Key constituents of thyme include thymol, carvacrol and flavonoids, often attributed with the antibacterial, anti-flatulent and anti-worming properties of the herb. Thyme is also used to suppress coughing, ease chest congestion and stimulate production of saliva (3).
Thymol is considered to be anti-helmintic (anti-worm) with particular effectiveness against hookworm, and together with carvacrol is both antibacterial and antifungal (3) (4) (2).
The German Commission E Monographs list thyme as being bronchoantispasmodic, expectorant and antibacterial (1).
Traditionally it is the thyme leaf and flowering tops that have been used therapeutically. In folk medicine thyme is used to stimulate the appetite, suppress coughing, and relieve digestive disorders such as chronic gastritis, diarrhea in children and flatulence. It is also used to expel parasitic worms (3) (4) (5), particularly in children (6).
The overall antiseptic and tonic properties of thyme suit it well as a general boost for the immune system during times of chronic infection, and is still commonly used to remedy respiratory ailments (6).
Laboratory studies demonstrate that thymol has antifungal activity against a number of species, including Cryptococcus neoformans, Aspergillus, Saprolegnia, and Zygorhynchus species. Further studies confirm the antibacterial actions of this constituent, with demonstrated activity against Salmonella typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureas, Escherichia coli and other bacterial species (8). As an antibiotic, thymol is 25 times as effective as phenol, but less toxic (8) (7) (9).
Research in Scotland during the 1990’s suggests that thyme and its volatile oil may counter the effects of aging. Subsequent studies have confirmed thyme’s antioxidant properties, and how it helps the body maintain higher levels of essential fatty acids within the brain (6).
Thyme is generally regarded as safe when used in normal amounts, and has a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status in the US. Typical dosages of thyme include up to 4 grams of dried herb equivalent three times per day (3) (10).
Due to the lack of reliable information regarding large amounts of Thyme it should be limited to a moderate intake, particularly during pregnancy and breastfeeding (3).
- Blumenthal M, et. al. ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council, 1998.
- Barnes J, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD, Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. Second Edition. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 2002.
- Jellin JM, Batz F, Hitchens K. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Third Edition. Stockton, California: Therapeutic Research Faculty, 2000.
- Lueng AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. Second Edition. New York, NY: Wiley & Sons, 1996.
- Bruneton J. Pharmacognosy Phytochemistry Medicinal Plants. Second Edition as Translated by Caroline K. Hatton. Paris: Lavoisier Publishing, 1999.
- Chevallier A. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Revised Edition. Sydney, Australia: Dorling Kindersley. 2001.
- Bisset NG. ed. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Translated from Second Edition. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1994.
- World Health Organization (WHO) (1999). Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants. Volume 1. WHO, Geneva.
- British Pharmaceutical Codex (1968). Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. London: Pharmaceutical Press. 1968.
- Mills S. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Wellingborough, Northants: Thorsons. 1985.