Health Benefits Of Thyme

  • Amy Murtagh, Postgraduate Degree, Science Communication and Public Engagement, The University of Edinburgh
  • Marisa Edmonds, Master of Science - MS, Clinical Neuroscience, UCL


Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is an indigenous herb of the Mediterranean; it is cultivated widely and found growing in its wild form in both Britain and Europe. Both common garden and wild thyme are small and bushy plants with small, grey-green leaves that produce small flowers which vary in colour from white to dark purple. Thyme is in the mint family, which is called Lamiaceae, and in common with mint, thyme is a highly aromatic herb which has many uses as a culinary herb and health benefits as a medicinal herb. 

About thyme

Health benefits of thyme

Thyme has many health benefits due to a number of active constituents, including a valuable essential oil called thymol. 

These benefits include the following:

  • Antibacterial 
  • Antiviral
  • Anti-parasitic
  • Antispasmodic
  • Anti-oxidant 
  • Expectorant 
  • Antifungal
  • Tonic 
  • Carminative 
  • Antiseptic 

Thyme can also treat several illnesses, including: 

  • Respiratory infections
  • Urinary infections 
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Sore throat 

Thyme is also packed full of beneficial phytochemicals (plant chemicals) and phytonutrients (plant nutrients), particularly flavonoids and antioxidants. Many studies have looked at its health benefits and, in particular, at the actions of the essential oils thymol and carvacrol.

Studies have found many uses for thyme due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antineoplastic actions.

Antioxidant Action 

Antioxidants function to scavenge free radical molecules (known to cause and accelerate ageing, inflammation, DNA changes, cancerous mutations and cardiovascular diseases). As thyme possesses high levels of antioxidants, consuming this herb can help counteract the damage caused by cell-damaging free radicals. 

Anti-inflammatory Action

Inflammation is a natural, protective mechanism elicited in the body as a reaction to external threats such as disease-causing bacteria and viruses and also cell damage. Studies suggest that thyme may counteract inflammation in the body due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Anti-Neoplastic Action 

An anti-neoplastic compound is one that can prevent cancer from developing or progressing in the body. Some research suggests that the essential oils present in thyme can affect the way that cancer develops.

Antibacterial Action 

Due to its antibacterial activity, thyme is often used medicinally to fight infection. This makes it potentially valuable as we face the global issue of ‘antimicrobial resistance’ (AMR) where our current antimicrobial drugs (i.e., antibiotics) are working less effectively.

Thyme has been used to treat respiratory infections/issues such as:

The essential oils in thyme have also been shown to slightly counteract the activity of E. coli, which is a common cause of food poisoning.1

Antifungal Activity 

Thyme also performs antifungal activity due to containing the essential oils: thymol and carvacrol. This antifungal effect is useful when treating the common fungal infection candida (more commonly known as thrush), as thyme can reduce the growth of this fungus.1

Respiratory Benefits 

Thyme has traditionally been used in the treatment of coughs as it has several actions that can help with coughing. As a muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory herb, thyme can reduce the coughing reflex, and its antimicrobial properties help fight pathogens triggering the cough response. Thyme can also help the lungs dispel mucus that may be irritating and cause congestion in the lungs.3 

Gastrointestinal Benefits 

Thyme may help gastrointestinal disturbances such as helping to relieve excess/trapped gas. 

Antiviral Activity  

The antiviral activity of thyme has been successfully found to treat the herpes virus. It also has been considered for its antiviral properties during the COVID-19 pandemic.1

Skin Health

Thyme has proven itself to be an effective anti-wrinkle herb, having demonstrated an ability to reduce both wrinkles and expression lines when applied topically to the skin.2

Oral Health 

Due to the ability of thyme to fight pathogens and reduce inflammation, it is a very useful herb for promoting oral health. Thyme can be used to treat oral herpes, candida in the mouth and halitosis or bad breath.3 This herb can be used as a mouth rinse for improving oral health. 

Nutrients we can get from thyme

Thyme is full of phytonutrients (plant-sourced nutrients), minerals and vitamins including:

  • Vitamin A 
  • Vitamin C
  • B-complex vitamins (thyme has particularly high levels of B6) 
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin E
  • Folic acid
  • Potassium
  • Calcium 
  • Iron 
  • Manganese 
  • Magnesium 
  • Selenium

Ways to include thyme in our health


One way to get the benefits of thyme is by adding it to the diet as a flavouring. Thyme can be grown in the garden, so it can be used fresh. There are lots of different varieties of thyme available, some having different flavours, such as lemon for example.

