Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Traditional Indications

Thyme is anthelmintic, antiseptic, antitussive, antispasmodic, aromatherapy, carminative, deodorant, diaphoretic, disinfectant, expectorant, mucolytic sedative and tonic. It is very rich in essential oils and these are the active ingredients responsible for most of the medicinal properties. In particular, thyme is valued for its antiseptic and antioxidant properties, it is an excellent tonic and is used in treating respiratory diseases and a variety of other ailments. The plant is used internally in the treatment of dry coughs, whooping cough, bronchitis, bronchial catarrh, asthma, laryngitis, indigestion, gastritis and diarrhoea and enuresis in children. With its high content of volatile oil, Thyme makes a good carminative for use in dyspepsia and sluggish digestion. This oil is also a strongly antiseptic substance, which explains many of Thyme's uses. It is used internally for respiratory and digestive infections. As a stimulating expectorant, it helps to bring up phlegm. It is indicated for colds, whooping cough, bronchitis, catarrh, asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases. Thyme has an antioxidant effect; thus regular use of this herb improves the health and longevity of individual body cells and therefore prolongs the life of the body (1).


The major active constituents in thyme are p-cymene, γ-terpinene and thymol, 1,8 cineole, camphor, borneol, and carvacrol and these possess strong antimicrobial and antifungal properties (2, 3).

Thyme is an effective anti-inflammatory. Thyme extracts significantly reduced production and gene expression of the proinflammatory mediators TNF-α, IL-1B, and IL-6 and highly increased these parameters on the anti-inflammatory IL-10 cytokine (4).

A study demonstrated thyme extract showed significant anti-inflammatory properties by reducing the NF-κB p65 and NF-κB p52 transcription factors protein levels followed by the decrease of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1 beta and IL-8), and Muc5ac secretion in human normal bronchial and tracheal epithelial cells. Moreover thyme extract, evaluated in H460 lung cancer cell line, demonstrated to induce cell cytotoxicity in addition to reduce inflammatory cell signals (5).

Thymus vulgaris extract compares to ibuprofen and both can be effective in reducing the severity of pain and spasm in primary dysmenorrhoea (6). Thyme oil has shown antibacterial activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) (7). Thyme oil demonstrated a good efficacy against antibiotics resistant strains of Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia and Pseudomonas genera (8).

1. PFAF. Thymus vulgaris. 2019.
2. Borugă O, Jianu C, Mişcă C, Goleţ I, Gruia AT, Horhat FG. Thymus vulgaris essential oil: chemical composition and antimicrobial activity. Journal of medicine and life. 2014;7 Spec No. 3(Spec Iss 3):56-60.
3. de Lira Mota KS, de Oliveira Pereira F, de Oliveira WA, Lima IO, de Oliveira Lima E. Antifungal activity of Thymus vulgaris L. essential oil and its constituent phytochemicals against Rhizopus oryzae: interaction with ergosterol. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland). 2012;17(12):14418-33.
4. Ocaña A, Reglero G. Effects of Thyme Extract Oils (from Thymus vulgaris, Thymus zygis, and Thymus hyemalis) on Cytokine Production and Gene Expression of oxLDL-Stimulated THP-1-Macrophages. Journal of obesity. 2012;2012:104706-.
5. Oliviero M, Romilde I, Beatrice MM, Matteo V, Giovanna N, Consuelo A, et al. Evaluations of thyme extract effects in human normal bronchial and tracheal epithelial cell lines and in human lung cancer cell line. Chemico-Biological Interactions. 2016;256:125-33.
6. Salmalian H, Saghebi R, Moghadamnia AA, Bijani A, Faramarzi M, Nasiri Amiri F, et al. Comparative effect of thymus vulgaris and ibuprofen on primary dysmenorrhea: A triple-blind clinical study. Caspian journal of internal medicine. 2014;5(2):82-8.
7. A.C. H. Systematic review and meta-analysis of plant-derived antimicrobials in WHO priority pathogens. Int J Complement Alt Med. 2022 Jun;15:122-37.
8. Sienkiewicz M, Łysakowska M, Ciećwierz J, Denys P, Kowalczyk E. Antibacterial activity of thyme and lavender essential oils. Med Chem. 2011;7(6):674-89.


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