Thyme essential oil: Health benefits and side effects

Introduction

Thyme essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the flowering tops or leaves of Thymus Spp. mainly T. citriodorits, T. vulgaris-Labiatae or Lamiaceae. This oil is commonly used as a culinary herb. Besides this, it is also used for different medicinal purposes. Thyme essential oil is a clear yellow or very dark reddish-brown liquid with a pungent odour (1).

Uses of Thyme essential oil

Mainly Thyme essential oil is used in perfumery and cosmetics industries. Besides this, the oil is also used as a preservative for food, flavour enhancer (2).

Major health benefits of  Thyme oil are

  • Rubefacient and counter-irritant in rheumatism and neuralgic pain.
  • As a tonic stimulant and stomachic and digestive relieve gastritis, enterocolitis and mouth thrush
  • Against respiratory infections, asthma and bronchitis.
  • Treatment of urinary and vaginal infections, endometritis (candida), prostates and vaginitis (3).

Geographical Distribution

Thyme belongs to more than 300 different varieties, native to Southern Europe, particularly around Mediterranian and widely used throughout the world.

Constituents of Thyme essential oil 

Thyme essential oil contains thymol, carvacrol with borneol, cineol, linalool, menthone, B-cymene, pinene and triterpenic acid.

Main components of Thyme essential oil (5)  and their health benefits

Components Percentage Health benefits of components
Thymol  23%–60% Anti-inflammatory, Immunomodulating, Antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, inhibit leukocyte migration, prevent ageing of the brain, disinfection of mouldy walls in the dwellings, oral care, lowering serum lipids, and free radical scavenging properties (4).
Carvacrol 2%–8% Anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, Antimicrobial, Antifungal, Antioxidant activities, antispasmodic  as well as antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic effects
Linalool 3%–4% The antiviral effect, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, anti-nociceptive as well as analgesic activity
Rosmarinic acid Astringent anti-allergic, anti-mutagen, antioxidative and anti-inflammatory.
Apigenin Anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti progression, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-oxidant properties
Eugenol Neuro-protective, anticancer, anti-bacterial and anti-anaphylactic activities

Other components are γ-terpinene (30.90%), p-cymene (8.41%), γ-Tocopherol, α-tocotrienol and α-tocopherol.

Health benefits of Thyme essential oil

1. Anti-inflammatory properties of Thyme oil

Thyme oil in combination with oregano essential oil possesses anti-inflammatory activity. It helps in reducing the production of proinflammatory cytokines, decreased the mortality rate, accelerated the body weight gain recovery, and reduced colonic tissue injury. Therefore, treats colitis in gastrointestinal inflammation (6).

2. Prevents atherosclerosis risk

Thyme essential oils and aqueous tea infusions show a wonderful antioxidant activity and prevent LDL oxidation thus prevent atherosclerosis risk (7). Thyme oil supplementations keep higher antioxidant capacity during life span by preventing the unfavourable age-related bad enzyme activity in the liver and heart (8).

3. Antimicrobial properties of thyme essential oil 

Thymol is the main antimicrobial compound found in Thyme essential oil. It is effective against various bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhimurium, Streptococcus pyogenes, Mycoplasma gallisepticum, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, Clostridium perfringes and Enterococcus faecalis (9). 

This oil also inhibits the growth of fungus-like Candida albicans, Mycosphaerella graminicola (10) and virus-like Herpes simplex viruses.

4. Healthy skin

Thyme essential oil is used to treat various dermatitis conditions such as  abscesses, acne, antiseptic, blisters, burns, carbuncles, cellulitis, cuts, deodorant, atopic dermatitis, eczema, fungal infections, oily conditions, sores, and wounds because of its antimicrobial properties (11, 12).

5. Mosquito repellants

Thymus essential oil (5.3% to 16%) contain thymol and linalool which short-term exposure kills 90% of Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito larvae (13).

6. Treat cough

Cough is a type of upper respiratory tract infections (URI). Thyme in combination with primrose oil shows the wonderful effect on cough and dyspnea also shortens the length of the disease (14).

7. Essential oils for hair care

A research study suggested that aromatherapy with essential oils like thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood in combination with carrier oils (jojoba and grapeseed) on scalp daily safe and effective for the treatment of alopecia areata (patchy hair loss) (15). 

8. Treats Anxiety

Inhalation of thyme essential oil significantly treats anxiety, and depression because it contains bioactive monoterpenes such as linalool which inhalation reduce anxiety and has a sedative effect (16).

9. Insecticidal properties of Thyme essential oil

Thymol in Thyme oil shows insecticide effect against armine spider mites (Tetranychus cinnabarinus (Boisduval)) and Mycosphaerella graminicola. These pathogens are known for the most important diseases of wheat (17).

10. Antioxidant properties

Thyme essential oil contains a high amount of antioxidants like phenolic compounds which possess protective effect against toxicity of aflatoxins and also use for prolong the stability of oils.

Side effects of thyme oil

Some people face dermatitis or inflammation of the skin by thyme oil even when it is diluted. People who are allergic to Lamiaceae plants should also stay away from medicines, cosmetics, nutraceuticals, and functional foods based on thyme or their constituents (18). Therefore precaution should be needed before application.

Super summary

Thymol is the main component present in Thyme essential oil which shows effective health benefits against bacteria, fungus, mosquitos and insects. Thyme essential oil also helps in the treatment of anxiety, cough and other heart-related problems.

Edited By: Dr. Asha Jyoti Bharati

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5933022/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074903/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4054083/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17209812
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3267312/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18288268/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17469764/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10576332/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4391421/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28135780
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5435909/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26159138
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19653003
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28214817
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9828867
  16. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2225411015000188
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6150358/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29785774

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