While you may be familiar with thyme in the kitchen, it’s more than just a savory herb that makes your chicken taste delicious. Thyme has a number of health benefits, too, especially its essential oil. Essential oils are made up of the chemicals, called terpenes, that give a plant it’s flavor and scent. These oils are extracted from the plant via distillation or cold-pressing and can be used in small quantities for therapeutic reasons. The terpenes found in thyme oil– carvacrol, thymol, linalool, cineol, camphor, and borneol — have been found to have a wide variety of health benefits. In fact, thyme was used throughout Europe to help fight the Black Plague!
Thyme Oil Benefits
In modern times, thyme essential oil is used medicinally to treat a number of conditions, either on its own or as an adjunct to other therapies.
Thymol, the most prevalent terpene in thyme oil, has antimicrobial properties. One study found that thyme oil was effective in treating bacterial infections, especially staphylococcus strains and treatment-resistant strains like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). Thyme essential oil has also been shown to be effective against bacterial strains Enterococcus and Escherichia.
2. Insect Repellent
Thyme oil has been found to be quite an effective mosquito repellent. One study found that thyme oil, applied to the skin, repelled mosquitos for 1-3 hours in a lab setting. With mosquito-borne illnesses like EEE becoming increasingly common in the U.S., thyme oil could be a reliable alternative to DEET-based insect repellents. Some essential oils can cause dermatitis when applied topically, so it’s important to always use a small amount blended well with a carrier oil, like coconut oil, before application.
3. Yeast Infection
Along with action against bacteria, thyme essential oil also has anti-fungal properties which may make it effective against Candida albicans, a type of yeast commonly found in and on the body. Yeast overgrowth can cause skin lesions, vaginal itching and pain, and there’s evidence that an overgrowth of Candida in the digestive system can be responsible for a number of health issues.
4. Skin Conditions
Thyme oil has been used to successfully relieve symptoms associated with atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis, known commonly as eczema, is a common skin issue characterized by itchy, scaly patches on the skin. While eczema is common in children, thyme oil should not be used as a treatment for young kids.
5. Respiratory Infections and Coughs
The terpene thymol may also work as an anti-spasmodic to help reduce coughs. One study showed that when used in conjunction with primrose, it was effective in reducing coughing associated with respiratory tract infections.
6. Alopecia/Hair Loss
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Thyme essential oil, when combined with a carrier oil and massaged into the scalp, can help reverse the effects of alopecia and encourage new hair growth. One study showed that 44% of subjects treated with thyme oil experienced an improvement in their hair loss.
A few words of caution. Essential oils are volatile biologic compounds and their use does come with risks. Essential oils should never be ingested or taken internally by applying to mucous membranes like the vulva or gums. Improper use can cause GI problems, dizziness, hallucinations, and other problems. Essential oils should not be used during the first trimester of pregnancy and your healthcare provider should be consulted before using oils later in pregnancy.
Essential oils should always be diluted in a carrier oil like coconut oil before topical application. Improper dilution can result in skin irritation.
Kristi Pahr is a freelance health and wellness writer and mother of two who spends most of her time caring for people other than herself. She is frequently exhausted and compensates with an intense caffeine addiction. Her work has appeared in Good Housekeeping, Real Simple, Men’s Health, and many others.
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