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Scientific Name(s): Thymus vulgaris L.
Common Name(s): Common thyme, Garden thyme
Medically reviewed by Holevn.org. Last updated on Jul 8, 2019.
Thyme has primarily culinary uses. Thyme extracts and thymol have been used in cough mixtures and mouthwashes, as well as for skin conditions, especially fungal infections. Clinical trials are lacking to support these uses.
Studies are lacking to guide clinical dosages.
Information is lacking.
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.
None well documented.
Contact dermatitis and systemic allergy have been reported.
Information is lacking.
- Lamiaceae (Mint)
There are 6 recognized Thymus species, but many hybrids and varieties exist. T. vulgaris is a perennial plant native to some European and Asian countries. Thyme is a woody perennial (evergreen in mild winters) and is primarily grown as a herb. Numerous woody stems grow upward to form the 0.3 m height of the plant. The highly aromatic leaves are tiny, elliptical, and grey-green in color, and the margins roll under (revolute). Tiny tubular lilac flowers appear in late spring.PLANTS 2017, WHO 1999
Thyme was used as a symbol of elegance and grace in ancient Greece. Roman soldiers bathed in water infused with thyme for vigor, and Egyptians used thyme in the embalming process. Thyme sprigs were thought to be protective against plague, and thyme oil was used as an antiseptic during World War I. Teas made from thyme have been traditionally used for GI disorders and to treat intestinal parasites such as hookworm. Other traditional uses include treatment of bronchitis, as an agent in cough mixtures and mouthwashes, and as a topical application for acne and skin infections. Thyme has culinary applications and is commonly added to sausage meat and stuffing. It is used for its flavor in cosmetics and has been added to mouthwashes and toothpastes.Figueiredo 2008, Spiewak 2001
Although the essential oil of thyme has primarily been evaluated,Bozin 2006, Diaz-Maroto 2005, Kitajima 2004, Pina-Vaz 2004 some studies report on individual constituents isolated from the leaves and aerial plant parts.Chun 2001, Chun 2001, Dapkevicius 2002, Jukic 2007, Kitajima 2004, Takeuchi 2004 Composition varies with species, geographic distribution, and extraction methods.
Major chemical components include carvacrol and thymol, with cadalene, cineole, myrcene, terpinene, linalool, cymene, rosmarinic acid, and many other chemical constituents reported. Monoterpenoids, flavonoid glycosides, phenolic compounds, and polysaccharides have been identified by spectrophotometric analysis and thin-layer chromatography.Bozin 2006, Chun 2001, Chun 2001, Dapkevicius 2002, Diaz-Maroto 2005, Jukic 2007, Kitajima 2004, Kitajima 2004, Pina-Vaz 2004, Takeuchi 2004
Uses and Pharmacology
Carvacrol, thymol, linool, and thymol derivatives thymoquinone and thymohydroquinone inhibited acetylcholinesterase in laboratory experiments. Because of the decrease in hydrolysis of acetylcholine, a role in Alzheimer disease has been suggested; however, clinical trials are lacking to support this use.Figueiredo 2008, Jukic 2007
Extracts of thyme and its individual chemical constituents have shown activity against various human pathogenic bacteria and fungi in in vitro studies, and thymol is commonly used in mouthwash preparations with chlorhexidine. Gram-positive bacteria (including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella and Shigella species) appear more susceptible than gram-negative bacteria.Bozin 2006, Figueiredo 2008, WHO 1999
Fungicidal activity on Candida species, Aspergillus, and other fungi has been demonstrated by carvacrol, thymol, and p-cymene, as well as the essential oil of thyme.Figueiredo 2008, Giordani 2004, Pina-Vaz 2004 Potentiation of amphotericin B against Candida albicans was demonstrated in one in vitro experiment.Giordani 2004
Clinical trials with thyme or thyme extract alone are lacking, with studies largely based on chemical elucidation and analysis and laboratory experimentation.
