Thyme essential oil is one of the most versatile and widely used essential oils. It possesses strong antibacterial, antifungal, and pesticidal properties and has been used to treat various diseases and ailments.
It is an effective remedy for cough, cold and respiratory diseases. It is also used in face washes, anti-acne creams, and mouthwashes, thanks to its antibacterial properties. It balances hormones which are helpful for women with menstrual and menopausal problems.
What is thyme oil?
Thyme oil is derived from Thymus vulgaris (thyme) through steam distillation. This perennial herb that belongs to the mint family is native to Southern Europe. Thyme oil is pale yellow to reddish-brown in color, and it has a sweet, fresh and herbaceous aroma.
The chief constituents of thyme essential oil are alpha-thujone, alpha-pinene, camphene, beta-pinene, para-cymene, alpha-terpinene, linalool, borneol, beta-caryophyllene, thymol, and carvacrol.
Thyme oil also contains around 20 to 54 percent thymol. These compounds provide thyme oil many healing properties that include, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, diuretic, stimulant, tonic, insecticide and expectorant properties.
History of thyme essential oil
Ebers Papyrus, the oldest Egyptian medical text that dates back to 1550 BC, records the healing values of thyme.
The word ‘thyme’ comes from the Greek word ‘thumos,’ which is associated with courage, strength and the desire to fight against injustice.
Roman soldiers were known to bathe in thyme to increase their courage and strength before going into battle. Scottish Highlanders also made tea with wild thyme before going off to battle.
The Greeks used thyme in religious ceremonies. The Egyptian used thyme for embalming. The Sumerians used it as an antiseptic.
Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th-century German herbalist, prescribed thyme to patients suffering from body lice, leprosy, and plague.
Thyme was used as an ingredient in Le Baume Tranquille during the eighteenth century. This herbal preparation was used to relieve stress and nervous disorders. During the Crimean war; the soldiers used thyme to protect themselves from lice, yellow fever, and other ailments.
Health benefits of thyme oil
1. Boosts immunity
Thyme essential oil contains alpha-pinene and camphene that help boost immunity. Caryophyllene and camphene also provide antiseptic properties that prevent infection on the skin or inside the body as well.
Not only does it prevent infections in cuts and sores, but it also protects the respiratory and digestive system against viruses. Thyme also protects against bacterial infections in the genitals and urethra. It kills intestinal worms like roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms.
During a 2011 study from Medical University of Lodz, Poland, researchers test the antibacterial activity of thyme oil against 120 strains of bacteria isolated from patients with infections of oral cavity, respiratory, and genitourinary tracts.
Thyme essential oil demonstrated good efficacy against antibiotic-resistant strains of the tested bacteria (1).
2. Treats respiratory problems
If you are suffering from cold, cough, flu, bronchitis, or other respiratory problems like asthma, you can inhale thyme oil to reduce phlegm and to fight the infection-causing bacteria and viruses.
The expectorant and antispasmodic properties of thyme oil help to reduce inflammation and inhibit the release of antihistamines.
You can diffuse thyme oil throughout your home to reduce allergic reactions and to soothe your body. Add some drops of thyme essential oil to a pot of boiling water and inhale the vapors.
3. Increases blood circulation
The stimulating components of thyme essential oil increase circulation and blood flow in the body. It ensures that blood flow to the extremities and areas that need oxygen.
Thyme oil helps in the relaxation of veins and arteries, which helps to reduce blood pressure and the strain on the heart. It also helps strengthen the heart muscles.
Thyme oil prevents blood clots, which can lead to stroke.
Thyme oil also helps to reduce stress and anxiety. It contains vitamin B6 which effects neurotransmitters in the brain that are linked to stress hormones.
Thyme oil also contains thymol and other antioxidants that help increase the levels of healthy fats in cell membranes. This affects the brain and other body tissues positively.
The high level of vitamin C in thyme oil helps clear cortisol out of the bloodstream.
Cortisol, which is a primary stress hormone, can lead to digestive issues and premature aging.
You can reduce stress by diffusing thyme oil, adding it to bath water or just inhaling it.
5. Eases joint pain
Arthritis and gout are caused by improper circulation and the build-up of toxins inside the body. Thyme oil can help treat both these conditions.
Its stimulating properties help improve blood circulation in the body. Theme oil also has diuretic properties, that aid urination and remove toxins from the bloodstream. Thymol, a potent compound in thyme oil, helps ease joint pain.
Thyme essential oil contains carvacrol, which according to Dutch/Italian research, can reduce inflammation and treat rheumatoid arthritis (2).
Alpha-pinene, another phytochemical in thyme oil, also has anti-inflammatory properties. According to a 2014 study from Portugal, alpha-pinene has anti-inflammatory properties and can be useful as an antiosteoarthritic drug (3).
