The Thyme shrub is a petite flowering botanical belonging to the Lamiaceae family and the genus Thymus. It is native to the Mediterranean and displays small grey-green leaves and florets of tiny pink-purple or white flowers that bloom typically at the beginning of summer. Due to the ease at which they cross pollinate, Thyme plants are quite diverse, with as many as 300 different species all housing variants of its intensely fragrant essential oil. Popular species of Thyme include:
|POPULAR THYME SPECIES||COMMON NAMES(S)|
|Thymus vulgaris||Common Thyme, Garden Thyme|
|Thymus zygis||Spanish Thyme, White Thyme|
|Thymus citriodorus||Lemon Thyme|
|Thymus serpyllum||Wild Thyme, 'Mother of Thyme'|
|Thymus satureioides||Moroccan Thyme|
Many chemotypes of Thyme can also exist within a specific species. Chemotypes are specific varieties that belong to the same species and yet show differences in the chemical make-up of their essential oils. These variations may be due to factors such as selective cultivation (choosing to growing plants that display selected characteristics) and growing conditions, including the environmental altitude and season. For example, commonly available chemotypes of Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) include:
The diversity of Thyme is a true reflection of its robustness and adaptability to its surroundings. As one of the most potent and valuable oils in aromatherapy, it is important to know the Latin name and chemotype (if applicable) of a specific Thyme Oil before its use or purchase, as its therapeutic properties, recommended applications, and safety profile will differ accordingly. A guide to the full selection of Thyme Oils available from NDA is presented at the end of this blog post.
From the Middle Ages and beyond to modern times, Thyme has been embraced as a powerful spiritual, medicinal, and culinary herb. The burning of this highly fragrant plant has long symbolized the cleansing and purification of everything negative and unwanted, whether they be pests, pathogens, uncertainties, fears, or nightmares. It was Pliny the Elder, the noted Roman philosopher and author, who aptly summarized this sentiment: "[Thyme] puts to flight all venomous creatures". Accordingly, the word 'Thyme' is believed to originate from the Greek word 'thymon' (meaning 'to fumigate' or purify). An alternate account also traces its origin to the Greek word 'thumus' (meaning 'courage').
The Romans were known to infuse Thyme in their herbal baths to aid with cleansing; their soldiers used the herb as a means of instilling courage and bravery before going into battle. The Greeks used Thyme to promote restful sleep and block any fears that would manifest as nightmares. The Egyptians reserved Thyme for the deceased, using it in sacred embalming rituals to help preserve the body and encourage its spiritual passing. Indeed, Thyme was frequently burned in the home and in places of worship to purge the areas of foul or unpleasant smells and prevent the onset of disease. Its purifying and protective properties were well known even in those days, used by the public, herbalists, traditional healers, and medical establishments to safeguard against deadly diseases and infections by cleaning wounds, sanitizing hospitals, purifying meat before consumption, and fumigating the air.
The chemical constituents of Thyme Essential Oil contribute to its renowned purifying and remedial properties. Perhaps its most well-known constituent is Thymol, a terpene compound associated with strong antibacterial and antifungal benefits. Alongside Thymol, other active compounds making up this essential oil include Carvacrol, p-Cymene, and Gamma-terpinene. Keep in mind that the exact chemical composition and therefore its uses and therapeutic activities can differ depending on the variety or chemotype of Thyme Oil.
Thymol is a highly aromatic monoterpene phenol that has been extensively studied for its antimicrobial properties. It has been shown to combat various strains of bacteria and fungi, viruses, parasites, and insects. Due to its intriguing antiseptic nature, it is used commercially in applications such as the manufacturing of mouthwashes, disinfectants, and pest control. Carvacrol, also a monoterpene phenol, exudes a warm, sharp, acrid odor. Like Thymol, it displays antifungal and antibacterial properties. Both Thymol and Carvacrol have been observed to show antioxidant and antitussive (cough suppressing) effects.
p-Cymene is a monoterpene compound with a fresh, citrus-like odor. It shows antimicrobial benefits alongside analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Gamma-terpinene is naturally present in many citrus fruits and displays strong antioxidant qualities. It exudes a refreshing sweet, sharp, green odor.