Thyme as thyme honey has been evaluated for efficacy in rhinosinusitisHashemian 2015 and radiation-induced xerostomia,Charalambous 2017 with suggested benefit from the phenolic constituents of thyme extract in the honey.
Extracts of thyme and individual chemical constituents have been evaluated for their antioxidant potential. Phenolic constituents demonstrated nitric oxide scavenging potential in one experimentVigo 2004 with other tests showing effects on lipid peroxidation, free radical scavenging, hydrogen ion donation, and activity in oil stability index tests.Bozin 2006, Dapkevicius 2002, Figueiredo 2008, Miura 2002
Clinical trials are lacking, with studies largely based on chemical elucidation and analysis and laboratory experimentation.
Antiplatelet aggregating activity has been demonstrated in vitro by thymol and a biphenyl compound extracted from thyme.Okazaki 2002
A relaxant effect of thyme extract has been demonstrated on guinea pig tracheal chains. The bronchodilatory effect is suggested to be comparable with theophylline.Boskabady 2006
Increases in glutathione-S-transferase (GST) enzyme and liver mass were observed in mice fed thyme extracts (2%) daily for 7 days, leading the investigators to postulate a detoxifying role for thyme because the conjugation of glutathione to various toxins would be enhanced.Sasaki 2005
Studies are lacking to guide clinical applications. Tinctures and the essential oil are used topically for fungal infections. Thyme infusions have been used as a gargle at 5% concentrations.WHO 1999
The pharmacokinetics of thymol in healthy adults have been evaluated. No free thymol was found in the blood or urine, with sulfate and glucuronide metabolites identified in the urine. A mean terminal elimination half-life was estimated to be 10 hours.Kohlert 2002
Pregnancy / Lactation
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Thyme tea is reported to be used traditionally postpartum to induce uterine contractions and expulsion of the placenta; however, clinical or pharmacological data are lacking, and despite widespread use of thyme, safety problems have not been reported.WHO 1999
Information is lacking. Increases in GST levels were observed in experiments in mice.Sasaki 2005
Information is lacking. Contact dermatitis and systemic reactions to thyme have been reported. Cross-reactivity with rosemary is a common finding with skin patch testing.Armisén 2003, Martínez-González 2007, Spiewak 2001
Information is lacking. Murine macrophage cell viability was unaffected at low to intermediate concentrations (less than 50 mcg/mL) of thyme extract.Vigo 2004 Mutagenic activity has not been found in a limited number of tests.WHO 1999
Armisén M, Rodríguez V, Vidal C. Photoaggravated allergic contact dermatitis due to Rosmarinus officinalis cross-reactive with Thymus vulgaris. Contact Dermatitis. 2003;48(1):52-53.12641580Boskabady MH, Aslani MR, Kiani S. Relaxant effect of Thymus vulgaris on guinea-pig tracheal chains and its possible mechanism(s). Phytother Res. 2006;20(1):28-33.16397917Bozin B, Mimica-Dukic N, Simin N, Anackov G. Characterization of the volatile composition of essential oils of some lamiaceae spices and the antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of the entire oils. J Agric Food Chem. 2006;54(5):1822-1828.16506839Charalambous A, Lambrinou E, Katodritis N, et al. The effectiveness of thyme honey for the management of treatment-induced xerostomia in head and neck cancer patients: A feasibility randomized control trial. Eur J Oncol Nurs. 2017;27:1-8. PMID: 28279391.28279391Chun H, Shin DH, Hong BS, Cho HY, Yang HC. Purification and biological activity of acidic polysaccharide from leaves of Thymus vulgaris L. Biol Pharm Bull. 2001;24(8):941-946.11510490Chun H, Jun WJ, Shin DH, Hong BS, Cho HY, Yang HC. Purification and characterization of anti-complementary polysaccharide from leaves of Thymus vulgaris L. Chem Pharm Bull. 2001;49(6):762-764.11411533Dapkevicius A, van Beek TA, Lelyveld GP, et al. Isolation and