Thymus vulgaris

scientific name: 
Thymus vulgaris L.
Botanical family: 

Botanical description

Densely branching, aromatic, shrub, 20-30 cm high.  Leaves lanceolate, entire, 0.5-1 cm x 0.2-0.5 cm, grayish-green, aromatic with glandular-dotted; flowers born in rounded or ovoid cluster, corolla 2-lipped, lilac, pink or purple; fruits tiny producing 4 nutlets.



nervous breakdown:

leaf, infusion, orally1

Thymus vulgarisis widely used as a spice for human consumption.

For nervous breakdown (stroke):

Prepare an infusion adding 250 mL (1 cup) of boiling water to 1-2 grams of leaves.  Cover pot, leave to settle for 5-10 minutes and filter28.  Drink 1 cup 3 times a day.

Any medicinal preparation must be preserved cold and used within the 24 hours.

According to published and other information:

Use for nervous breakdown (stroke) is classified as REC, based on the significant traditional use documented in the TRAMIL surveys, toxicity studies and available published scientific information.

Should there be a notable worsening of the patient’s condition, or should symptoms persist for more than 7 days, seek medical attention.

Not for use during pregnancy, during lactation or in children under 12 years of age.

The aqueous extract from the aerial parts at a concentration of 100 mg/plate caused no mutagenic activity either on LLC-PK1 pig renal cell culture or on trophoblastic placenta cells30.  A similar extract at a concentration of 50 mg of dried plant caused no mutagenic effects on Salmonella typhimurium TA9831.

The leaf (2% and 10%) added to the feed of Wistar male rats for 6 weeks did not cause signs of toxicity32.

The hydroalcoholic extract (40%) of the dried aerial parts (1.6 mL/kg) administered orally to pregnant rabbits showed neither embryotoxic nor teratogenic effects on offspring; nor did it inhibit ovulation and fertilization on male and female rats.  After 13 weeks, no evidence of alterations in blood and urine tests, or histopathological alterations were found33.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified this plant as a spice within GRAS ("generaly regarded as safe") category since 197634.

The essential oil and thymol may cause drastic irritation of the digestive tract; they may lead to hepatotoxicity and metabolic disorders at high doses.  The ingestion of 6 mL of thymol has been reported as lethal to humans.  The use of the essential oil for long periods of time in preparations such as dental paste has been associated with the occurrence of thyrotoxicosis21.

Thymol internally administered may cause diarrhea, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscular weakness, depression of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and hypothermia35.  At high doses, it may cause hepatic toxicity, albuminuria and hematuria36.

There is no available information documenting the safety of medicinal use in children or in pregnant or lactating women.

The leaf contains: benzenoids: glycosides of the following acids: 4-hydroxybenzoic, syringic, protocatechuic, salicylic, syringic, vanillic2; phenylpropanoids: caffeic and ρ-coumaric acids3; monoterpenes: isopropyl-biphenyl derivatives4-5; flavonoids: cirsilineol, methoxy-cirsilineol, thymonin6, cirsimaritin, genkwanin, 4,5-dihydroxy-6,7,8-trimethoxyflavone, 5-hydroxy-4´,7-dimethoxyflavone7, luteolin8.

The entire plant contains flavonoids: thymonin, isothymonin, 8-demethyl-thymonin9, naringenin, eriodictyol10, luteolin-7-O-glucoside, cynaroside, cosmosiin11.  It also contains an extensively studied essential oil, whose main constituents are: thymol (25-60%), ρ-cymene (7-44%), carvacrol (8%), α-terpinene (1-5%), linalool (4%), 3-carene (3%), 1,8-cineole (3%)12-20.

The essential oil yield of the aerial parts is 1.2%21.

When used for pharmaceutical purposes, the dried whole leaves and flowers should have at least 12 mL/kg of essential oil and 0.5% of volatile phenols, stated in thymol22.

Proteic composition and proximate analysis of 100 g of aerial parts23: thiamine: 0.51 mg; riboflavin: 0.4 mg; niacin: 4.94 mg; total saturated fatty acids: 2.73 g; tryptophan: 186 mg; threonine: 252 mg; isoleucine: 468 mg; leucine: 430 mg; lysine: 207 mg; methionine/ cystine: 274 mg; phenylalanine/ tyrosine: 482 mg; valine: 502 mg.

