Thyme Essential Oil

Thyme Essential Oil

Thyme Flower in Bloom

Source: Several species in the genus Thymus.  Essential oil is most often produced from the species Thymus vulgaris.

Type of Treatment: Essential Oil.
How it Works: Thyme essential oil has antibacterial properties that may help reduce the growth of the Propionibacterium acnes bacterium, which is a causative agent of acne vulgaris.

Thyme Essential Oil Background

Extracts from plants in the genus Thymus have been used for centuries in medicinal preparations to treat and prevent infection.  Thyme is also a popular herb in culinary applications.  There are over 300 different species in the genus Thymus and they are grown in most places around the world.

Thyme essential oil is an antiseptic that is toxic to a wide range of bacteria and fungi.  Historically, thyme extracts were used as topical treatments for wounds and infections, and were also used as natural sanitizers.  Thyme may also be prepared as a tea that is purported to have anti-inflammatory properties.  T

hymol is a volatile compound and is easily vaporized when it is heated or added to hot water.  The vapors produced by adding thyme oil to hot water are sometimes used as a homeopathic treatment for various respiratory infections.  One of the active compounds in thyme essential oil, thymol, is a primary ingredient in the popular mouthwash Listerine.

Composition of Thyme Essential Oil

The composition of thyme essential oil varies greatly depending on the species of Thymus and the environmental conditions where it was grown.  In many cases, the most abundant compound in thyme essential oil is thymol, which can account for up to 50% of the total volume.  However, some samples of thyme oil may have high levels of other compounds, such as camphor and caravacol, and relatively low levels of thymol.

In addition, thyme oil usually contains a large number of compounds in trace amounts.  Many of these compounds are also found in other aromatic essential oils that have antibacterial properties, such as tea tree and clove essential oil.  Below is a chart that shows the composition of several samples of thyme essential oil from different sources.

Chemical Composition of Thyme Essential Oil From Different Sources


Thyme Essential Oil in Acne Treatment

Thyme Plant

Thyme essential oil is toxic to a range of bacteria and fungi, including Propionibacterium acnes.  Laboratory tests indicate that thyme oil is one of the most effective essential oils at inhibiting bacterial growth.

However, there is limited evidence that thyme oil is an effective treatment for acne.  In pure form, thyme oil is a potent irritant of the skin and mucosal tissue.  Thyme oil must be diluted below 5% and below prior to topical use.

Thyme oil can be blended into an alcohol or carrier oil base to make customized solutions.  Small amounts of thyme oil may also be added to hot water and applied as a warm compress.

References and Sources

  1. Young. 2011.Essential Oils Pocket Reference.
  2. Lawless. 1995. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Oils in Aromatherapy & Herbalism.
  3. Bremness. 1994. The Complete Book of Herbs: A Practical Guide to Growing and Using Herbs.
  4. Grigore, et al. 2010. Chemical composition and antioxidant activity of Thymus vulgaris L.
    volatile oil obtained by two different methods.
  5. Soto-Mendivil, et al. 2006. Chemical Composition and Fungicidal Activity of the Essential Oil of Thymus vulgaris against Alternaria citri.
  6. Miguel, et al. 2004. Composition and antioxidant activities of the essential oils of
    Thymus caespititius, Thymus camphoratus and Thymus mastichina.
  7. Porte, et al. 2007. Chemical Composition of Thymus vulgaris L. (Thyme) Essential Oil from the Rio de Janeiro State (Brazil).
  8. Kollner, et al. 1955. Treatment of acne vulgaris with thymus extract.
  9. Zu, et al. 2010. Activities of ten essential oils towards Propionibacterium acnes and PC-3, A-549 and MCF-7 cancer cells.
  10. Sienkiewicz, et al. 2011. The Antimicrobial Activity of Thyme Essential Oil Against Multidrug Resistant Clinical Bacterial Strains.
  11. Keskin, et al. 2011. Studies on antimicrobial activities of solvent extracts of different spices..
  12. Soković, et al. 2010. Antibacterial effects of the essential oils of commonly consumed medicinal herbs using an in vitro model.
  13. De Martino, et al. 2010. Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of the essential oils from two species of Thymus growing wild in southern Italy.

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