Used in aromatherapy, Thyme Oil serves as a tonic and displays a strengthening effect on both the body and the mind. Inhaling its penetrating fragrance can be useful during times of stress, fatigue, fear, or grief. Psychologically, it is wonderful at gaining a sense of confidence, perspective, and self-esteem, making one feel courageous during decision-making or times of uncertainty. It is also reputed to promote restful sleep, protect the body during common seasonal ailments such as the flu, and ease headaches and other bodily tensions.
Used topically and in cosmetics, Thyme Oil is ideally suited for those with oily skin or acne. Its antimicrobial properties help to clear the skin, diminish texture issues, and achieve a more even, radiant complexion. In natural remedies, Thyme Oil may be used to boost the recovery of minor cuts, scrapes, sunburn, and skin infections, in addition to supporting the management of minor cases of inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis. Thymol is also thought to play a protective role against environmental damage on the skin, including the oxidative effects of UVA and UVB rays resulting from sun exposure. This suggests that Thyme Oil can be beneficial for anti-aging skin regimens as well.
Used medicinally, Thyme Oil has been used as a remedy for a vast range of ailments from wounds and infections to high blood pressure. It is believed to act as a stimulant to all bodily systems, encouraging biological processes to work optimally and healthily. Thyme Oil is also reputed to boost the immune system and therefore contribute to overall health and well-being. It facilitates the digestive system, acts as a carminative, and helps alleviate bloating. Due to its hot, soothing nature, Thyme Oil provides natural pain relief for those suffering from physical fatigue as well as muscular pain, strain, and stiffness. Notably, Thyme Oil's expectorant qualities facilitates the opening of the airways and can ease minor respiratory discomfort while suppressing coughs.
The reputed benefits and properties of Thyme Essential Oil are summarized below:
COSMETIC: Antioxidant, Anti-Acne, Cleansing, Clarifying, Detoxifying, Anti-aging, Firming, Soothing, Stimulating
ODOROUS: Stimulant, Expectorant, Antitussive, Tonic, Stress-Relieving
MEDICINAL: Antibacterial, Antifungal, Antiviral, Antispasmodic, Expectorant, Antitussive, Analgesic, Stimulant, Insecticidal, Vermicidal, Carminative, Emmenagogue, Cicatrisant, Regulating
Thyme is a perennial herb that likes warm, dry conditions and needs plenty of sun exposure to thrive. It shows qualities of intense robustness and adaptability, tolerating both droughts and winter colds fairly well. Indeed, it is believed that Thyme protects itself in hot weather due to its essential oil, which evaporates into the surrounding air and prevents additional water loss. Well-drained, stony soils are also beneficial for Thyme, and it often does not succumb to pests. However, it can be susceptible to fungal rot if the soil becomes too wet and lacks drainage.
The harvest season for Thyme can occur once or twice a year. In Spain, two harvests are conducted, with the cuttings or seeds sown in winter harvested between the months of May and June, and those planted in spring harvested in the months of December and January. In Morocco, one harvest is conducted in the spring or summer months. Harvesting needs to be done carefully as improper practices such as excessive cutting can lead the crops to perish or increase their susceptibility to disease.
For the quality of the oil to be at its highest, harvesting should be done in dry conditions right at the point the plants commence flowering, and then distilled as soon as possible. The altitude is also thought to have an impact on essential oil composition; lower altitudes tend to produce more phenol-rich oils that show potent antimicrobial properties.
Thyme Essential Oil is prized for its medicinal, odorous, culinary, household, and cosmetic applications. Industrially, it is used for food preservation and also as a flavoring agent for sweets and beverages. The oil and its active constituent Thymol can also be found in various natural and commercial brands of mouthwash, toothpaste, and other dental hygiene products. In cosmetics, Thyme Oil's many forms include soaps, lotions, shampoos, cleansers, and toners.
Diffusion is an excellent way to make use of the therapeutic properties of Thyme Oil. A few drops added to a diffuser (or diffuser blend) can help purify the air and bring forth a fresh, serene ambiance that energizes the mind and eases the throat and sinuses. This can be especially strengthening to the body during winter weather. To benefit from the expectorant properties of Thyme Oil, fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Transfer the hot water to a heat-proof bowl and add 6 drops of Thyme Essential Oil, 2 drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil, and 2 drops of Lemon Essential Oil. Hold a towel over the head and close the eyes before bending over the bowl and inhaling deeply. This herbal steam can be particularly soothing for those with colds, coughs, and congestion.
