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Student Blog

Thyme: 10+ Amazing Health Benefits

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Earthy, biting… refreshing? Thyme is one of the most popular medicinal teas in Ethiopia.1 Its two main oils—thymol and carvacrol—are packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.2 It’s also easy to grow in pots or gardens all over the world.

Might thyme be perfect for you? Let’s find out!

Antibacterial and antimicrobial

Both thymol and carvacrol are antibacterial and antimicrobial.2,3 These oils are often extracted from thyme or other plants like oregano for use in popular cleaning supplies, novel medicines, cosmetics, and food preservatives.2 While not always used together, they are strongest together—a dynamic duo like ginger and turmeric!4

While thymol and carvacrol can be used as essential oils, they are very powerful and must be used carefully as they can burn skin or even be toxic when not diluted properly. Thyme as a tea or ingredient is strong enough to gain its powerful effects in moderation.

Wards off bugs

Thyme, used as an oil, tea, or just planted in a garden, can help repel bugs. Bugs are a lot bigger than bacteria and microbes, but their dislike of thyme is similar in size.5 Rubbing a mixture of fresh thyme and lemon balm onto the skin might help de-bug your hike.

cartoon-bug-says-thyme-isn't-for-them-assuaged

Oral health

Bad breath, gingivitis, cold sores, general gum swelling, and more… Thyme can help at least a little with all of them. While alcohol can disrupt the mouth microbiome and make bad breath worse, thyme skips healthy cells and targets unhealthy cells. Its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties make it a good antiseptic. Plus, it can help with pain, as it reduces pain-causing inflammation and can reduce hypersensitivity to pain.4,6

It’s frequently an ingredient in DIY, natural, and even non-natural oral care products. You can also be confident that drinking thyme tea is good for your teeth—a healthy bonus!

Cough relief

The dynamic duo of thyme, thymol and carvacrol, can help suppress muscle-spasms in the throat, reduce inflammation, and break up mucus. Historically, it has been used to help treat coughing. Modern studies show it can continue that role with confidence.2,7 Besides studying perceived effects, studies have found that small amounts of thymol and carvacrol end up in lung and muscle tissues after digestion, showing that it really ends up where its effects are felt.3

If you’re sick or suffering from allergic post-nasal drip, a warm cup of thyme tea might be the perfect thing to inhale and sip.

Digestive health

Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antimicrobial—all these benefits make thyme a historic and modern digestive health aid. While it reduces inflammation-causing bacteria and microbes, it doesn't harm digestive enzymes. In fact, it helps them function well, even helping to reduce ulcers.2,4,7

Thyme, as a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, can be especially helpful against inflammatory bowel diseases, including IBS, Chron’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. It can help break down inflammatory mucus build-up in the intestines, just like in the lungs.7

It can also help prevent intestinal cancer, as it can help break down cancer cells for the same reasons it kills harmful bacteria and viruses. If cancer spreads anyway, it can help reduce chemotherapy symptoms, especially intestinal inflammation. Plus, it can help decrease cancer cells, though it cannot completely eliminate them.3

If you want to get the maximum digestive benefit of thyme, eat it whole or as a tea. Taken in capsule form, it is more likely to affect the small intestine instead of the stomach and large intestine. It takes around 1.39 and 2 hours for carvacrol and thymol levels to peak in plasma after taking it.2,3

cartoon-stomach-says-thyme-is-for-them-assuaged

Skin health

Thyme is not only good at reducing inflammation and acting as an antiseptic inside the body. Used topically, it can reduce skin problems like acne and dandruff, plus help soothe rashes and other inflammatory skin conditions.2,8 It can also double as a bug repellant when applied to skin.

