Thyme Essential Oil
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) of the lamiaceae family is a perennial creeping ground cover native to the Mediterranean. It is variously called creeping thyme, mountain thyme and wild thyme.2
Thyme has culinary, medicinal and ornamental uses, some of which have been well-known since ancient times. The Egyptians used it for embalming; the ancient Greeks used it as an incense in temples. Before battle, Roman soldiers were said to bathe in thyme to make them more brave and courageous.1
Today, thyme is known medically for its antiseptic, carminative (gas-releasing), antimicrobial and anti-oxidative properties.2
Thyme Essential Oil Uses
This woody, herbaceous essential oil works well in natural skincare remedies, pain aids, and around the house. Below are some of the most popular uses of thyme essential oil.
Add to a Bath
Adding thyme essential oil to a hot bath can aid respiratory irritation. To incorporate this oil into your bath, mix 1-3 drops into a carrier oil like sweet almond, or jojoba, and add the combination into bath water.
When diluted properly, thyme essential oil can be used topically. To help soothe the skin and improve acne, add 1-2 drops into your favorite facial cleanser or unscented lotion.
For aromatherapy, add 3-5 drops of thyme essential oil into a diffuser, or into 2-3 cups of hot water. Diffusing thyme essential oil is thought to aid in respiratory health, and even boost the immune system.
The oil can be used diffused on its own, or combined with other herby scents like rosemary or marjoram.
Thyme essential oil’s antimicrobial and antiseptic properties make it an ideal ingredient in natural cleaning products. Add 5-10 drops into a spray bottle filled with water. Shake and spray the mixture over surfaces like countertops, and tables before wiping them down.
A hot compress can help treat pain arising from injuries, cramps, sprains, and sore muscles. To make a hot compress with thyme essential oil, fill the sink with warm or hot water. Add about 4 drops of essential oil into the water and place a folded towel on the surface of the liquid. The oil and water mixture will soak into the towel, which can then be placed onto the area being treated.
Benefits of Thyme Essential Oil
Thyme has been used as a medicinal plant for hundreds of years, and is thought to provide relief for a variety of ailments. Based on recent scientific research, below are some of the most common benefits of thyme essential oil.
In several studies, thyme essential oil has demonstrated a versatile range of antimicrobial activity. In 2010, researchers investigated the antibacterial activity of eight different essential oils. In particular thyme and cinnamon essential oil displayed strong activity against several strains of Staphylococcus, which often cause skin infections. In recent years, drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus have appeared in health care centers and prove difficult to treat.3 With further testing, essential oils could potentially be a natural and effective way to combat new, drug-resistant bacterium.
Thyme also has the ability to preserve food from common foodborne bacteria that causes illness or spoiling.7
In a recent study, scientists examined the antimicrobial effect of thyme essential oil on various types of pre-cut fruit. When compared to other essential oil compounds (verbenone and camphor), thyme essential oil demonstrated the most significant anti-listeria effect on both melon and pineapple. While further research is required, thyme essential oil shows promise as an alternative option to chemical sprays in reducing foodborne pathogens on fresh-cut, ready-to-eat fruits.4
A 2012 study noted that key chemical compounds found within the oil may be effective against tiger mosquito larvae, which can carry the West Nile virus, Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever and Chikungunya Fever. Additionally, researchers concluded that the compound thymol demonstrated a 100% repellency rate against the female mosquitos.5
Oncological researchers in Turkey studied the effect of wild thyme on breast cancer cells. The results of the study showed that wild thyme brought on significant cytotoxicity in breast cancer cells, but not in regular cells.6 While this information is exciting, more research is needed to validate if essential oils could be used in the treatment of various cancers.
A Japanese study found that a component of thyme essential oil inhibits the COX-2 enzyme, part of the body’s pain-producing response to inflammation. It also found that thyme essential oil does not result in the unpleasant cardiovascular or digestive side effects that pharmaceutical equivalents do.8
In another study, 84 young women with menstrual pain discovered that thyme essential oil reduced symptoms of cramping, back ache, nausea and dizziness better than Ibuprofen.9
In a university study, researchers used thyme essential oil in an antifungal cream for treating eczema-like skin conditions. The cream containing thyme fully healed 66.5 percent of those treated, while the results for a placebo and for chamomile essential oil cream were similar at only 28.5 percent.10
Researchers in the United Kingdom found that thyme essential oil may be effective in treating acne. Benzoyl peroxide, which is the usual active ingredient in acne creams and washes, proved to be weaker in its antibacterial effect. They pointed out that thyme essential oil would have an added advantage of not causing a burning sensation.11
Chinese researchers observed thyme oil to provide anti-inflammatory relief on the neurotransmitters that cause depression in a study on mice. This is an encouraging new direction for further research that would validate some of the ancient recorded uses of the herb.12
Side Effects of Thyme Essential Oil
Thyme essential oil is safe to inhale and use topically when diluted in a carrier oil. Always read and follow the label to avoid potential adverse reactions.
