By Sarena-Rae Santos, Contributing Writer
What is Thyme
Thyme, sometimes called common thyme, wild thyme, or its scientific name Thymus vulgaris, is a part of the Lamiaceae (Mint family). Thyme can be identified in the wild by its distinctive musky, rich, and aromatic scent when the leaves are rubbed or crushed, but other factors include visual characteristics. Thyme’s branches are thin, brown, or dark green and will break off easily in your hands. The leaves are tiny and smooth, with rounded points, and may range from silver to blue-green (1).
Health Benefits of Thyme
Although thyme is most commonly known as a spice used in cooking, it’s also brimming with medicinal benefits like:
Rich in Nutrients
Our body needs nutrients to flourish. Without vital vitamins and minerals, our bodies won’t function properly. Fresh thyme contains vital nutrients, including protein, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, manganese, and vitamins A, B6, and C (2). Dried thyme contains the same nutrients, plus vitamin K (3).
An antibacterial property is when a substance, or in this case, an herb, can destroy or suppress the growth and reproduction of bacteria (4). In vitro, thyme oil preserved food products against common foodborne diseases and spoilage, even at low concentrations (5). Another study demonstrated thyme oil’s ability to effectively subdue several antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria like Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Pseudomonas (6).
An antifungal property is when a substance, or in this case, an herb, can fight the growth of specific pathogens that could harm your health, such as ringworm, athlete’s foot, tinea versicolor, toenail fungus, and jock itch (7). Older studies demonstrate thyme essential oil’s antifungal properties against molds from damp dwellings (8). Another study had similar findings when controlling gray mold rot in guava fruit (9). Additionally, in vitro, thyme essential oil was an effective alternative against candida albicans, a common cause of yeast infections, even when the fungus was resistant to the prescription medication fluconazole (10).
Promotes Respiratory Health
Coughing occurs as the body’s automatic response to mucus, germs, or dust irritates your throat and airways (11). No matter the cause, thyme may help. In animal studies, thyme and primula extracts reduced inflammation and mucous (12). Another study found combining thyme and ivy leaves alleviated symptoms of acute bronchitis (13).
May Support Heart Health
Unfortunately, heart disease is the world’s number 1 cause of death (14). Due to the incredibly complex determinants of heart disease and various possible contributions, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact way to prevent it. Still, you can at least take steps to lower your overall risk. That’s where thyme may come into play. One animal study found thyme extract significantly lowered the heart rate and cholesterol levels of rats with high blood pressure (15).
May Improve Acne
Statistics say one in three Americans will struggle with skin conditions (16). Acne is a skin condition occurring when your hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells and oil (17). Research has found thyme essential oil has antibacterial activity against P. acnes; the bacteria thought to cause acne (18).
In the United States, cancer is responsible for 600,00 deaths annually, 1 in 3 people will have cancer in their lifetime, and 1.7 million people are diagnosed annually (19). But what if these numbers didn’t have to keep growing, and a simple supplement may be the key? That’s where thyme may be beneficial. Several studies have found thyme and clove essential oils can inhibit breast cancer cell lines (20,21).
An insecticidal property is when a substance, or in this case, an herb, can kill, harm, repel or mitigate one or more species of insects (22). Thyme has remarkable insecticidal properties, especially its oil! One study showed thyme could repel mosquitos for 60 to 180 minutes. This study also demonstrated a protection rate of 91% at a 0.05% concentration in topical treatments (23). Another study demonstrated thyme essential oil’s effectiveness against adult mosquitoes and their larvae (24).
Pro tip: Throwing thyme leaves on a campfire can offer 85% protection for 60-90 minutes (25)!
Mainstream sources state thyme is possibly safe when used as medicine, short-term. It might cause some people allergic reactions, dizziness, and stomach upset. There isn’t enough reliable information to know if thyme oil is safe to use as a medicine or what the side effects might be. They also state there isn’t enough reliable information to know if thyme is safe to use in larger amounts while pregnant or breastfeeding. Stay on the safe side and stick to food amounts (26). The mainstream stance is only partially correct.
According to trusted herbalist Richard Whelan, thyme is generally regarded as a very safe herb that can be used by all ages and during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, some people can be allergic to it, and the dust of the herb is known to trigger some people’s breathing allergies. Likewise, you must be careful in using thyme products externally; one study with 100 patients with leg ulcers showed that 5% responded with an allergic reaction to patch testing with thyme oil (27).
Regarding essential oil safety, trusted aromatherapist Wendy Robbins cautions never to use any essential oils internally or undiluted. She also warns thyme essential oil has a moderate risk for mucous membrane irritation; it may inhibit blood clotting and pose a drug interaction hazard. Additionally, she mentions a low risk of skin sensitization and recommends a dermal maximum of 1.3% (28).
How to Use Thyme
You can find thyme in dried bulk, pills, powders, teas, extracts, or tinctures. Tinctures always contain the most concentrated amount of herbs. Teas and soups are also options, especially when following Ayurvedic medicine recipes. If you’re a DIY person, some great starter recipes are:
Follow the recommendations of any supplement; some of my recommendations include:
- Earthley’s Cleaning Paste (Lemon-Thyme) provides a pure clean for extra dirty areas that need thorough scrubbing. Made with natural soap and baking soda, this paste can easily clean sinks, tubs, tiles, and more.
- Earthley’s Cleaning Spray Concentrate (Lemon-Thyme) provides a clean you can trust! Using the most natural and effective ingredients, you can finally enjoy cleaning with safe products for the whole family. Use to clean surfaces throughout your home.
- Earthley’s Dish Soap Bar (Lemon-Thyme) provides a pure, low-waste clean for dishes. This soap can effectively hand-wash dirty dishes using natural and effective ingredients.
- Earthley’s Dishwasher Detergent (Lemon-Thyme) effectively cleans dishes without harsh chemicals. Using plant-based ingredients, our detergent is tough on dirty dishes but safe for the whole family.