Thymus is a plant genus that contains around 350 species of perennial herbs known for their aromatic scent.
They are low herbaceous shrubs with small leaves and clusters of pink, violet, or white flowers.
They’re mostly native to the West Mediterranean region in Europe, but they can also be found in North Africa and Asia.
The most well-known thyme species is Thymus vulgaris, or common thyme, often used as a herb for making tea and in cooking, as well as an ornamental plant.
Plants belonging to the Thymus genus are known to have distinct medicinal properties, such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, and even hypoglycemic effects.
Much of these properties have been associated with thyme essential oil, but in recent years, Thymus extracts have been widely researched because of the bioactive compounds they contain.
The main goal is to find a way to make them applicable in different industrial fields, like food, cosmetics, and pharmaceutics.
A review recently published in the journal Antioxidants discusses the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of different species of thyme extracts.
There is a growing number of evidence that suggests that Thymus species are rich in phenolic compounds that give them their numerous health benefits.
Oxidative stress means that the balance between free radicals and the molecules that neutralize them is disrupted, resulting in cellular damage.
This cellular damage can lead to various conditions, ranging from premature aging to an increased risk of oxidative-related diseases.
To minimize the damage, antioxidant compounds are necessary.
Thymus species have been mainly examined via chemical methods, and with a few human trials, but with pretty consistent results.
Overall, the results suggest that some species have a strong free radical-scavenging activity.
For example, the species Thymus nummularius, Thymus capitatus, and Thymus mastichina have shown to have a high antioxidant potential.
Oxidative stress can also lead to chronic inflammation, which can in turn lead to chronic diseases.
The mechanism behind it is that the free radicals can generate pro-inflammatory agents in the body, resulting in increased levels of inflammation.
Some Thymus species seem to have the ability to inhibit pro-inflammatory agents and control the levels of free radicals.
In particular, Thymus camphoratus, Thymus carnosus, Thymus mastichina, Thymus algeriensis, and Thymus fontanesii have all shown to possess high anti-inflammatory properties.
Thyme is a well-known herb that has been used for centuries and this review brings forth the most anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of different thyme species.
However, until more human trials are done in order to prove these effects on human health, the practical use of Thymus extracts will be on pause.
Resource: Afonso, A.F.; Pereira, O.R.; Cardoso, S.M. Health-Promoting Effects of Thymus Phenolic-Rich Extracts: Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory and Antitumoral Properties. Antioxidants 2020, 9, 814. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox9090814