Aromatically, the brisk, warming scent of Thyme Oil serves as a strong mental tonic and stimulant. Simply inhaling the scent can comfort the mind and provide confidence during periods of stress or uncertainty. Diffusing Thyme Oil during lazy or unproductive days can also be an excellent antidote to procrastination and lack of focus.
Properly diluted, Thyme Oil is a refreshing ingredient in massage blends addressing pain, stress, fatigue, indigestion, or soreness. An added benefit is that its stimulatory and detoxifying effects can help firm the skin and improve its texture, which can be useful for those with cellulite or stretch marks. For an abdominal self-massage that facilitates digestion, combine 30 mL (1 fl. oz.) with 2 drops of Thyme Oil and 3 drops of Peppermint Oil. Laying on a flat surface or the bed, warm the oils in the palm of your hand and gently massage the abdominal area with kneading motions. This will help ease flatulence, bloating, and symptoms of irritable bowel ailments.
Used on the skin, Thyme Oil may be beneficial for those afflicted with acne to help achieve clearer, detoxified, and more balanced skin. It is best suited for cleansing applications such as soaps, shower gels, facial oil cleansers, and body scrubs. To make an invigorating Thyme Sugar Scrub, combine 1 cup of White Sugar and 1/4 cup of a preferred Carrier Oil with 5 drops each of Thyme, Lemon, and Grapefruit Oil. Apply one palmful of this scrub onto wet skin in the shower, exfoliating in circular motions to reveal brighter, smoother skin.
Added to shampoo, conditioner, or hair mask formulations, Thyme Oil helps naturally clarify hair, ease build-up, alleviate dandruff, eliminate lice, and soothe the scalp. Its stimulant properties may also help promote hair growth. Try adding a drop of Thyme Oil for every tablespoon (roughly 15 mL or 0.5 fl. oz.) of shampoo you use to benefit from the fortifying qualities of Thyme on the hair.
Thyme Oil is particularly effective in DIY cleaning products and is well-suited for kitchen cleaners because of its wonderful herbal fragrance. To make your own all-natural surface cleaner, combine 1 cup of White Vinegar, 1 cup of water, and 30 drops of Thyme Oil in a spray bottle. Cap the bottle and shake thoroughly combine all ingredients. This cleaner is suitable for most countertops, floors, sinks, toilets, and other surfaces.
|THYME OIL VARIETY & BOTANICAL NAME||COUNTRY OF ORIGIN||MAIN CONSTITUENTS & REPUTED BENEFITS|
|Thyme Red Essential Oil
|Thyme Essential Oil (White)
|Thyme Organic Essential Oil
As with all other New Directions Aromatics essential oils, Thyme Essential Oil is for external use only. Both Red Thyme and White Thyme Essential Oils contain a high amount of phenols which are known to irritate the skin and mucous membranes; it is therefore strongly recommended that they are diluted appropriately and a skin patch test is conducted before use. Varieties of Thyme Oil high in Thymol are not recommended for use in the bath as the oil can adhere to skin and cause sensitivities. The recommended maximum dermal use level of Thyme Oils high in Thymol and/or Carvacrol is 1.3% (SOURCE: Tisserand & Young, Essential Oil Safety, 2nd edition).
Due to its potency and potential adverse effects, those under the care of a medical practitioner should avoid use of Thyme Oil. This includes those who have high blood pressure, bleeding conditions, heart conditions, cancer, liver damage, epilepsy, and any other medical concern. Pregnant and nursing women are strongly advised against using Thyme Essential Oil. Others should consult a medical practitioner before using Thyme Essential Oil for therapeutic purposes.
Thyme Essential Oil should never be used around the eyes, inner nose, or any sensitive areas of skin. To conduct a skin patch test, dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil and apply a small amount to an area of skin that is not sensitive. Monitor for any symptoms or reactions.
In the event of an allergic reaction, discontinue use of the products and see a doctor, pharmacist, or allergist immediately for a health assessment and appropriate remedial action. To prevent side effects, consult with a medical professional prior to use.
This oil should always be stored in an area that is inaccessible to children.