such as Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Pseudomonas, thyme essential oil displayed strong inhibitory action against 120 strains of bacteria isolated from patients suffering from oral cavity, respiratory, and genitourinary tract infections. Worthy of mention from this study is the finding that thyme essential oil exhibited high level of efficacy against antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. [6] The finding is strengthened by a similar study by Sienkiewicz, Lysakowska, Denys, and Kowalczyk (2012) who had investigated as well thyme essential oil’ antibacterial activity against clinical multidrug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Pseudomonas genera. In their study, thyme essential oil exhibited strong inhibition of bacterial growth, leading these researchers to recommend the use of phytopharmaceuticals based on thyme essential oil to prevent and treat several bacterial infections. [7] According to the study of Friedman, Henika, and Mandrell (2002), thyme essential oil possesses high antimicrobial activity against Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes (a food-borne pathogen that causes listeriosis), and Salmonella enterica (the bacterium that largely causes human gastroenteritis and typhoid fever). [8] Aside from these bacteria, thyme essential oil has also been proven to be effective against Staphylococcus aureus, including the methicillin-resistant isolates, S. epidermidis, Enterococcus faecalis, Bacillus cereus, and Vibrio cholerae, among others. [9]

Thyme Essential Oil As Anti-Fungal: In addition to its detrimental effects against a vast variety of bacterial strains, thyme essential oil also exhibits strong fungicidal action, as shown in several studies. In a 2007 Croatian study from the University of Zagreb, the vaporous phase of thyme essential oil suppressed the sporulation of molds such as Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Trichoderma for a significant amount of time (60 days of exposure), whereas thymol, thyme essential oil’s active ingredient, exhibited three-times stronger inhibition than the essential oil. [10] In the study of Pozzatti et al. (2008), which explored the in vitro antifungal activities of various essential oils, Candida (yeast) species such as C. albicans and C. dubliniensis resistant to the antifungal drug fluconazole were found susceptible to thyme essential oil. [11] Similarly, a 2007 Spanish study investigating the antimicrobial activity of cinnamon, thyme, and oregano essential oils and their major active compounds against a host of food-borne Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, molds, and yeast presented credible data on the extremely strong antimicrobial effectiveness of thymol and carvacrol, thyme essential oil’s key components. [12]

Thyme Essential Oil As Anti-Inflammatory: Thyme essential oil holds promise as an efficient, natural anti-inflammatory agent, especially when used in conjunction with other equally potent essential oils such as oregano
essential oil. In a 2007 Slovakian study conducted by researchers from the Institute of Animal Physiology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, the therapeutic combination of thyme and oregano essential oils at medium dose substantially decreased the production of proinflammatory cytokines (IL-1beta, IL-6, GM-CSF, and TNF-alpha), reducing inflammation such as in the case of colitis. In this study, the administration of thyme plus oregano essential oil combination treatment also had lowered the mortality rate of rodent models, accelerated body weight gain recovery, and limited the damage on colonic tissues. [13] Carvacrol, one of the most well-researched phenolic components present in thyme essential oil, has been evidenced to suppress and regulate the expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), an enzyme associated with prostaglandin biosynthesis and hence inflammation, through this phenol’s agonistic effect on peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma. [14]

Thyme Essential Oil – Molecular Components And Phytochemistry

Thyme essential oil contains a variety of compounds in trace quantities, some of which are well documented to exert a number of biological properties such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, antibacterial, and antifungal. Thymol, a natural terpenoid; carvacrol; thymol’s phenol isomer; and gamma-terpinene are the major compounds of thyme essential oil. [15] Other main volatile components include p-cymene and linalool. [16] Terpenoids, flavonoid aglycones, flavonoids glycosides, and phenolic acids have been isolated from this essential oil too.


[1] Nordqvist C. (2013). What are the benefits of thyme? Medical News Today. Retrieved from

[2] Thyme. Wikipedia. Retrieved from

[3] Thyme: Uses, side effects, interactions and warnings. WebMD. Retrieved from

[4] Thyme (red) Essential Oil. 30 ml (1 oz). 100% Pure, Undiluted, Therapeutic Grade. Amazon. Retrieved from

[5] Thymus vulgaris – L. Plants For A Future. Retrieved from

[6] Sienkiewicz M. et al. (2011). Antibacterial activity of thyme and lavender essential oils. Medicinal Chemistry. 7(6): 674-689. Retrieved from

[7] Sienkiewicz M., Lysakowska M., Denys P., Kowalczyk E. (2012). The antimicrobial activity of thyme essential oil against multidrug resistant clinical bacterial strains. Microbial Drug Resistance. 18(2): 137-148. doi: 10.1089/mdr.2011.0080. Retrieved from

[8] Friedman M., Henika P. R., Mandrell R. E. (2002). Bactericidal activities of plant essential oils and some of their isolated constituents against Campylobacter jejuni, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella enterica. Journal of Food Protection. 65(10): 1545-1560. Retrieved from

[9] Kon K., Rai, M. (2012). Antibacterial activity of Thymus vulgaris essential oil alone and in combination with other essential oils. Bioscience. 4(2): 50-55. Retrieved from

[10] Segvic Klaric M. et al. (2007). Antifungal activity of thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) essential oil and thymol against moulds from damp dwellings. Letters in Applied Microbiology. 44(1): 36-42. Retrieved from

[11] Pozzatti P. et al. (2008). In vitro activity of essential oils extracted from plants used as spices against fluconazole-resistant and fluconazole-susceptible Candida spp. Canadian Journal of Microbiology. 54(11): 950-956. doi: 10.1139/w08-097. Retrieved from

[12] López P., Sanchez C., Batlle R., Nerín C. (2007). Vapor-phase activities of cinnamon, thyme, and oregano essential oils and key constituents against foodborne microorganisms. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 55(11): 4348-4356. Retrieved from

[13] Bukovská A. et al. (2007). Effects of a combination of thyme and oregano essential oils on TNBS-induced colitis in mice. Mediators of Inflammation. 2007: 23296. doi: 10.1155/2007/23296. Retrieved from

[14] Hotta M. et al. (2010). Carvacrol, a component of thyme oil, activates PPARalpha and gamma and suppresses COX-2 expression. Journal of Lipid Research. 51(1): 132-139. doi: 10.1194/jlr.M900255-JLR200. Retrieved from

[15] Amiri H. (2012). Essential oils composition and antioxidant properties of three thymus species. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012: 728065. doi: 10.1155/2012/728065. Retrieved from

[16] Grosso C. et al. (2010). Composition and antioxidant activity of Thymus vulgaris volatiles: comparison between supercritical fluid extraction and hydrodistillation. Journal of Separation Science. 33(14): 2211-2218. doi: 10.1002/jssc.201000192.

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