Thyme is usually thought of as a culinary herb, paired often (as the Simon and Garfunkel song says) with parsley, sage, and rosemary. It’s actually in the mint family, and so anti-microbial that it was actually used historically to protect against food spoilage.
Thyme as a Disinfectant
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), thymol, an essential oil from thyme, can be used as a natural pesticide against various pests including rats and mice.
This study also shows that it is effective against mosquitoes—a much better choice than the synthetic neurotoxins of traditional mosquito repellants! (Make sure that if you use thyme essential oil for this purpose, you dilute it with a carrier oil, as you should never put an undiluted essential oil directly on your skin.
This study also shows that thyme essential oil can be used to combat mold spores.
This study also verifies thyme’s efficacy as a natural food preservative, and as protection against food-borne illness.
Thyme as an Antimicrobial
Given these effects, of course it makes sense that thyme is also a powerful antimicrobial. This study shows that mold is effective against the yeast candida albicans, even when resistant to fluconazole.
Thymol essential oil is also a common additive to mouthwash, toothpaste, and hand sanitizers, due to its antimicrobial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory effects. It has thus been historically used to help speed wound healing topically.
Thyme and Upper Respiratory Infection
Due to its antimicrobial effects, thyme has specifically been studied against infection.
This study shows that it is helpful for symptoms of acute bronchitis, while this study investigated its in vitro effects against 120 different strains of potentially infectious bacteria. It was shown to be very effective, even against strains resistant to antibiotics.
Anecdotally, for this reason, thyme is often considered as a tea for an acute sore throat.
Antioxidants and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Thyme
Certain medicinal properties tend to go together, such as antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant. Thyme also possesses this helpful trio of traits.
Several of the flavonoids of thyme are responsible for its antioxidant properties, including apigenin, naringenin, luteolin and thymonin.
Thyme has also been shown to decrease inflammatory cytokine production and modulate immune responses, as well.
Thyme and Metabolic Support
Thyme has also been shown to help support metabolic syndrome markers, perhaps secondary to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
This study shows that it is helpful in lowering triglyceride and LDL levels, while increasing HDL levels.
As with most medicinal herbs, effects will be less intense when used just as seasoning. Many of the studies on thyme as a disinfectant and antimicrobial have been performed on the super-concentrated essential oil, though a tea is also a convenient way to use thyme as a medicine.