Fresh thyme can also be bought in bunches from the supermarket or as part of a bouquet garni, and dried thyme can be found within the herbs and spices section of your supermarket. Thyme adds an aromatic and herby taste to any dish; some examples include: 

  • Stews
  • Soups
  • Risottos
  • Meats (e.g., chicken and lamb)
  • Italian and Mexican dishes  


Greece is well known for its production of thyme honey - wild thyme grows throughout Greece, and bees love to feed off the nectar and produce this highly aromatic honey, which is prized for its health benefits.

Herbal Tea 

Thyme can be made into herbal tea by boiling the kettle and pouring the water over a dried or fresh thyme; as the taste is quite strong, adding honey or sugar may make the drink more palatable. 

Cough Syrup 

As thyme (fresh or dried) is a natural cough remedy, it can be added to honey or infused in tea to help with treating the ailment.

Vinegar Gargle 

A vinegar infusion is a great way to treat sore throats - just infuse dried or fresh thyme in cider vinegar, strain it, and use it as a soothing gargle.

Oral Supplements 

Thyme can be taken as a tincture or in a capsule form, too. You should follow all instructions on the supplement container or consult a qualified herbalist when taking liquid or tablet forms. You should especially consult your doctor before adding any natural supplements to your diet if you are already taking other prescribed medications. 

External Use

External application of thyme may be useful for treating certain conditions, for example:

  • Dried thyme or an infusion of fresh or dried could be added to a bath (either on its own or by infusion, contained in a sock placed under a hot, running tap)
  • Thyme Essential oil is added to a bath, bowl of hot water or oil burner to steam and help clear the sinuses. 
  • Thyme essential oil is added to skin care preparations such as lotions, creams and oil (thyme is a great skin herb which has antimicrobial properties that can promote skin health and anti-ageing)

Adding thyme to food can also help to preserve it due to the antimicrobial activity of this herb.

How much is enough?

Thyme is generally a very safe and well-tolerated herb, as demonstrated by centuries of use. However, the essential oil should not be ingested or used on the skin in its undiluted form. 

Some people may also have an allergy to all Lamiaceae plants, including thyme, that could cause contact dermatitis if it comes into contact with skin and can also cause problems when ingested.

Large amounts of thyme in any form should also be avoided during pregnancy.

When adding thyme to any dish, how much you add is down to your personal taste preferences (except in pregnancy). Supplementation with liquid extract of thyme for medicinal use is advised at 2-6ml daily or 15-40ml weekly.4

Up to 4g of dried thyme (3 times daily or every 2 hours) can be used for herbal tea intended for medicinal use, for example, to help fight against acute infections.5

When adding essential oil of thyme to your bath or facial steam device, you should use a dose of 2-4 drops, and for use in a room diffuser, 3-5 drops is recommended. If you want to make your own skincare preparation, such as a cream, lotion or oil addition, it is recommended to use 2-4 drops of thyme essence. 

Powdered thyme can be found in capsules, and the dosage is two 250mg capsules taken up to three times daily.5


Thyme is a readily available medicinal plant that can be grown in your own garden or purchased from many suppliers, from supermarkets to online suppliers. All preparations of thyme, including the essential oil and powdered form, are easy to find either in health shops or online. The beauty of a herb like thyme is that it is very easy to gain the benefits, both medicinal and nutritional, by adding it to cooking or drinking it as an herbal tea. It is generally a very safe and well-tolerated herb when taken within the recommended dosage range, as discussed above.


  1. Hammoudi Halat, Dalal, et al. “A Focused Insight into Thyme: Biological, Chemical, and Therapeutic Properties of an Indigenous Mediterranean Herb.” Nutrients, vol. 14, no. 10, May 2022, p. 2104. (Crossref),
  2. Caverzan, Jeanifer, et al. “A New Phytocosmetic Preparation from Thymus Vulgaris Stimulates Adipogenesis and Controls Skin Aging Process: In Vitro Studies and Topical Effects in a Double‐blind Placebo‐controlled Clinical Trial.” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, vol. 20, no. 7, July 2021, pp. 2190–202. (Crossref),
  3. Khan, Ishfaq, and Azhar Khan. “MEDICINAL PLANTS AS ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS FOR ORAL HEALTH PROBLEMS.” Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research, vol. 11, no. 9, Sept. 2018, p. 58. (Crossref),
  4. Bone, Kerry. A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs: Herbal Formulations for the Individual Patient. Churchill Livingstone, 2003.
  5. Bartram, Thomas. Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Robinson, 1998.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Victoria Ward

BSc, Herbal Medicine,University of Lincoln

Experienced Medical Herbalist BSc (Hons) and former nurse, highly knowledgeable about healthcare and medicinal plants. I’m especially interested in skin care and gut health. Regular blogger for my own website and freelance article writer. I enjoy writing both creative, ghostwriting and medical writing. Passionate about country life, have two horses and a collie dog. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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