What Is Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme)?

Common Garden Herb With Potent Antimicrobial Properties

Thyme capsules and essential oil

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Thymus vulgaris an herb in the Lamiaceae (mint) family. It is a short, bushy plant that is found all over the world, although it is native to southern Europe. Thymus vulgaris is commonly known as thyme.

Thyme is often used as a spice to add flavor to food. It is also sometimes used as a dietary supplement in capsule form or as an essential oil.

Aside from flavoring food, thyme is also believed to have medicinal properties. Research shows that it may have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and other effects that may be useful in treating various conditions.

This article will cover the potential uses of thyme, including the scientific evidence surrounding the health claims of the herb. It will also go into side effects, dosage, precautions, interactions, and storage information for thyme.

Unlike drugs, dietary supplements are not regulated in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLab, or NSF. 

However, even if supplements are third-party tested, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and check in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredient(s): Phenolic compounds, terpenoids, flavonoids, steroids, alkaloids, tannins, saponins
  • Alternate name(s): Common thyme, garden thyme, wild thyme
  • Legal status: Legal and available over the counter in the United States
  • Suggested dose: No universal guidelines or recommendations for thyme dosage
  • Safety considerations: Considered generally safe but may cause side effects and certain people should take precautions

Uses of Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris)

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease. 

Used in traditional medicine, thyme is used for a wide range of health conditions. The plant contains many active compounds, one of which is thymol. Thymol is a phytonutrient (a natural chemical found in plants) thought to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, antimicrobial, and antitumor properties.

Because of its active components, thyme is believed by proponents to be a natural treatment for a long list of diseases, ailments, and health issues.

As with many herbal remedies, the evidence supporting thyme's medicinal effects is limited. However, some health claims surrounding thyme are better supported by research than others.


Some researchers believe that thyme may be a safe alternative to antibiotics and other medications used to treat acne. However, this claim is only supported by anecdotal evidence and lab studies.

In one lab study, researchers looked at multiple essential oils to see which may relieve certain types of acne. Thyme essential oil was found to be the most potent against acne-causing bacteria. Researchers also noted that thyme provided anti-inflammatory effects that could be useful when treating acne.

Despite these promising results, this study was performed in a lab rather than on humans. More human research is needed to confirm these findings.

Moreover, there are many evidence-based acne treatment options to choose from, including over-the-counter (OTC) therapies, prescriptions, and more. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for more information


Thyme has long been used as a home remedy for cough and other respiratory conditions.

One study used 18 healthy participants to test the effects of thymol (a prominent active ingredient in thyme) on coughing. After using a thymol nasal spray, the study participants underwent several tests to evaluate their urge to cough, the number of coughs experienced, and the threshold by which coughs occurred.

While the thymol spray was found to have no effect on the cough threshold (the point at which coughs occur in response to stimuli), it significantly reduced the number and severity of coughs as well as the overall urge to cough. Some participants also reported that the spray had a pleasant cooling effect.

At this time, larger-scale human trials have not yet examined the effects of thyme and thymol on coughing. And although thyme continues to be touted as a natural remedy for cough, more vigorous research is needed in this area.

Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist about other methods for relieving cough, including different home remedies, over-the-counter products, and prescription options if necessary.

Antimicrobial Activity

Thyme has shown antimicrobial activity against various strains of bacteria and fungi in test tube studies.

In one such study, thyme essential oil was found to inhibit the growth of two foodborne pathogens (germs), Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Staphylococcus aureus. Researchers concluded that thyme essential oil may be an option for preventing bacteria growth in the food industry.

In another study, thyme essential oil was investigated as a potential treatment for fungal infections. The study results showed that thyme essential oil helped to control the growth of two types of fungi, Candida albicans and Candida parapsilosis.

Although other studies have shown similar results regarding thyme's antibacterial and antifungal properties, more research is needed. Human trials would especially be beneficial.

Pain & Inflammation

In traditional medicine, thyme is believed to have both analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory effects. However, research to support these claims is limited.

Sometimes, inflammation may cause pain. Some research has shown that thymol, an active ingredient in thyme, may help reduce inflammation.