The aqueous extract from the entire plant in vitro antagonized experimental acetic acid-induced spasm of the isolated ileum, and carbachol-induced spasm of the isolated trachea, both of guinea pigs24.

The hydroalcoholic extract (30%) from the leaf and flower in vitro antagonized carbachol-induced and histamine-induced contractions of isolated guinea pig ileum25.

The fluid extract from the dried aerial parts was active as a relaxant of the isolated tracheal and ileal smooth muscles of guinea pig26.

The leaf extract in ether (200 mg/kg) administered intraperitoneally to mice was ineffective in treating experimental strychnine-induced toxicity, but it maximized barbituric activity27.

The use of the leaf and flower, orally, is considered effective by the WHO with pre-clinical validation for dyspepsia and other gastro-intestinal disorders, and for catarrh-induced cough, bronchitis and pertussis28.  In gargles, it is recommended for laryngitis or amygdalitis28.

The essential oil was active as a depressant of the central nervous system in an experimental model with goldfish29.




1 CHARLES C, 1988 TRAMIL survey. Movement for Cultural Awareness MCA, Roseau, Dominica.

2 KLICK S, HERRMANN K, 1988 Glucosides and glucose esters of hydroxybenzoic acids in plants. Phytochemistry 27(7):2177-2180.

3 SCHULTZ J, HERRMANN K, 1980 Occurrence of hydroxybenzoic acids and hydroxycinnamic acid in spices. IV. Phenolics of spices. Z Lebensm-Unters Forsch 171:193-199.

4 MIURA K, INAGAKI T, NAKATANI N, 1989 Structure and activity of new deodorant biphenyl compounds from thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.). Chem Pharm Bull 37(7):1816-1819.

5 NAKATANI N, MIURA K, INAGAKI T, 1989 Structure of new deodorant biphenyl compounds from thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) and their activity against methyl mercaptan. Agr Biol Chem 53(5):1375-1381.

6 VAN DEN BROUCKE CO, DOMMISSE RA, ESMANS EL, LEMLI JA, 1982. Three methylated flavones from Thymus vulgaris. Phytochemistry 21:2581-2583.

7 MIURA K, NAKATANI N, 1989 Antioxidative activity of flavonoids from thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.). Agr Biol Chem53(11):3043-3045.

8 SAMEJIMA K, KANAZAWA K, ASHIDA H, DANNO GI, 1995 Luteolin: A strong antimutagen against dietary carcinogen, TRP-P-2, in peppermint, sage, and thyme. J Agric Food Chem 43(2):410-414.

9 BARBERAN FAT, FERRERES F, TOMAS F, GUIRADO A, 1986 Electron impact mass spectrometric differentiation of 5,6-dihydroxy-7,8-dimethoxy- and 5,8-dihydroxy-6,7-dimethoxyflavones. Phytochemistry 25(4):923-925.

10 KRAUSE M, GALENSA R, 1991 Analysis of enantiomeric flavanones in plant extracts by high performance liquid chromatography on a cellulose triacetate based chiral stationary phase. Chromatographia32(12):69-72.

11OLECHNOWICZ-STEPHEN W, LAMER-ZARAWSKA E, 1975 Investigation of flavonoid fraction of some crude drugs from the family Labiatae (Herba Serpylli, Herba Thymi, Majoranae, Herba Origani). Herba Pol21:347-356.

12 MOSSA JS, AL-YAHYA MA, HASSAN M, 1987 Physicochemical characteristics and spectroscopy of the volatile oil of Thymus vulgaris growing in Saudi Arabia. Int J Crude Drug Res25(1):26-34.

13 POPESCU H, 1975 Aetheroleum thymi produced in Romania. Pharmacia (Bucharest)23:153.

14 KARAWYA M, HIFNAWY M, 1974 Analytical study of the volatile oil of Thymus vulgaris L. growing in Egypt. J Assoc Offic Anal Chem57:997.

15 VAMPA G, ALBASINI A, PROVVISIONATO A, BIANCHI A, MELEGARI M, 1988 Chemical and microbiological studies on the essential oil of Thymus. Plant Med Phytother22(3):195-202.

16 POULOSE A, CROTEAU R, 1978 Biosynthesis of aromatic monoterpenes: conversion of gamma-terpinene to p-cymene and thymol in Thymus vulgaris. Arch Biochem Biophys 187(2):307-314.