Immune booster

The immune system is healthiest when your body is healthiest, less inflamed, packed with antioxidants, and when less bacteria and microbes irritate it. Thyme helps accomplish all these things, making it a powerful immune booster. It’s especially helpful when the immune system is inappropriately triggered, including in conditions like allergies or asthma.2,3,4

However, despite these effects, it is possible to be allergic to thyme. If you’re allergic to other plants in the Lamiaceae family, like mint or sage, or notice a rash or increased inflammation, it is best to avoid consuming thyme.2

Cardiovascular health

Antioxidants are one of the best things to consume for heart health, making thyme a great heart-healthy dietary addition. In addition, it can help regulate how the body communicates using calcium, which can help reduce heart symptoms.4

Mental and brain health

Most neurotransmitter production happens in the gut. As thyme is excellent for intestinal health, as well as reducing general inflammation and keeping the body healthy, thyme has shown positive effects for mental health problems like anxiety and depression.3,7,9 However, the strongest effect shown is on anxiety, as anxiety is often triggered by inflammation in the body.2

Thyme is also neuroprotective. It helps keep memory strong, as well as helping to protect brain systems involved in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, catalepsy, and more types of diseases concerning neurons.2,4

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Women’s health

Thyme is good for women’s health across the life course not only for its effects on general health, but it can also help with some of those pesky effects caused by the body’s hormones.

Cramps

Thyme tea is often used to help with cramps before and during menstruation in Ethiopia and the middle east. While eating nutrient-rich foods can produce similar effects, thyme may be especially useful as it can help balance hormones.1 It may also reduce uterine contraction directly by helping to reduce muscle spasming in the uterus.10

PMS

While thyme can help with cramps and some mental health conditions, it most likely won't help much with PMS. One study found that it was only as effective as a pill filled with starch.11 However, if you find it helpful, one study is little reason to not listen to your body.

Menopause

Combined with Korean milk thistle, thyme may be a powerful herb to combat menopause-related effects. Thistle has similar health benefits to thyme, in addition to antidiabetic effects and aid for cellular injury. In addition to being excellent for bone, blood vessel, and psychological health, this combination decreased expression of genes associated with cancers caused by estrogen exposure and increased tumor-suppressant gene activity, effectively reducing primary menopause side-effects.12

Men’s health

As for men, in addition to general health benefits, it may help with male fertility. Like any antioxidant, thyme can help with the strength, quality, and healthy movement of sperm.4 

Looking Ahead

Thyme continues to be researched by scientists for its various benefits. Extracts are even sometimes tested as clinical drugs, especially in combination with things like antibiotics and cancer treatments. Thyme is a powerful health food, and a great addition to your herb garden or tea stash.


