Time for some Thyme?

Thyme.1Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), is a well known and very valuable culinary herb. In clinical practice, it is used primarily to treat respiratory infections, as it possesses the ability to shift mucous from the laryngeal and respiratory areas, and is extremely good at treating infections of both the upper and lower respiratory tract. In addition, it is also a digestive tonic and is useful for combating gastrointestinal infections. It is widely used for bronchitis, asthma, diarrhoea and dyspepsia.

Thyme is a very strong antimicrobial – so strong in fact that its major active ingredient, Thymol, is used in commercial disinfectants. The essential oil can be burnt in a diffuser or applied (diluted) to the skin to treat bites or local infections.

Thyme has been used for thousands of years, and by the Ancient Egyptians who used thyme for embalming their dead. The Ancient Greeks used it as incense and burnt it in temples. It was also a sign of courage, and has been used throughout history as an antiseptic herb for bathing wounds, mouthwashes, etc.

Recent Research

Recent research is investigating the action of thyme as an anti-cancer agent. In a 2011 study, it was noted that thyme essential oil has cytotoxic effects towards human head and neck squamous cancer cells. The thyme oil interferef with the cell cycle at several major regulatory pathways, causing cell death. [1]Thyme has also been found to have strong antioxidant activity and to prevent and reduce lesions which cause DNA damage. [2]

Numerous trials have shown that Thyme is effective against a variety of bacteria, including the infamous and antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as Golden Staph. Thyme is also effective against Candida (thrush), and has been shown to effectively treat infections by disrupting the cell membrane of this and other fungal organisms, causing cell death. [3]

Culinary uses

Thyme is a common ingredient in all manner of cooking, particularly in combination with roast meat, soups and stews. It can be added to vegetables, and goes well with tomatoes and onion. Thyme can also be used to flavour fish, and is commonly added to hamburgers, meatballs and frittatas.


[1] Sertel, S et al. Cytotoxicity of Thymus vulgaris essential oil towards human oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma. Anticancer Res. 2011 Jan;31(1):81-7

[2] Kozics, K et al. Effects of Salvia officinalis and thymus vulgaris on oxidant induced DNA damage and antioxidant status in HepG2 cells. Food Chem. 2013 Dec 1;141(3):2198-206
[3] Vale-Silva, L. A et al. Antifungal activity of the Thymus x essential oil viciosoi against Candida, Cryptococcus, Aspergillus and dermatophyte species.Planta Med. 2010 Jun;76(9):882-8