Springboard Health Nutrition notebook Health information
Herbs 296 pixels Return home
2 pixels


Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), Family: Libiatae

2 pixels
2 pixels


Common names:

Common thyme Garden thyme Whooping cough herb

Habitat: native to the Mediterranean region and widely cultivated in Europe and the United States. It prefers limy, sandy, and well-drained soil with sufficient sunlight.

Description: A perennial plant with numerous procumbent stems, 6 to 12 inches high, covered with fine hair and pale brown bark. The leaves are small, opposite, sessile, and gray-green with slightly rolled edges. The small, blue-purple flowers are two-lipped and grow in dense, whorled clusters, blooming from May to September.

Medicinal parts: leaves and flowering tops - dried.


 Volatile oils Thymol Tannins
Flavonoids Caffeic acid Labiatic acid
Ursolic acid Oleanolic acid  

* For definition of some of the above terms see the dictionary section of this book.


Thyme is well known throughout the world as a culinary spice. As a tea, tincture, extract, and oil, it has demonstrated medicinal properties. Primary among these properties is its effect on the gastrointestinal tract, where it is antispasmodic, carminative, and anthelmintic. Thyme is antispasmodic and expectorant in the respiratory system; it is beneficial in the treatment of bronchial coughs, laryngitis, and whooping cough. Like many other herbs with a high content of volatile oil, thyme has strong antibacterial properties. In addition, the herb has hypotensive (sedative) and cardiotonic characteristics. Thymol, a major constituent of thyme's volatile oil, is powerful, and should not be used internally unless directed by a physician.

Return to top

Method of Action

Thyme contains a large concentration of volatile oil. Normally, the primary component of that oil is thymol, but actually concentration may vary greatly. Other constituents include carvacol, tannin, flavonoids, caffeic acid, labiatic acid, ursolic acid and oleanolic acid. These oils have antioxidant properties. A lipid fraction has been found to have anti-cancer properties.

Thyme Has Antispasmodic and Cholagogue Activity

As would be expected, thyme has good antispasmodic action, due to its volatile oils. Hence, it has found verified effectiveness in treating gastrointestinal problems and respiratory ailments, such as coughs. The herb is a good carminative and expectorant. The herb is also a good cholagogue, which helps contribute to its gastrointestinal effectiveness.

Thyme Has Good Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties

Like other volatile herbs, thyme is effective against a host of gram negative and gram positive bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, N. peraflava, B. subtilis and S. marescens. Incubated at 37 degrees C. for seven days with the H37Rv strain of mycobacterium tuberculosis, thyme extract produced inhibition at concentrations lower than 1:80 but higher than 1:40. Thymol is a good disinfectant also, supposedly 25 times as powerful as phenol.

Thyme Is Hypotensive, Cardiotonic, and a Respiratory Stimulant

When administered orally or intramuscularly to rabbits, it has caused arterial hypotension accompanied by increased rhythmic contraction of the heart. At higher dosages, it also increased respiratory frequency. Intravenous injections in cats of a 5% emulsion of the oil at 5-10 mg/kg increased respiratory volume and lowered blood pressure.

Thyme Is Anthelmintic

The anthelmintic property of thyme is supported in the scientific literature. Hookworms are reported to be especially susceptible to thyme oil.

Return to top


Possible Interactions

The antituberculous activity of thyme may potentiate the adverse effects of other antituberculous drugs, especially ethionamide.

The tannin in thyme may potentiate the antibiotic activity of echinacea. The tannin in tea made from the herb may be inactivated by the addition of milk or cream.

By sequestering thyme, mineral oil may reduce the herb's anthelmintic effect. The same may be true, to a lesser extent, of antacids.

The anti-inflammatory activity of thyme can be seriously inhibited by phenobarbital and certain other sedatives and hypnotics, such as chloral hydrate and meprobamate. This is also true of beta-adrenergic blocking agents, such as propranolol.

Due to the spasmolytic nature of thyme, it may interact in unknown ways with CNS-depressants or stimulants.


To minimize the risk of central nervous system depression and possible synergism, thyme should not be taken by persons on procarbazine antineoplastic agents.

In the absence of other hard data, it may be assumed that observable interactions occur between the many central nervous system drugs and the psychoactive principles in thyme.

There is evidence to show that combined use of bactericidal and bacteriostatic agents will lower the effectiveness of the bacteriostatic agent. However, how this finding applies to herbal anti-infectives is still unknown.

Toxicity Levels

Thyme and thyme oil are generally recognized as safe by the FDA. However, thyme oil can irritate the skin when applied topically. Taken internally in large doses, it is poisonous. Thymol is especially toxic, and can produce the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, gastritis, headache, dizziness, convulsions, coma, cardiac arrest, and respiratory collapse.

2 pixels
2 pixels

Return to top

Copyright © 2004 Springboard All rights reserved.
2 pixels
Left tab 436 Pixels Right tab