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Thymus Vulgaris

Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More

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Updated January 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Thymus vulgaris is an herb long used for medicinal purposes. More commonly known as thyme, it's thought to contain compounds with antioxidant and antibacterial effects. Available in dietary supplement form, Thymus vulgaris is used to treat a wide range of health problems.

One of the constituents of Thymus vulgaris is thymol, a compound shown to possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. (An antimicrobial is a substance that destroys or suppresses the growth of microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi.)

Health Benefits of Thymus Vulgaris

Preliminary research suggests that Thymus vulgaris may offer a number of health benefits. For instance, animal-based studies published over the past decade indicate that Thymus vulgaris may act as a pain-reliever, protect the brain from aging-related damage, and shield both the brain and liver from the harmful effects of alcohol abuse.

In recent tests on human cells, scientists have determined that Thymus vulgaris may also curb inflammation and boost immune function.

Additionally, a study published in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association in 2005 found that compounds extracted from the essential oil of Thymus vulgaris may act as a mosquito repellent.

While few studies have tested the health effects of Thymus vulgaris in humans, there's some evidence that the herb may help alleviate menstrual pain. In a study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences in 2012, researchers assigned 120 female college students with menstrual cramps to treatment with either Thymus vulgaris supplements or Ibuprofen. Results revealed that both treatments were similarly beneficial in relieving pain.

Uses for Thymus Vulgaris

Thymus vulgaris is touted as a natural treatment for the following health conditions:

Thymus vulgaris is also purported to stimulate the immune system, enhance liver health, and reduce pain.

When applied to the scalp, the essential oil of Thymus vulgaris is said to promote hair growth and aid in treatment of alopecia areata.

In addition, Thymus vulgaris is thought to prevent cavities. It's also sometimes used in mouthwashes to fight bad breath.

Is Thymus Vulgaris Safe?

Since so few studies have tested the effects of Thymus vulgaris supplementation, the safety of long-term use of this herb is unknown. However, Thymus vulgaris has been found to cause several side effects, including stomach upset.

In addition, there's some concern that Thymus vulgaris may inhibit blood clotting. Therefore, it's crucial to avoid use of Thymus vulgaris at least two weeks prior to undergoing surgery.

Alternatives to Thymus Vulgaris

Several other herbs may help enhance immune function and shield you from illness. For example, taking herbs like andrographis, astragalus, echinacea, and elderberry at the first sign of a cold may help treat symptoms and shorten the cold's duration.

For herbal pain relief, alternatives to Thymus vulgaris include white willow bark, devil's claw, and ginger. Studies show that each of these herbs may have pain-reducing effects.

You can also manage chronic pain with certain mind-body techniques.

Where To Find Thymus Vulgaris

Often sold in liquid extract form, Thymus vulgaris can be found in many natural-foods stores and other stores specializing in natural products. Thymus vulgaris are also widely available online.

 

Sources

Amirghofran Z, Ahmadi H, Karimi MH. "Immunomodulatory activity of the water extract of Thymus vulgaris, Thymus daenensis, and Zataria multiflora on dendritic cells and T cells responses." J Immunoassay Immunochem. 2012;33(4):388-402.

Direkvand-Moghadam A, Khosravi A. "The impact of a novel herbal Shirazi Thymus Vulgaris on primary dysmenorrhea in comparison to the classical chemical Ibuprofen." J Res Med Sci. 2012 Jul;17(7):668-70.

Fachini-Queiroz FC, Kummer R, Estevão-Silva CF, Carvalho MD, Cunha JM, Grespan R, Bersani-Amado CA, Cuman RK. "Effects of Thymol and Carvacrol, Constituents of Thymus vulgaris L. Essential Oil, on the Inflammatory Response." Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:657026.

Park BS, Choi WS, Kim JH, Kim KH, Lee SE. "Monoterpenes from thyme (Thymus vulgaris) as potential mosquito repellents." J Am Mosq Control Assoc. 2005 Mar;21(1):80-3.

Shati AA, Elsaid FG. "Effects of water extracts of thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) on alcohol abuse." Food Chem Toxicol. 2009 Aug;47(8):1945-9.

Taherian AA, Babaei M, Vafaei AA, Jarrahi M, Jadidi M, Sadeghi H. "Antinociceptive effects of hydroalcoholic extract of Thymus vulgaris." Pak J Pharm Sci. 2009 Jan;22(1):83-9.

Youdim KA, Deans SG. "Effect of thyme oil and thymol dietary supplementation on the antioxidant status and fatty acid composition of the ageing rat brain." Br J Nutr. 2000 Jan;83(1):87-93. 

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