It is never recommended to ingest essential oils unless under the direct supervision of a qualified professional.
A healthcare professional should be consulted before using thyme essential oil on pregnant or breastfeeding women, and children.
Where to Buy Thyme Essential Oil
Previously, high quality essential oils could only be bought at specialty health stores, or through expensive multi-level marketing companies. Now, due to advancements in technology, extremely high grade essential oils can be purchased over the internet at very reasonable prices.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Singletary, K. (2016). Thyme: History, applications, and overview of potential health benefits. Nutrition Today, 51(1), 40-49. doi:1097/NT.0000000000000139
- Shabnum, Shazia, Wagay, Muzafar G. (2011) Essential Oil Composition of Thymus Vulgaris L. and Their Uses. Journal of Research & Development, Vol 11. From http://cord.uok.edu.in/portals/0/essential%20oil%20.pdf – View reference
- Society for General Microbiology. (2010, April 4). Essential oils to fight superbugs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 14, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100330210942.htm
- Scollard, J., McManamon, O., & Schmalenberger, A. (2016). Inhibition of listeria monocytogenes growth on fresh-cut produce with thyme essential oil and essential oil compound verbenone. Postharvest Biology and Technology, 120, 61-68. doi:1016/j.postharvbio.2016.05.005
- Park, Y., Koo, H., & Kim, G. (2012). Chemical Composition, Larvicidal Action, and Adult Repellency of Thymus magnus Against Aedes albopictus. Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, 28(3), 192-198. doi:2987/12-6250r.1
- Bozkurt, E., Atmaca, H., Kisim, A., Uzunoglu, S., Uslu, R., & Karaca, B. (2012). Effects of Thymus serpyllum Extract on Cell Proliferation, Apoptosis and Epigenetic Events in Human Breast Cancer Cells. Nutrition and Cancer, 64(8), 1245-1250. doi:1080/01635581.2012.719658
- Bagamboula, C.F., Uttendaele,M., Debevere, J. (2002) Inhibitory effect of thyme and basil essential oils, carvacrol, thymol, estragol, linalool and p-cyme towards shigella sonnei and S. Food Microbiology 21, (1), 33-42. doi: 10.1016/S0740-0020(03)00046-7
- Hotta M, Nakata R, Katsukawa M, Hori K, Takahashi S, & Inoue H. (2010). Carvacrol, a component of thyme oil, activates PPARalpha and gamma and suppresses COX-2 expression. Journal of Lipid Research, 51(1):132-9. doi: 1194/jlr.M900255-JLR200.
- Salmalian H, Saghebi R, Moghadamnia AA, Bijani A, Faramarzi M, Nasiri Amiri F, Bakouei F, Behmanesh F, & Bekhradi R. (2014). Comparative effect of thymus vulgaris and ibuprofen on primary dysmenorrhea: A triple-blind clinical study. Caspian J Intern Med.5(2):82-8. Retrieved March 14, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24778782
- Shimelis, N. D., Asticcioli, S., Baraldo, M., Tirillini, B., Lulekal, E., & Murgia, V. (2012). Researching accessible and affordable treatment for common dermatological problems in developing countries. An Ethiopian experience. International Journal of Dermatology, 51(7), 790-795. doi:1111/j.1365-4632.2011.05235.x
- Gomez Escalada, M. (2013, November 18). Thyme for a more natural cure to acne. Leeds Beckett University. Retrieved March 14, 2017 from http://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/news/thyme-for-a-more-natural-cure-to-acne/ – View reference
- Deng, X., Li, H., Chen, J., Li, R., Qu, R., Fu, Q., Ma, S. (2015). Thymol produces an antidepressant-like effect in a chronic unpredictable mild stress model of depression in mice. Behavioral Brain Research, 291, 12-19. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2015.04.052