A small study performed on young women with dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) compared the potential pain-lowering effects of thyme to ibuprofen (brands include Advil and Motrin) and a placebo (a substance with no therapeutic value). In the study, participants were randomized to receive one of the three treatments for two consecutive menstrual cycles. Thyme was found to reduce the severity of menstrual cramp pain effectively, although it did not appear to be any more effective than ibuprofen.

Other lab and animal research has found that thyme may scavenge inflammatory free radicals. However, human trials on thyme and inflammation have not yet been performed and are needed to support this claim better.

Antioxidant Properties

Multiple test tube studies have found thyme to have strong antioxidant activity. These effects may be due to components of thyme like thymol, terpinenes, and carvacrol.

Because of its potential antioxidant properties, thyme may be beneficial to the food industry as a way to help improve the quality and safety of food. According to one review, though, using thyme as a spice may not provide enough antioxidant activity to be beneficial. Instead, it may be necessary to distill thyme into various foods or use thyme extracts as a way to consume more antioxidants.

Other Uses

Thyme is often used for additional health conditions in traditional medicine. These may include:

Despite its use in traditional medicine and other healthcare practices, these uses of thyme are not well-supported by scientific evidence. Well-designed human trials are needed to prove these and other health claims of thyme.

Did You Know?

Thymol (derived from thyme via alcohol extraction) is widely used as an active ingredient in many commercial brands of mouthwash, including Listerine.

What Are the Side Effects of Thyme?

Generally, thyme is considered safe when used in normal amounts for cooking. It also appears to be well-tolerated in dietary supplement form. However, side effects are possible when using thyme supplements.

Common Side Effects

Very few side effects have been reported for thyme. Thymol, an active ingredient in thyme, has also been recognized by the FDA as generally safe.

However, high doses of thyme (over 10 grams) may be more likely to cause side effects due to thymol.

Still, it is difficult to find any documentation of side effects related to thyme use. Regardless, it's important to use thyme only as directed, as misuse may increase the chance of side effects.

Severe Side Effects

Although uncommon, it is possible to be allergic to thyme.

Some people may be sensitive or allergic to plants in the mint (Lamiaceae) family, which includes thyme. An allergic reaction may cause hives, rash, watery eyes, diarrhea, nausea, or abdominal pain, among other symptoms.

It's important to note that a thyme allergy is extremely rare, with very few cases being documented.

If you experience any side effects when taking thyme, stop use it immediately and talk with a healthcare provider.


Using thyme as a food spice or ingredient is generally considered safe. However, some people may need to take extra precautions or avoid using thyme supplements.

It is unknown if thyme supplements are safe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding. For this reason, it's typically best to avoid using the herb if you are expecting a baby or breastfeeding a baby.

The safety of thyme supplements has also not been established in children.

People with medical conditions or who are taking medications should seek advice from a healthcare provider before using thyme supplements.

Dosage: How Much Thyme Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs. 

Due to a general lack of scientific evidence in humans, there are no dosage guidelines for thyme supplements.

Animal and lab studies have found success using thyme at various doses, but these have yet to be studied in humans.

When taking thyme supplements, follow dosing directions as listed on the nutrition label or as recommended by a healthcare provider.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Thyme?

Thyme may become toxic if you take too much.

A study performed on rats found that very high doses of thyme essential oil caused toxicity. In the 28-day study, toxicity was observed in thyme doses of 500 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of body weight per day. Toxic effects were mostly respiratory (related to breathing), although liver inflammation was also observed.

These results have yet to be repeated in humans.

You may also be more likely to experience side effects if you take too much thyme. To prevent any adverse events, only take thyme supplements as directed.


Certain medications, supplements, herbs, and foods may interact with thyme.

There is some evidence that thyme may interact with Jantoven (warfarin) and other blood-thinning medications. Thyme is thought to disrupt the synthesis of vitamin K, which is needed for normal blood clotting.

Other interactions may exist, but these are not well-documented or researched. If you're taking any medications, it's important that you talk with a healthcare provider before using thyme supplements.

It's important to carefully read the ingredients list and nutrition facts panel on a new supplement label to learn which ingredients are in the product and how much of each ingredient is included. To ensure safety, please review this supplement label with a healthcare provider to discuss any potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications. 

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

How to Store Thyme

Store thyme supplements and herbs in a cool, dry place. Keep them out of direct sunlight.

While fresh thyme requires refrigeration, dried thyme leaves or other supplemental forms typically do not. Follow storage directions as listed on the product label and discard thyme once it reaches its expiration date.

