Essential oils derived from the common herb, known as thyme, could help suppress inflammation, shows a new study.
Essential oils from plants have long been a component of home remedies, and even today are used for their aromatherapy, analgesic (e.g. cough drops), or antibacterial properties.
Japanese researchers have found that six essential oils -from thyme, clove, rose, eucalyptus, fennel and bergamot-can suppress the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme, in a manner similar to resveratrol, the chemical linked with the health benefits of red wine.
Lead researcher Hiroyasu Inoue believed that many essential oils might target COX-2 much like compounds in wine and tea.
During the study, the research team screened a wide range of commercially available oils and identified six (thyme, clove, rose, eucalyptus, fennel and bergamot) that reduced COX-2 expression in cells by at least 25pct.
However, thyme oil proved the most active as it reduced COX-2 levels by almost 75pct.
When researchers analyzed thyme oil, they found that the major component -carvacrol- was the primary active agent.
In fact when they use pure carvacrol extracts in their tests COX-2 levels decreased by over 80pct.
The study appears in Journal of Lipid Research.