6. Improves skin health
Thyme oil is used to treat a variety of skin conditions. It moisturizes the skin, reduces scars, treats rashes and acne and slows down the effects of aging.
The antiseptic properties of thyme oil also speed up the healing of minor cuts, scrapes, bites, and burns and prevent the wounds from getting infected.
During a 2010 study, Chinese researchers investigated the activities of 10 essential oils against Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria that cause acne. They found that thyme oil was one of the three oils that exhibited the best antibacterial activity towards P acnes (4).
According to another study from Italy, thymol protects the skin against oxidative and genotoxic UVA and UVB damage (5).
7. Treats oral health problems
Thyme oil can address oral health problems like halitosis, tooth decay, gingivitis, and plaque. Thyme oil has potent antibacterial and antiseptic properties that help kill germs in the mouth and prevents oral infections.
This is the reason why people use thyme oil in mouthwashes and toothpaste. Thymol, one of the active components of thyme oil, is also used as a dental varnish for treating and preventing tooth decay.
Add one drop of thyme oil to one cup of warm water and gargle with it in the morning to keep your teeth healthy.
Several studies have shown that thyme has potent anti-cancer properties. During a 2010 study from China, ten essential oils were tested for their in vitro toxicity against three human cancer cells lines.
The results showed that thyme essential oil exhibited the strongest cytotoxicity towards breast cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer cells (6).
Another study from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, found that thyme can inhibit the growth of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
The results also showed that the genes involved in cell cycle, cell death and cancer were involved in the cytotoxic activity of thyme oil at the transcription level (7).
Excessive build-up of gas in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to discomfort. The antispasmodic and carminative properties of thyme oil help prevent the excess build up of gas in the body.
10. Balances hormones
Low progesterone levels in the body are linked to infertility, PCOS, and depression. Thyme essential oil can improve progesterone production.
A 1998 research studied 150 herbs for their progesterone production that helped inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells. The researchers found that thyme essential oil is among the best oil to have the highest estradiol and progesterone binding.
So, using thyme oil is a great way to restore hormonal balance in the body (8).
Thanks to its ability to balance hormones, thyme oil can also delay menopause. It also helps relieve the symptoms of menopause like mood swings, hot flashes, and insomnia.
11. Treats fibroids and improves menstrual regularity
Thyme essential oil is an emenagogue. It improves blood flow to the pelvic area, which helps stimulate menstruation. This essential oil can be used to treat irregular periods, premature menopause and other menstrual issues.
Thyme oil also helps treat fibroids, which are growths of connective tissue in the uterus. Low levels of progesterone can sometimes cause fibroids. Since thyme oil helps to increase progesterone levels, it can treat fibroids as well.
12. Combats hair loss
Thyme essential oil helps to promote hair growth by stimulating the scalp and preventing hair loss. According to study from the Department of Dermatology, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Scotland, when people with alopecia areata massaged thyme, lavender, cedarwood and rosemary oil on their scalp daily for seven months, 44 percent of the patients showed improvement (9).
You should dilute thyme essential oil with a carrier oil before massaging it on your scalp.
13. Repels bugs
Thyme oil helps to repel mosquitoes, fleas, lice and bed bugs. It is also known to get rid of moths and beetles. Thyme oil can also treat the stings and bites of these bugs.
According to a 2015 study, thyme oil is highly effective against the larvae of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that spreads dengue fever, yellow fever, and West Nile (10).
A 2017 study from Korea also found that thyme is effective against Pochazia shantugnensis, a pest that wreaks havoc on blueberry, peach, apple, and persimmon trees (11).
Ways to use thyme essential oil
- Diffuse some drops of thyme essential oil in your home. This treatment is helpful for respiratory problems, mucus congestion, and muscular aches and pains.
- Dilute thyme oil with a carrier oil and massage with it on the affected part to treat rheumatism, arthritis, menstrual cramps, bronchitis, and sinusitis.
- Add one or two drops of thyme oil to a glass of water and gargle with it to treat gum infections and bad breath.
- Add some thyme oil to bath water to ease aches and pains, relieve tension and ease fatigue.
Side effects and precautions
Thyme oil can cause skin irritation when applied directly to the skin due to its phenol content. Always dilute thyme essential oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil, olive oil or jojoba oil. You should never apply thyme oil near the eyes or inside the nose.
Nursing or pregnant women and children under five should not use thyme oil.
Always use pure and organic thyme essential oil. Improperly grown or distilled thyme oil may contain toxic residues, which can harm your health.
Thyme oil is derived from Thymus vulgaris through steam distillation. It is pale yellow to reddish-brown in color, and it has a sweet, fresh and herbaceous aroma.
You can use it topically, internally, and aromatically to treat arthritis, boost immunity, prevent bloating, prevent oral health problems, and increase circulation.