Taking Thyme to Get Clear Skin

An herbal remedy may be better than prescription acne creams

(RxWiki News) If you could have thyme in a bottle, you might have the perfect solution for wiping out pimples and blackheads.

Scientists found that an herb found in your kitchen could hold the solution to having healthier skin—and it may even beat prescription creams in terms of effectiveness. The preliminary findings of the unpublished study were presented at a recent conference.

"Talk to a dermatologist if you have persistent acne."

Margarita Gomez-Escalada, MD, a senior lecturer in microbiology and genetics at Leeds Metropolitan University in England, led research to test the effectiveness of thyme, marigold and myrrh tinctures on Propionibacterium acnes.

This bacterium primarily causes acne by infecting skin pores and forming spots, which vary from white heads to puss-filled cysts.

The group compared the antimicrobial effects of herbal solutions to the effectiveness of benzoyl peroxide, the active ingredient in most anti-acne creams or washes. They discovered that a thyme tincture was the most powerful.

“A lot of culinary herbs have excellent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, so it makes sense that thyme can be effective in this way, and it may be less harmful than some chemicals [such as benzoyl peroxide],” said Kathleen Pratt, ND, a naturopathic physician at Northwest Natural Health in Seattle, Wash.

For this study, scientists grew Propionibacterium acnes for four days in an anaerobic cabinet. Tinctures were created by steeping plant material in alcohol to draw out the active compounds.

The scientists then exposed the bacterium to the herbal tinctures (marigold, myrrh and thyme) and benzoyl peroxide for a period of five minutes.

They also measured results using only alcohol on the bacterium to prove that the antibacterial action was not simply due to the sterilizing effect of the alcohol in the tinctures.

The full details about the study’s methods and results are not available because the research has yet not been published.

However, the study demonstrated the therapeutic potential of thyme tinctures, and Dr. Gomez-Escalada suggested that future studies examine how these tinctures work at the molecular level and focus more closely on reactions to the skin.

The study was presented at the Society for General Microbiology conference in March 2012. No conflicts of interest were noted.

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Review Date: 
July 3, 2012