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10 min read / 23 November 2023 / yasmin sharp

10 Benefits and Uses of Thyme Oil

Thyme oil's healing properties have been well documented for thousands of years.

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Thyme oil has been used through the ages as a medicinal treatment, with countless civilisations drawing upon its mysterious healing powers to cure and soothe all kinds of ailments.

In fact, thyme was recorded in one of the world’s oldest medical texts, with health practitioners using it to inspire courage, rehabilitate and even to protect against bad dreams.

Thyme oil benefits continue to be discovered by researchers and aromatherapy experts today, which allows the herb to extend its reach far beyond the culinary world.

We’re here to help you learn more about this wonderful herb and oil and have put together a list of benefits of uses that could prove useful in your everyday life.

What is thyme oil?

Thyme oil is extracted from the dried leaves of the thyme herb via steam distillation.

The herb, which is also referred to by its botanical name, Thymus Vulgaris, is native to Southern Europe and has been used as a natural remedy by societies across the world for thousands of years.

White thyme is the most common form used in aromatherapy, as it is softer and kinder to the skin, making it suitable for topical application. However, it still needs to be diluted with carrier oil before use.

Red thyme oil is a more potent version of white thyme and is not considered safe to use on the skin due to its high concentration levels.

How does thyme oil work?

Thyme oil is able to provide a range of health benefits to the body thanks to the many compounds that can positively affect a variety of conditions.

The oil can relieve pain through its anti-inflammatory properties, which is best delivered through massaging it into the skin.

Fatigue can also be alleviated by simply adding a few drops to warm bath water, where it can re-energise the body.

Other thyme oil benefits include its ability to improve oral health by using it as a mouthwash, reduce infections and cleanse pores, and it is also known to ease respiratory problems through steam inhalation.

Tops of a thyme plant

Benefits of thyme oil

The benefits of thyme essential oil mean it could:

1. Offer strong cleaning properties

The antibacterial benefits of thyme oil mean it can prove to be a very effective cleaning agent.

When researchers tested thyme oil against 120 strains of bacteria ,  they found that it demonstrated strong activity against all clinical strains, including antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

These results suggest that thyme essential oil could be used to provide protection against infections that some areas of modern medicine struggle to combat.

It is believed that the presence of caryophyllene and camphene in thyme oil are responsible for delivering these antibacterial abilities, which mean it could also offer protection for the skin.

2. Work as an antioxidant

Based on the results of a study published in 2000, some scientists believe that thyme oil could also work as a powerful antioxidant, helping to protect the body against free radicals.

Free radicals can cause oxidising damage throughout the body, which can increase the risk of serious diseases, including cancer, neurological and cardiovascular conditions.

They are derived from external sources such as UV rays, air pollutants and cigarette smoking, or from normal metabolic processes in the human body.

The application and use of thyme oil may be able to reduce some of these risks, offering protection to cells against free radicals.

3. Help balance hormones

Some conditions that are caused by an imbalance in hormones, such as menopause symptoms and low moods, could be offered by thyme essential oil.

This is grounded in research that has found thyme oil is able to improve progesterone production in the body.

Low progesterone has been linked to several conditions, including unstable moods, and is also believed to be responsible for causing more severe menopause symptoms.

The inhalation of thyme oil could stimulate the production of progesterone, helping to reduce some of the symptoms associated with these conditions.

4. Improve skin condition

Many people apply diluted thyme essential oil to their skin, as its natural properties can provide a host of health benefits.

For example, thyme oil’s strong antibacterial properties may be able to protect the skin from infections, whilst also helping to deeply cleanse pores to remove harmful microorganisms.

The antioxidant properties mentioned earlier in this article also offer benefits for the skin.

By removing toxins from the body that are responsible for causing stress to the skin, which can also cause breakouts, they may be able to slow the signs of ageing.

In turn, this can revitalise the skin, helping it to look and feel fresher and younger.

5. Prevent hair loss

Some also believe that thyme oil benefits the scalp and hair by working as an anti-hair loss agent, with its natural properties helping to stimulate the scalp.

An older study, published in 1998, looked at this in more detail and found that the oil was effective at treating alopecia areata, a condition that arises when hair follicles are attacked by the immune system.

There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this claim, with thyme essential oil regularly included in hair mask recipes.

Mixing thyme essential oil with rosemary essential oil (along with an appropriate amount of your preferred carrier oil) could work as a powerful combination that is beneficial to your hair.

Thyme herb in a terracotta pot

6. Ease respiratory conditions

Thyme essential oil is rich in thymol, a component that is said to be antispasmodic. This can benefit the body by calming contracting muscles, offering relief and providing comfort from breathing difficulties.

The oil has long been used in traditional medicines to combat coughs, and a 2016 study also found that it could be very effective against respiratory tract infections like the common cold.

When seen in combination with its ability to eliminate toxins, kill infections and balance mood, it could mean that thyme oil is a highly effective natural remedy that can be used to reduce symptoms associated with cold and flu strains.

7. Reduce signs of acne

As we mentioned earlier, thyme’s antibacterial properties can help to improve the condition of your skin. Its abilities could also extend to combating acne and other similar conditions.

The thymol, carvacrol and linalool compounds contained in thyme oil offer a mixture of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and antiseptic properties that could all work together to reduce and remove acne from the skin.

A study published in 2010 highlighted that the oil’s antibacterial activity was effective against P. acnes, the bacteria believed by many to be responsible for causing acne.

