Photo: © P. Schönfelder

Botanical name

Thyme - Thymus vulgaris L.


Labiatae (Lamiaceae)

Useful information about the plant

Thyme is mainly distributed in the Mediterranean from Spain to Italy, then it arrived in Central Europe in the early Middle Ages through the Alps. Today it is farmed in many parts of Europe. There is no consensus on the origin of the genus name Thymus. It comes from the Greek word 'thumos' (= courage, strength) or it can be attributed to the Greek word word 'thymiama' (= incense) because the plant used for its aromatic scent for fire victims. The English name of Thyme is a modification of the scientific genus name. Thyme is an aromatic dwarf shrub with small, hairy leaves on the underside and with a downward rolled edge of the leaf, giving the leaves a needle-like appearance. The pink-violet flowers are arranged in whorls in a spike or head shape. Flowering time varies according to region from June to September. The characteristic spicy smell of thyme in the herb is in the essential oil, thyme oil. It is in glandular scales on the leaf surface and it is freed these glands are broken by rubbing them.

Medicinally used plant parts (drug)

The herb is used with its spicy smell, which is clearly perceived when rubbed caused by the essential oil contained therein. The drug comes mainly from Germany, and smaller amounts come from Spain and Morocco.

Ingredients of the drug

The Thyme herb contains a volatile oil ("thyme oil"). There is 30 to 50% thymol, 10 to 20% p-cymene, y-terpinene 50-10%, and other monoterpenes. In addition, it contains Lamiaceen tannins (main representatives: rosmarinic acid) and flavonoids.

Descriptions of the quality

The quality of the following drugs or drug preparations is specified in the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur):

  • Thyme (Thymi herba)
  • Thyme oil (Thymoltyp)
The quality of thyme fluid extract (thymi extractum fluidum) is specified in the German Pharmacopoeia (DAB) set.

Medical Application

Recognised medical use

Thyme herb
Internally for symptoms of bronchitis and whooping cough and catarrh of the upper respiratory tracts (Commission E, ESCOP); externally for inflammation of the mouth and halitosis (ESCOP). The HMPC has classified the thyme herb as a traditional herbal medicinal product (see "traditional use").

Thyme oil
The HMPC has classified thyme oil as a traditional herbal medicinal product (see "traditional use").

Traditional use

The HMPC has categorised the thyme herb as a traditional herbal medicinal product (§ 39a AMG). Due to many years of experience, thyme herb and thyme oil can be used internally as a decongestant (expectorant) for cold-related coughs. The external application of thyme oil (liniments, baths) for the relief of cold symptoms. Thyme in combination with other drugs is used to improve colds or as a decongestant in the respiratory tract (traditional use in accordance with § 109a).

Medicinal herbal preparations in finished drug products

  • Thyme herb as a tea, in tea bags, in mixtures with other drugs
  • Thyme fluid extract juices (cough syrup), pear (cough drops) and other liquids
  • Thick extract in juice (cough syrup)
  • Alcoholic and aqueous extracts in drops
  • Dried extract in capsules
  • Thyme oil in baths (colds), ointments (cold creams) and soluble instant teas


Prepared drugs: see package insert;
Tea infusion: drink 1 cup freshly prepared hot thyme tea several times a day. Thyme fluid extract: 1 to 3 times daily 1 to 2 grams of fluid extract.

Preparation of a tea infusion

Pour 150ml of hot water over 1.5 to 2 grams of thyme (do not boil!). Let it stand for 10 minutes and strain.


There are no studies on the safety of thyme during pregnancy or breast-feeding. Thyme herb, thyme oil and other thyme preparations are not used with infants and children under 12 years old. Thyme oil is not directly applied to mucous membranes or broken skin, and never around the eyes. Full baths with thyme leaves or thyme oil should be avoided if you have large open wounds and skin lesions, fever, severe infections, severe vascular disease and heart failure.

Side effects

Very rarely: hypersensitivity reactions, such as shortness of breath, skin reactions and swelling.


None known


Drug monographs

HMPC, Commission E, ESCOP, WHO Vol. 1

Further reading

Wichtl: Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka, pg. 664
Schilcher: Leitfaden Phytotherapie, pg. 264
Van Wyk: Handbuch der Arzneipflanzen, pg. 323
Kommentar zum Europäischen Arzneibuch (Thyme, no. 0685; Thyme oil, no. 1374) Kommentar zum Deutschen Arzneibuch (Thyme fluid extract.)

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