Last Updated on July 17, 2021 by Dr. Sanusi Umar, MD
If you are a lover of Mediterranean cuisine, you are not a stranger to thyme. Thyme is a spice commonly used in many dishes to add a penetrating fragrance. It adds a unique flavor to the dish. It has been a superstar in the herb garden around the world. The herb is associated with bravery, strength, and courage in history. Thyme was a popular gift offered to soldiers going into battle. Roman soldiers exchanged sprigs of thyme as a sign of respect. Greeks and Romans burned bundles of thyme to purify their temples and homes and evoke a spirit of courage in those who inhaled it. However, thyme hair treatments have also been popular throughout the ages, which begs the question: can thyme oil help hair health?
Thyme oil is derived from a species of plant known as Thymus Vulgaris. The medicinal benefits have been known for thousands of years, particularly in Mediterranean countries. In modern times, however, thyme oil is now gaining the attention of research scientists for supporting healthier hair.
Other than being a common cooking spice and a treasured medical herb, thyme oil is used in diverse hair treatments that are now being observed in clinical studies.
Overview of Thyme Oil as a Stimulant For Hair Growth
Thyme is a well-known stimulant. In general, stimulants activate circulation and help increase blood flow to areas that need oxygenation. With healthy blood circulation, hair cells in hair follicles are better able to produce new hair. Bioflavonoid compounds are also crucial for constructing new hair strands. Thyme oil contains the following Bioflavonoid compounds (1 – 5):
Topical stimulants are often rubbed directly onto the scalp to stimulate blood flow. This is done to help deliver the nutrients to this area and to promote hair development.
Interest in Natural Remedy for Dandruff using Thyme Oil
There are numerous shampoos branded to treat dandruff. Beautiful models present them with voluminous, lustrous hair on TV and social media. However, the experience might not be as glamorous due to the harsh chemicals in the shampoo. So what is dandruff? How do you treat it? Dandruff is an overproduction of your skin that is caused by different factors like:
- Hair follicle inflammation
- Lack of vitamins for your hair
- Dry skin
- Harsh chemicals in shampoo
Dandruff is the last thing a person would want to worry about when going into a social situation, like a job interview or date, where your appearance is a crucial component. It isn’t charming and a challenge to your self-confidence. Customers are constantly searching for more natural dandruff solutions. So how is it that thyme oil can be considered an effective and more natural way to fight the condition?
Thyme oil contains Apigenin and apigenin-7-glucoside, which are anti-inflammatory (1-5). They ease the inflammation affecting your scalp and hair follicles to help improve dandruff symptoms. What’s more, these compounds nourish the hair follicles and combat drying issues at the same time. Thymol, an active ingredient in thyme oil, also helps to kill bacteria and germs that trigger inflammation (3). With a healthy growing environment, hair cells can become stronger and healthier.
Thyme Hair Treatments for Thinness
People of all ages from all over the world are experiencing the problem of hair thinning. However, this issue does not only affect men. According to a 2007 study, 1 in 3 women suffers from diminishing hair thickness (2). Such hair loss is quite embarrassing or uncomfortable for most people. It’s a cosmetic obstacle if you are trying to maintain a youthful look.
Hair thinning is believed to be caused by both internal and external reasons. Typically, these include:
- hair follicle inflammation
- bad diet
- chemicals in tap water (to wash hair)
- poor hygiene
- hormone unbalance
Studies on the Potential of Thymol for Thinning Hair
Studies have shown that thymol found in thyme has strong antiseptic properties with the ability to kill disease-causing bacteria, fungi, and other microbes (3). These microbes, if allowed to gather on the scalp, can negatively affect hair health. Thymol works by breaking down the cell walls of these microbial agents and destroying blocks that can clog the follicles. Clogged follicles can lead to scalp infections and hair shedding. Thus, an antimicrobial agent can help maintain hair density and avoid common causes of thinning.
Does Thyme Oil Benefits Hair?
Diverse studies are suggesting that there is a link between thyme oil and hair growth. Understanding how this relationship works helps to learn about the research, which sheds more light on this issue.
Use of Thyme Oil as Treatment for Alopecia Areata
One research study observed the results of using a topical herbal treatment for alopecia areata, a condition where the immune system attacks the hair follicles.
In Hay IC’s study using essential oil to help improve alopecia areata, the treatment used a mixture of 114 mg of rosemary, 88 mg of thyme, 108 mg of lavender, 94 mg of cedarwood, 3 mL jojoba oil, and 20 mL grapeseed oil (4).
86 patients diagnosed with alopecia areata participated in this study. They were randomly divided into 2 groups. One group massaged the treatment into their scalp daily, while the other group used only carrier oils topically daily.
After 7 months with a 3-7 month follow-up, the thyme hair growth results showed that the treatment of mixed herbal oil was significantly more effective than the other treatment (4). Specifically, 19 (44%) of 43 patients in the active group actually showed hair growth improvement compared with 6 (15%) of 41 patients in the second group. Because the treatment consists of multiple ingredients, the exact role and mechanism of thyme oil remain unclear in explaining how it contributed to the final results. Therefore, further studies are needed to closely examine the effects of thyme oil in treating alopecia areata. The study’s findings above provide a basis for the use of natural products as a safe treatment among the effects of other types of oils such as rosemary, thyme, lavender, cedarwood, grapeseed oil, and jojoba oil.