8. Lower blood pressure

A specific species of thyme found in Afghanistan and Pakistan, called Thymus linearis Benth, has been found to be effective at lowering blood pressure.

This is based on the results of a study published in 2014, with researchers learning that the heart rate of rats with high blood pressure was significantly lowered.

At the same time, the rat’s cholesterol levels were also lowered.

However, before any solid conclusions can be arrived at, human studies are needed to confirm these findings, so we can learn how effective thyme could be at lowering blood pressure.

9. Improve oral health

The anti-inflammatory effects of thymol have been well documented, helping to reduce infections and inflammation of the skin.

And, according to research published in 2019, the anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of thyme oil could make it beneficial for oral health.

Research has also found that thyme oil can work as an effective antiseptic solution against a variety of oral pathogens.

This explains why thyme is used by some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world, such as Johnson & Johnson, who use thymol in many of their Listerine mouthwash products.

10. Ease stress and anxiety

Aromatherapy is used as a home-based mental health treatment by many people as it can help to lower high levels of stress and anxiety.

Diffusing thyme essential oil can allow your mind, lungs and veins to open and relax, which are all vitally important for a healthy, functioning body.

Staying relaxed can also play a role in lowering blood pressure levels, whilst also helping to avoid other conditions such as digestive problems, insomnia and panic attacks.

Tied bundle of thyme

How to use thyme oil

Popular uses of thyme oil include applying it:

As a skincare agent

The antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of thyme oil mean it can prove to be very effective against common skin woes such as ageing, acne and clogged pores.

Once the oil has been diluted with a carrier oil, simply apply it to the skin and allow it to get to work as an all-natural cleansing substitute.

As a haircare treatment

Hair loss will affect most men and a certain percentage of women at some point in their life and many try it as a haircare treatment.

Mix thyme essential oil with a carrier oil like argan and apply it as a hair mask to see if it can slow or reverse the effects of hair loss.

Other thyme oil uses include adding a few drops to your shampoo and washing it in and out as normal.

History of thyme oil

By the year 1550 BCE, the healing properties of thyme had already been recorded in the oldest Egyptian medical document, the Ebers Papyrus.

It is believed that the name “thyme” was derived from the Greek word “thumos”, which means bravery – a trait the plant has long been heavily associated with.

The Greeks also linked the plant with the idea of elegance, as women of the time would embroider a bee hovering over a thyme plant into scarves, which would later be presented to knights and warriors.

During the Roman era, thyme was regularly infused in bath water by soldiers before heading into battle.

This belief held firm all the way through to the 19th century, with Europeans using it as a protective guard against a variety of diseases and conditions.

Black and white illustration of thyme

Thyme oil FAQs

What other oils does thyme essential oil blend well with?

Thyme essential oil blends very well with a host of different oils, including rosemary, tea tree, bergamot, cedarwood, mandarin, lemon, juniper and chamomile.

Rosemary and thyme is a classic blend often used for hair mask treatment, with the two scents complementing each other particularly well.

Is thyme essential oil safe for everyone to use?

Anyone that has an allergy to mint will also likely have an allergy to thyme essential oil.

You should never consume thyme oil as it can cause serious health complications and if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is advisable to speak with a doctor before using the oil.

Can I use thyme to preserve food?

Some studies have found that thyme can be very effective at eliminating food-related bacteria and fungi.

For example, a 2013 in vitro study demonstrated that even at low concentrations, it was able to combat several common foodborne bacteria responsible for human illness.

 


 

References

[1] Monika Sienkiewicz et al. (2011) Antibacterial activity of thyme and lavender essential oils https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22313307/

[2] K A Youdim et al. (2000) Effect of thyme oil and thymol dietary supplementation on the antioxidant status and fatty acid composition of the ageing rat brain https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10703468/

[3] D T Zava et al. (1998) Estrogen and progestin bioactivity of foods, herbs, and spices https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9492350/

[4] I C Hay et al. (1998) Randomized trial of aromatherapy. Successful treatment for alopecia areata https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9828867/

[5] Karina Schönknecht et al. (2016) Treatment of cough in respiratory tract infections - the effect of combining the natural active compounds with thymol https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28214817/

[6] Yuangang Zu et al. (2010) Activities of Ten Essential Oils towards Propionibacterium acnes and PC-3, A-549 and MCF-7 Cancer Cells https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6263286/

[7] Alamgeer et al. (2014) Pharmacological evaluation of antihypertensive effect of aerial parts of Thymus linearis benth https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25272894/

[8] Paulo R Gabbai-Armelin et al. (2022) A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of thymol as an anti-inflammatory and wound healing agent: A review of thymol effect on inflammation and wound healing: A review of thymol effect on inflammation and wound healing https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35848908/

[9] Patole V. C et al. (2019) THYMOL AND EUGENOL LOADED CHITOSAN DENTAL FILM FOR TREATMENT OF PERIODONTITIS https://www.indiandrugsonline.org/issuesarticle-details?id=OTQx

[10] Nilima Thosar et al. (2013) Antimicrobial efficacy of five essential oils against oral pathogens: An in vitro study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4054083/

[11] Nuno Silva et al. (2013) Antimicrobial activity of essential oils from mediterranean aromatic plants against several foodborne and spoilage bacteria https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1082013212442198

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Medical Disclaimer

The content in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of medical advice. Please consult your personal physician for any advice or treatment regarding specific health questions. Neither the article editor, writer, nor the organisation of Nikura takes any responsibility for possible health consequences following the information given in any article. All readers should consult their physician before taking any advice given within these articles.

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