Citations

  1. Abayneh Birlie Zeru & Mikyas Arega Muluneh (2020) Thyme Tea and Primary Dysmenorrhea Among Young Female Students, Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, 11:, 147-155, DOI: 10.2147/AHMT.S280800
  2. Salehi, B., Mishra, A. P., Shukla, I., Sharifi-Rad, M., Contreras, M. del, Segura-Carretero, A., Fathi, H., Nasrabadi, N. N., Kobarfard, F., & Sharifi-Rad, J. (2018). Thymol, thyme, and other plant sources: Health and potential uses. Phytotherapy Research, 32(9), 1688–1706. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.6109
  3. Sharifi-Rad, M., Varoni, E. M., Iriti, M., Martorell, M., Setzer, W. N., del Mar Contreras, M., Salehi, B., Soltani-Nejad, A., Rajabi, S., Tajbakhsh, M., & Sharifi-Rad, J. (2018). Carvacrol and Human Health: A Comprehensive Review. Phytotherapy Research, 32(9), 1675–1687. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.6103
  4. Imran, M., Aslam, M., Alsagaby, S. A., Saeed, F., Ahmad, I., Afzaal, M., Arshad, M. U., Abdelgawad, M. A., El‐Ghorab, A. H., Khames, A., Shariati, M. A., Ahmad, A., Hussain, M., Imran, A., & Islam, S. (2022). Therapeutic application of Carvacrol: A Comprehensive Review. Food Science &amp; Nutrition, 10(11), 3544–3561. https://doi.org/10.1002/fsn3.2994
  5. Pavela, R., Vrchotová, N. & Tříska, J. Mosquitocidal activities of thyme oils (Thymus vulgaris L.) against Culex quinquefasciatus (Diptera: Culicidae). Parasitol Res 105, 1365–1370 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00436-009-1571-1
  6. Schönknecht, K., Surdacka, A., & Rudenko, L. (2021). EFFECTIVENESS OF COMPOSED HERBAL EXTRACT IN THE TREATMENT OF GINGIVITIS AND ORAL AND PHARYNGEAL MUCOSA - REVIEW OF STUDIES. Wiadomosci lekarskie (Warsaw, Poland: 1960), 74(7), 1737–1749.
  7. Li, L., Peng, P., Ding, N., Jia, W., Huang, C., & Tang, Y. (2023). Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, Gut Dysbiosis: What Can Polyphenols Do in Inflammatory Bowel Disease?. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 12(4), 967. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox12040967
  8. Kumari, K. M. U., Yadav, N. P., & Luqman, S. (2022). Promising Essential Oils/Plant Extracts in the Prevention and Treatment of Dandruff Pathogenesis. Current topics in medicinal chemistry, 22(13), 1104–1133. https://doi.org/10.2174/1568026622666220531120226
  9. Deng, X.-Y., Li, H.-Y., Chen, J.-J., Li, R.-P., Qu, R., Fu, Q., & Ma, S.-P. (2015). Thymol produces an antidepressant-like effect in a chronic unpredictable mild stress model of depression in mice. Behavioural Brain Research, 291, 12–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2015.04.052
  10. Enitome E. Bafor, Chioma H. Kalu, Osemelomen Omoruyi, Uloma B. Elvis-Offiah, and RuAngelie Edrada-Ebel.Thyme (Thymus vulgaris [Lamiaceae]) Leaves Inhibit Contraction of the Nonpregnant Mouse Uterus. Journal of Medicinal Food. May 2021.541-550.http://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2020.0076
  11. Enitome E. Bafor, Chioma H. Kalu, Osemelomen Omoruyi, Uloma B. Elvis-Offiah, and RuAngelie Edrada-Ebel.Thyme (Thymus vulgaris [Lamiaceae]) Leaves Inhibit Contraction of the Nonpregnant Mouse Uterus.Journal of Medicinal Food. May 2021.541-550.http://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2020.0076
  12. Sodouri, M., Masoudi Alavi, N., Fathizadeh, N., Taghizadeh, M., Azarbad, Z., & Memarzadeh, M. (2013). Effects of zataria multi-flora, Shirazi Thyme, on the severity of premenstrual syndrome. Nursing and Midwifery Studies, 2(2), 57–63. https://doi.org/10.5812/nms.13709
  13. Noh, Y.-H., Cheon, S., Kim, I. H., Lee, S., Yin, X., Jeong, J., Lee, H., Ahn, J. H., Han, S. S., Bae, Y., Jung, Y., & Lee, W. (2019). The effects of MS-10 dietary supplement, mixture of Korean thistle and thyme extracts, on bone health, and symptoms in menopausal women. Journal of Functional Foods, 52, 680–689. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2018.11.047 

Choosing a healthy plant-based and vegan diet is most beneficial when it comes to:

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  • Higher levels of energy;

  • Improved sleep;

  • Aids in energy and overall happiness;

  • Provides a sense of comfort and relief;

  • Could prevent major diseases such as obesity and diabetes;

  • Accomplish weight-loss and management; and

  • Improves mental and cognitive functioning.

There are really no excuses not to try healthier habits in your everyday life. If you are a man or woman looking for specific benefits of adopting healthier habits or just want to know about the general healing properties of herbs. Please remember to comment or post any health questions, or contact us directly!

Also feel free to share any of your favorite recipes to make and share it with the Assuaged community on our ➡️ Share A Recipe ⬅️ page!

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Lydia Fox

Lydia Fox

Lydia Fox is an enthusiast of many things, from health research to space operas. She recently graduated with an Administrative Professional associate's degree and is seeking more higher education, this time in the form of a psychology degree. Tea and plants are never far from her, so expect lots of posts about plants that can become tea and home horticulture!

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