Thyme Hair Growth Promotion via Bioflavonoids
Researchers decided to look at the bioflavonoid compound, apigenin, and its potential effects on hair growth. Apigenin is a key compound in Thyme oil, according to several studies (1, 4, 5)
According to Boros B, thyme contains two variations of this component, apigenin and apigenin-7-glucoside. These bioflavonoids, as mentioned previously, play an important role in the construction of new strands of hair. In addition to this, apigenin also exerts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects (1). These properties help preserve the ability of the hair follicles to continue growing hair, as inflammatory reactions can damage hair shafts to the point of breakage, and oxidizing agents (like the ones antioxidants neutralize) can also damage the hair follicle structure.
Additionally, the bioflavonoid compound apigenin found in thyme exerts a promising gene regulatory effect that may aid in treating androgenic alopecia (5). According to researchers Huh S, Lee J, Jung E, et al., apigenin downregulates a gene that codes for a growth factor found in the dermal papilla cells at the base of the follicles, known as TGF-beta. This compound suppresses hair growth in androgenic alopecia (5). Downregulating this gene sequence causes a reduction in the TFG-beta being produced. Therefore, the researchers observed a proliferation of derma papilla cells and the multiplication of human epidermal keratinocytes, which both play important roles in developing new follicles.
Furthermore, this study observed that apigenin stimulated anagen “hair follicle elongation” (i.e., growth of hair) in a rat follicle culture, an additional mechanism that supports the construction of new hair.
Other Uses of Thyme
Along with hair benefits, some of the most common uses for thyme include natural reliefs for coughs. Several research shows that taking thyme reduces common cold symptoms, including coughing, for people with bronchitis and respiratory infections.
Researchers also suggest that thyme is associated with improving movement disorders in children. However, evidence supporting its effectiveness is limited.
Does Thyme Have Side Effects
Thyme is considered to be safe when consumed or applied in small amounts for medical or beauty-related purposes. However, consuming large amounts of this ingredient for a long period of time may upset the digestive system. For further questions on its use and dosage, it is recommended to consult with your doctor.
Although thyme extract does not negatively affect most people, some may experience irritation to the skin. It may also cause allergic reactions, especially for those allergic to oregano or other Lamiaceae species.
Additionally, it is known to be safe when used by children and pregnant women in normal doses.
The Environmental Working Group, which evaluates the risk of safety hazards in beauty and food ingredients, offered insights on thyme. The organization scored this ingredient a 1-2 (green), depending on the usage.
Though there are little to no risks of contributing to cancer or signs of developmental/ reproductive toxicity, there is evidence that thyme may raise allergic reactions to human immune and respiratory systems.
Summary of Thyme Hair Treatment Research
To sum up, thyme oil and its constituents have been studied observed for their potential in treating various issues related to hair health, such as dandruff, hair growth, and thinning hair. While these studies show promise, further research must clarify the role of thyme oil in these hair treatments.
Questions about natural products or their use in hair treatments? Contact us here.
Hair Products with Thyme
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Frequently Asked Questions About Thyme Hair Treatments
What are the general thyme oil benefits for hair?
Thymol is a strong antibacterial agent, antiseptic agent, an antioxidant found in thyme oil (3). Conditions such as dandruff, a type of folliculitis in which excess skin builds on the scalp, are associated with bacteria, which can produce an inflammatory response and result in hair loss. Antibacterial agents may prove useful in fighting the spread of bacteria in these instances.
How do you use thyme oil for hair massage?
Here is a receipt for preparing thyme oil massage at home:
- 2 tablespoons of almond oil
- 3 drops of rosemary essential oil
- 3 drops of thyme essential oil
- 1 drop of clove essential oil
Combine the ingredients into an oil blend and gently apply to your scalp and hair. Massage for 20 minutes and rinse with warm water. Try on your hand first in case of skin irritation.
Can I use white thyme oil for hair growth?
In general, yes. White thyme oil is simply a more distilled version of regular thyme oil. While its chemical composition can depend on the type of thyme it is derived from, it does have a similar composition to other variations of thyme essential oils.
References – Thyme Hair Treatments
- Boros B, Jakabová S, Dörnyei A, et al. Determination of polyphenolic compounds by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry in Thymusspecies. J Chromatogr 2010;1217(51):7972-80.
- Dinh, Quan Q., and Rodney Sinclair. “Female pattern hair loss: current treatment concepts.” Clinical interventions in aging 2.2 (2007): 189.
- Filoche, S. K., K. Soma, and C. H. Sissons. “Antimicrobial effects of essential oils in combination with chlorhexidine digluconate.” Molecular Oral Microbiology 20.4 (2005): 221-225.
- Hay IC, Jamieson M, Ormerod AD. Randomized trial of aromatherapy successful treatment for alopecia areata. Arch Dermatol 1998;134(11):1349-52.
- Huh S, Lee J, Jung E, et al. A cell-based system for screening hair growth-promoting agents. Arch Dermatol Res 2009;301(5):381-5