structure elucidation of radical scavengers from Thymus vulgaris leaves. J Nat Prod. 2002;65(6):892-896.12088434Diaz-Maroto MC, Diaz-Maroto Hidalgo IJ, Sanchez-Palomo E, Perez-Coello MS. Volatile components and key odorants of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) oil extracts obtained by simultaneous distillation-extraction and supercritical fluid extraction. J Agric Food Chem. 2005;53(13):5385-5389.15969523Figueiredo AC, Barroso JG, Pedro LG, Salgueiro L, Miguel MG, Faleiro ML. Portuguese Thymbra and Thymus species volatiles: chemical composition and biological activities. Curr Pharm Des. 2008;14(29):3120-3140.19075695Giordani R, Regli P, Kaloustian J, Mikaïl C, Abou L, Portugal H. Antifungal effect of various essential oils against Candida albicans. Potentiation of antifungal action of amphotericin B by essential oil from Thymus vulgaris. Phytother Res. 2004;18(12):990-995.15742351Hashemian F, Baghbanian N, Majd Z, et al. The effect of thyme honey nasal spray on chronic rhinosinusitis: a double-blind randomized controlled clinical trial. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2015;272(6):1429-35. PMID: 25106547.25106547Herba Thymi. In: WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants. Vol 1. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 1999: 259-266.Jukic M, Politeo O, Maksimovic M, Milos M, Milos M. In vitro acetylcholinesterase inhibitory properties of thymol, carvacrol and their derivatives thymoquinone and thymohydroquinone. Phytother Res. 2007;21(3):259-261.17186491Kitajima J, Ishikawa T, Urabe A. A new hydroxyjasmone glucoside and its related compounds from the leaf of thyme. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2004;52(8):1013-1014.15305005Kitajima J, Ishikawa T, Urabe A, Satoh M. Monoterpenoids and their glycosides from the leaf of thyme. Phytochemistry. 2004;65(24):3279-3287.15561194Kohlert C, Schindler G, März RW, et al. Systemic availability and pharmacokinetics of thymol in humans. J Clin Pharmacol. 2002;42(7):731-737.12092740Martínez-González MC, Goday Buján JJ, Martínez Gómez W, Fonseca Capdevila E. Concomitant allergic contact dermatitis due to Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) and Thymus vulgaris (thyme). Contact Dermatitis. 2007;56(1):49-50.17177715Miura K, Kikuzaki H, Nakatani N. Antioxidant activity of chemical components from sage (Salvia officinalis L.) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) measured by the oil stability index method. J Agric Food Chem. 2002;50(7):1845-1851.11902922Okazaki K, Kawazoe K, Takaishi Y. Human platelet aggregation inhibitors from thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.). Phytother Res. 2002;16(4):398-399.12112303Pina-Vaz C, Gonçalves Rodrigues A, Pinto E, et al. Antifungal activity of Thymus oils and their major compounds. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2004;18(1):73-78.14678536Sasaki K, Wada K, Tanaka Y, Yoshimura T, Matuoka K, Anno T. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) leaves and its constituents increase the activities of xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes in mouse liver. J Med Food. 2005;8(2):184-189.16117610Spiewak R, Skorska C, Dutkiewicz J. Occupational airborne contact dermatitis caused by thyme dust. Contact Dermatitis. 2001;44(4):235-239.11260240Takeuchi H, Lu ZG, Fujita T. New monoterpene glucoside from the aerial parts of thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.). Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2004;68(5):1131-1134.15170120
Thymus vulgaris L. USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, July 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. Accessed July 2017.Vigo E, Cepeda A, Gualillo O, Perez-Fernandez R. In-vitro anti-inflammatory effect of Eucalyptus globulus and Thymus vulgaris: nitric oxide inhibition in J774A.1 murine macrophages. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2004;56(2):257-263.15006885
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