Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a herb that is native to the Mediterranean region. Thyme contains an essential oil that is rich in thymol, a strong antibacterial antiseptic and a powerful antioxidant. The essential oil of Thymus vulgaris is made up of 20-54% thymol. Thyme oil is extracted by steam distillation from the leaves and flowers of the herb. In addition to thymol, this plant contains the antioxidant flavonoids naringenin, apigenin, thymonin and luteolin. Thyme oil was employed in pre and post-surgical dressings, to prevent and kill the yellow fever virus during WWI. The German Commission E, has approved thyme for symptoms of, whooping cough, bronchitis and catarrh.
Thyme essential oil, which is distilled from the leaves of the plant, has strong antifungal, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal activities. The medicinal effect of thyme rests on its contents of flavonoids, thymol, eugenol, aliphatic phenols as well as saponins, luteolin and tetramethoxylated flavones.
Thyme Plant and Researches
Thymus vulgaris has traditionally been used to treat respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and to treat cough. Thyme is approved by the German Commission E (an official government agency similar to the FDA) to treat those diseases. This plant acts both as an expectorant to clear the lungs of congestion and as a antitussive, soothing coughing spasms. Thymol, essential oil has been recognized as an effectual treatment for the therapy of chronic and acute bronchitis, according to scientists at the German Central Institute for Pharmaceutical Research, Sinzig. In a 2007 German study, researchers investigated a syrup made of extracts of thyme and ivy on children and adolescents with acute bronchitis. Their study concluded that a 10-day treatment of the syrup improved symptoms and, in some cases, cured the disease.
Thyme oil can help maintain a healthful scalp, curing dandruff and promoting healthful hair growth. There is some findings that applying lavender oil in combination with the essential oils from thyme, cedarwood and rosemary to the scalp improves hair growth in up to 44 percent of people after seven months of therapy.
Thyme oil is used in mouthwashes, which aids in treating infections of the mouth, gums and throat. Thymol and carvacrol have powerful antimicrobial effects and are important components of the essential oils of thyme. They are used in products like Listerine. Listerine mouthwash in studies has exhibited strong antibacterial effects.
Its basic compound, thymol, is attributed with antioxidant, antitussive, antifungal and antimicrobial effects. Lab experiments indicate that thymol has antifungal property against a number of species, including Cryptococcus neoformans, Aspergillus, Saprolegnia, and Zygorhynchus species.The research, published in the June 1999 Journal of Applied Microbiology found that oil of thyme was efficacious against staph aureus as well as a number of other fungi and bacteria in the experiments.
The thyme oil possesses a wide range spectrum of fungicidal activity. In 2001, a Georgetown University scientists explored the effects of thyme oil against different bacteria, including those that are medication-resistant. Results of the researches showed that the components of thyme oil inhibit infection with efficacy comparable to standard antibiotics. A study published in the June 2010 edition of Planta Medica; thymus works by destroying the cell membrane, causing cell death, and it was effective against all strains investigated, those resistant to the antifungal medication fluconazole.
Thymol and carvacrol thought to be the compounds responsible for Thyme oil’s antibacterial and antifungal effects. A study reported in the 2010 Journal of Medicinal Food explain scientists used thyme oil to inhibit 8 type of bacteria. A study at the “Department of Pharmacology at the University” of Milan has concluded that thymol, has the ability to interfere with the formation of candida. A study reported in the April 2004 edition of Food Control, supports the use of oil of thyme for killing food borne bacteria and extending the shelf life of foods. In a study reported in the journal Letters of Applied Microbiology in 2007, scientists found thymol was effective against a wide variety of fungi and mold species.
E. coli (Escherichia coli) is a bacterium that is commonly found in the gut of humans and warm-blooded animals. Most strains of Escherichia coli are harmless. Healthy adults generally recover from infection with Escherichia coli O157:H7 within 1 week, however, young children and older adults can develop a life-threatening form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. A research reported in Letters in Applied Microbiology in 2002 showed on the activity of oil of thyme in killing the lethal strain of Escherichia coli O157:H7. When thyme oil was added to bacterial growth medium at a concentration of 625 parts per million, Escherichia coli was killed within 1 minute.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), is a strain of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus resistant to normal antibiotic drugs. MRSA is frequently referred to in the press as a ‘superbug’, meaning a bacteria resistant to different antibiotics. It doesn’t respond to the standard therapy methods that work with other types of Staphylococcus bacteria, and because of this, it is much more dangerous. A study found a blend of oils derived from thyme herbs was effective in destroying MRSA in 2 hours. The study was carried out by a team of microbiologists at the “School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences.” Scientist Dr Jonathan Caplin said: “These are very promising results. We have shown at least in the laboratory that this blend of thyme has a very strong effect on MRSA. Now further work needs to be carried out to ascertain its effect in real cases.” The study has been published in the “International Journal of Essential Oil Therapeutics.”
Herpes is an infection that is caused by a HSV (herpes simplex virus). HSV-1 is the most important cause of herpes infections on the mouth and lips, including cold sores and fever blisters. One 2004 study, reported in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” found that in lab experiments, thyme oil had some effect on HSV-1 (Herpes Simplex Virus 1), the virus that causes cold sores.
In the 2008 issue of Current Pharmaceutical Design, thyme oil is described as anti inflammatory, analgesic and antispasmodic. COX-2 (Cyclooxygenase-2) is an enzyme involved in prostaglandin biosynthesis, and plays a important role in the inflammatory response. A research reported in the Jan 2010 edition of the Journal of Lipid Research indicate that the mechanism of action behind the anti-inflammatory activity of carvacrol is the inhibition of COX-2. Researchers have identified the carvacrol in thyme oil as effective in suppressing the inflammatory COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2) enzyme. A Japanese study of 6 essential oils, they report that thyme oil surpassed the others, reducing COX-2 levels almost 75%. Upon further study, the scientists found that carvacrol, was the primary active anti-inflammatory agent; when they use pure carvacrol extracts in their experiments, COX-2 levels reduction by over 80%. According to the scientists, the findings exhibited that thyme oil subdues the COX2 enzyme in a manner similar to the drugs like ibuprofen known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) which are effective in treating pain and swelling.
Thymol has been known for its antioxidant, anti microbial, and anti inflammatory effects. This compound has also been reported as anti-cancer agent, however its anti-cancer mechanism has not yet been fully elucidated. Carvacrol has been shown to protect DNA from damage and prevent cancer cells developing. Thyme oil (carvacrol) inhibit DNA damage to white blood cells in a study reported in the Nov 2003 issue of the Cytotechnology.
Thyme oil Side Effects
Thyme should be avoided by anyone with an allergy to the mint family or to rosemary. Thyme oil is considered toxic and should not be taken by mouth. Thyme oil can irritate the skin, even when diluted. The German Commission E, does not recommend oil of thyme for medicinal purposes. Thymol is particularly toxic, and can produce the following symptoms; nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, convulsions, cardiac arrest, coma, and respiratory collapse.