17 HASSAN M, AL-YAHYA M, MOSSA J, 1985 PMR determination of the major constituents of the volatile oil ofThymus vulgaris growing in Saudi Arabia (conference). Chapel Hill, USA: Internat Res Cong Nat Prod, Coll Pharm Univ N Carolina, Abstr. nº145.

18 BLAQUE G, 1923 Thymol plants. Bull Sci Pharmacol 30:201-211.

19 ZANI F, MASSIMO G, BENVENUTI S, BIANCHI A, ALBASINI A, Melegari M, Vampa G, Bellotti A, Mazza P, 1991 Studies on the genotoxic properties of essential oils with Bacillus subtilis rec-assay and Salmonella/microsome reversion assay. Planta Med57(3):237-241.

20 OLSZOWSKA O, FURMANOWA M, 1987 Micropropagation of thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) from nodal segments. Herba Pol 33(2):137-144.

21 FARNLOF A, 1992 Natural drugs. Stockholm, Sweden: The Swedish Health Food Council.

22 ANON, 2002 Monografia Thymi herba 2002 Pharmacopee Européene, 4 ed. Strasbourg, France: Conseil de l'Europe.

23 DUKE JA, 1985 Handbook of medicinal herbs. Boca Raton, USA: CRC Press.

24 VAN DEN BROUCKE CO, LEMLI JA, 1981 Pharmacological and chemical investigation of thyme liquid extracts. Planta Med 41(2):129-135.

25 VAN DEN BROUCKE CO, LEMLI JA, 1983 Spasmolytic activity of the flavonoids from Thymus vulgaris. Pharm Weekbl (Sci Ed) 25(5):9-14.

26 VAN DEN BROUCKE CO, 1980 Chemical and pharmacological investigation on thymi herba and its liquid extracts. Planta Med 39:253-254.

27 HAN Y, SHIN K, WOO W, 1984 Effect of spices on hepatic microsomal enzyme function in mice. Arch Pharm South Korea Res7(1):53-56.

28 WHO, 1999 Herba Thymi. WHO monographs on selected medicinal plants. Volume 1. Feb. 28, 2003, URL:

29 WESLEY-HADZIJA B, BOHING P, 1956 Influence of some essential oils on the central nervous system of fish. Ann Pharm Fr 14:283.

30 ROCKWELL P, RAW J, 1979 A mutagenic screening of various herbs, spices, and food additives. Nutr Cancer 1:10-15.

31 YAMAMOTO H, MIZUTANI T, NOMURA H, 1982 Studies on the mutagenicity of crude drug extracts. I. Yakugaku Zasshi 102(6):596-601.

32 HAROUN EM, MAHMOUD OM, ADAM SE, 2002 Effect of feeding Cuminum cyminum fruits, Thymus vulgaris leaves or their

mixture to rats. Vet Hum Toxicol 44(2):67-69

33 LESLIE GB, SALMON G, 1979 Repeated dose toxicity studies and reproductive studies on nine bio-strath herbal remedies. Swiss Med1(1/2):1-3.

34 Code of Federal Regulations, 2002 Food and drugs. Chapter I - Food and drug administration, department of health and human services. Part 182 - Substances generally recognized as safe. Sec. 182.10. Spices and other natural seasonings and flavorings. U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access, USA. 21(3):451-452. Feb. 24, 2003, URL:

35 TYLER V, BRADY L, ROBBERS J, 1988 Pharmacognosy. Philadelphia, USA: Lea & Febiger, p127-128.

36 CANIGUERAL S, VILA R, RISCO E, PEREZ F, PORTILLO A, FREIXA B, MILO B, VANACLOCHA B, RIOS JL, MORALES MA, ALONSO JR, BACHILLER LI, PERIS JB, STUBING G, 2002 Thymus vulgaris Vademecum de Fitoterapia, Editorial Masson, Barcelona, España, Jul. 20, 2002. URL:


The information provided is for educational purposes only for the benefit of the general public and health professionals. It is not intended to take the place of either the written law or regulations. Since some parts of plants could be toxic, might induce side effects, or might have interactions with certain drugs, anyone intending to use them or their products must first consult with a physician or another qualified health care professional. TRAMIL has no responsibility whatsoever towards the user for any decision, action or omission made in relation to the information contained in this Pharmacopoeia.