Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a perennial subshrub native to the Mediterranean and commercially cultivated in many European countries, as well as Morocco and the United States. Thyme is also collected wild from European countries, such as Albania and Bulgaria. Spanish thyme (Thymus zygis) is often used interchangeably with Thymus vulgaris for medicinal purposes.
Thyme has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Beyond its common culinary application, it has been used for many indications, based upon proposed antimicrobial, antitussive, spasmolytic, and antioxidant activity. Thymol, one of the constituents of thyme, is contained in antiseptic mouthwashes, with limited supportive evidence for reductions in plaque formation, gingivitis, and caries.
Traditional uses of thyme include coughs and upper respiratory congestion, and it continues to be one of the most commonly recommended herbs in Europe for these indications. The German Commission E (expert panel) has approved thyme for symptoms of bronchitis, whooping cough, and catarrh (inflammation of upper respiratory tract mucous membranes).
Experts have recommended the use of thymol in treatment of actinomycosis (lumpy jaw disease), onycholysis (separation or loosening of a fingernail or toenail from its nail bed), and paronychia (inflammation of the tissue surrounding a fingernail or toenail), due to its antifungal properties.
Acetophenone glycosides, Acinos alpinus, alpha-terpinene, alpine thyme inflorescences, (-)-angelicoidenol-beta-D-glucopyranoside, Ankaferd blood stopper®, apigenin, black thyme, borneol, camphor, carvacrol, Cervitec®, cineole, cis-myrtanol, common garden thyme, common thyme, creeping thyme, English thyme, epoxythymol-diesters, eriodictyol, essential oil, ethyl-N-dimethyl ether of thymol fumarate, farigola, flavones, flavonoids, folia Thymi, French thyme, gamma-terpinene, garden thyme, Gartenthymian (German), geraniol thyme, glucopyranoside, glucopyranosylthymoquinol, herba Thymi, herba timi, hydroxyjasmone, Iberian thymus, iodine, iodinized oil of thymol, iodized thymol, iron, Jeju, kochi thyme, Labiatae (family), Lamiaceae (family), linalool, luteolin, luteolin 7-glucuronide, mercury thymol (merthiolate), Moroccan endemic thyme, mother of thyme, N-thymol compounds, oleanolic acid, oxalate, para-methyl-isopropyl-phenol, paramethyl-isopropyl-phenol, p-cymene, phenols, quinine thymolate, red thyme, rosmarinic acid, (R)-p-cymen-9-yl beta-D-glucopyranoside, rubbed thyme, salicylates, saponins, Sardinian thymus, serpyllium, shepherd's thyme, silver thymol sulfone, Spanish thyme, Spanish thyme oil, tannins, taxifolin, ten, tepal (thymol ester of palmitic acid), terpenoids, terpinyl acetate, thick leaf thyme, THPI, thym (French), thyme aetheroleum, thyme honey, thyme oil, thyme red, thyme red oil, thyme white essential oil, thyme white oil, Thymi herba, Thymian (German), thymodihydroquinone, thymodrosine balsam, thymodrosine suppositories, thymol, thymol glucuronide, thymol iodide, thymol iodine, thymol-p-phenylazobenzoate, thymol silver sulfone, thymol-sodium hypochlorite, thymol sulfone silver salt, thymol-sulfuric acid, thymolan, Thymus aureopunctatus, Thymus broussonetii, Thymus caespititius, Thymus capitatus, Thymus caramanicus, Thymus cilicicus, Thymus citriodorus, Thymus daenensis, Thymus eigii, Thymus eriocalyx, Thymus fontanesii, Thymus hyemalis, Thymus hyemalis, Thymus kotschyanus, Thymus longicaulis, Thymus longicaulis subsp. chaubardii var. chaubardii, Thymus longicaulis subsp. longicaulis var. subisophyllus, Thymus macedonicus, Thymus magnus, Thymus malyi, Thymus marshallianus, Thymus mastichina, Thymus mongolicus, Thymus numidicus, Thymus origanium, Thymus pectinatus, Thymus persicus, Thymus piperella, Thymus polytrichus, Thymus praecox, Thymus pubescens, Thymus pulegioides, Thymus pulvinatus, Thymus quinquecostatus, Thymus richardii, Thymus serpylloides ssp. gadorensis, Thymus serpyllum, Thymus serpyllum ssp. tanaenis, Thymbra spicata, Thymus tosevii, Thymus x-porlock, Thymus zygis, Thymus zygioides var. lycaonicus, time, timo, TV-3-IIIA-IIa, ursolic acid, white thyme oil, wild thyme, wild thyme hydrosol, wild thyme oil.
Note: There are up to 400 subspecies of thyme. Common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and Spanish thyme (Thymus zygis) are often used interchangeably for medicinal purposes. Common thyme is not to be confused with calamint (calamintha ascendens, basil thyme), thyme basil (Acinos suaveolens), cat thyme (Teucrium polium), mountain thyme (Hedeoma multiflora Benth.), water thyme (Hydrilla verticillata), Spanish Origanum majorana (Thymus mastichina), or with Spanish origanum oil (Thymus capitatus, Sicilian thyme, Spanish thyme). This monograph is primarily concerned with Thymus vulgaris, although other species may be mentioned when summarizing the relevant literature.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Agitation in dementia
In preliminary research, thyme essential oil in aromatherapy, in combination with massage, was not shown to have an effect on agitation in patients with dementia. Further research is needed.
Alopecia areata (hair loss)
There is currently insufficient data on the use of topical thyme oil for alopecia areata. Combination preparations of essential oils including thyme have been evaluated, without definitive results. Research is needed using thyme alone (not in any combination products).
Bronchitis / cough
Thyme has traditionally been used for the treatment of respiratory conditions, including cough and bronchitis. The German Commission E (expert panel) has approved thyme for use in bronchitis. However, due to a lack of available data evaluating thyme alone (and not in any combination products), additional study is needed to make a conclusion.
One of thyme's main constituents, thymol, has been shown to have antibacterial effects. Thymol is included as one of several ingredients in antiseptic mouthwashes such as Listerine®. Clinical studies have reported efficacy of Listerine® in decreasing plaque formation and gingivitis, although human evidence for thymol alone is limited. Further research is needed.
Inflammatory skin disorders
Historically, thyme has been used topically for a number of skin conditions. Results of available studies are inconclusive. Additional research is needed in this area.