Similar Supplements

Thyme supplements may work similarly to other herbs and supplements. Supplements that are researched for similar uses to thyme include:

  • Zinc: Zinc is a mineral that is essential to many aspects of health, including acne. A review of zinc's dermatological uses revealed that both oral and topical forms of the mineral may be effective in treating mild to severe acne.
  • Marshmallow root: Marshmallow root is an herb that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine. One study compared marshmallow root syrup to lozenges for the treatment of dry cough in over 800 participants. The results showed that, like lozenges, marshmallow root syrup helped soothe throat irritation and improved dry cough symptoms.
  • Garlic: A common recipe ingredient, garlic may do more than just flavor food. Garlic is thought to have many possible health benefits, including antibacterial properties. Compounds in garlic have been found to have strong antibacterial activity against a variety of bacteria.
  • Ginger: Ginger is a popular spice commonly used in alternative medicine. According to a 2022 review, active ingredients in ginger have been shown to reduce inflammation in both human and animal studies. Researchers suggested that ginger has the potential to be an effective complementary treatment option for such diseases as arthritis, lupus (autoimmune disease), and psoriasis, among others.
  • Oregano: Another common spice, oregano comes from a perennial plant. Various studies have found that oregano extract contains antioxidant properties. Like thyme, oregano contains thymol, one of the components of both herbs thought to act as an antioxidant.

Talk with a healthcare provider about which herb or supplement may be best for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does thyme go bad?

    Herbs, spices, and oils do eventually expire, and this includes thyme. Thyme supplements expire at a certain point too.

    Expiration dates should be listed on the product packaging or label. For best quality, be sure only to use thyme before it has expired.

  • Is thyme good for you?

    Thyme is thought to have multiple health benefits. Research shows that thyme may possess antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties that are good for health.

    However, human trials on the benefits of thyme are severely lacking. More research is needed to prove thyme's efficacy and benefits.

  • How does thyme help a cough?

    According to some research, thyme has a pleasant smell as well as a cooling sensation that may improve the symptoms of a cough. This research was performed using a nasal thymol spray.

    Thymol is one of the main components of thyme. More research is needed on the potential benefits of thyme for a cough.

Sources of Thyme & What to Look For

Thyme can be used as a food spice or flavoring or as a dietary supplement.

Note that there are no guidelines for the appropriate use of thyme for medical purposes. You can obtain all of the nutrients you need from a well-balanced diet, which means supplements may often be unnecessary.

Talk with a healthcare provider to determine if thyme supplements are necessary for you.

Food Sources of Thyme

You can use fresh thyme or dried thyme leaves when cooking. It's described as having an earthy flavor that may be strong to some people.

People use thyme when cooking various dishes, including soups, salads, and stews. Thyme may also be used when cooking different types of meat or even added to certain beverages.

Typically, only small amounts of thyme are used in cooking. Research on thyme has mostly used thyme oils and other forms in much higher amounts.

Thyme Supplements

Thyme is sold as a dietary supplement in liquid extract or capsule forms. Some supplements contain just thyme, while others contain thyme plus other vitamins, minerals, or nutrients.

You may also find thyme in various teas, mouthwashes, face masks, and nasal sprays. Some people also use thyme essential oil for aromatherapy. Thyme oils and liquids should not be ingested.

Thyme is naturally vegan and gluten-free, which means most supplements are too. Organic thyme is also available. Check the label to make sure a supplement fits your dietary preferences and does not contain allergens.

For best quality, look for supplements reviewed and approved by a third-party agency such as NSF International, USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia), or ConsumerLab. Approval from one of these or other agencies means that the supplement actually contains what it says it does. Remember that supplements are mostly unregulated in the United States.


Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is an herb that may provide a long list of health benefits. However, very few of these benefits are well-supported by scientific evidence.

Thyme has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and is generally considered safe. Although often used as a spice to add flavor to food, it is also available as a dietary supplement in capsule form or as an essential oil.

Still, if you're interested in using thyme supplements, talk with a healthcare provider before trying it.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Brittany Lubeck, RD
Brittany Lubeck, RD, is a nutrition writer and registered dietitian with a master's degree in clinical nutrition. 

Originally written by Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.

Learn about our editorial process