Thyme studied as acne treatment
UK study shows thyme fights acne-causing bacteria, but dermatologists say much more research is needed
16th April 2012 - The next new acne treatment may be found in your garden or in the supermarket vegetable aisles.
The herb thyme could earn itself a place in the skin care section of your local pharmacy, largely due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
Researchers from Leeds Metropolitan University steeped thyme, marigold and myrrh in alcohol to make what's called a tincture, and then tested them on the bacteria that cause acne. They all had greater antibacterial effect after five minutes compared to lab specimens exposed to plain alcohol, but thyme was the most potent.
In fact, the thyme tincture was more powerful than standard concentrations of benzoyl peroxide, which is the active ingredient in many acne products. The new findings were presented at the Society for General Microbiology's Spring Conference in Dublin.
"If thyme tincture is proven to be as clinically effective as our findings suggest, it may be a natural alternative to current treatments," researcher Dr Margarita Gomez-Escalada says in a news release. "The problem with treatments containing benzoyl peroxide is the side effects they are associated with", namely a burning sensation and skin irritation.
"Herbal preparations are less harsh on the skin due to their anti-inflammatory properties, while our results suggest they can be just as, if not more, effective than chemical treatments," she says.
More research needed
Some UK dermatologists are quick to caution that, while interesting, this research is still preliminary and thyme-tinged acne treatments are not yet ready for general use.
"This research needs to be tested on patients comparing the effects of Thyme tincture vs Benzoyl peroxide in a randomised controlled double blind trial as findings in the laboratory do not take into account," Dr Shernaz Walton, consultant dermatologist, honorary clinical reader at Hull and spokesperson for the British Association of Dermatologists tells us by email. "Other factors playing a role in the causation of acne, such as increased sebum production and breakdown of free fatty acids in the skin by Propionibacterium acnes."
Dr Shernaz Walton says: "The findings, if proven in a clinical situation, are promising as there is no risk of bacterial resistance with Thyme compared with topical antibiotics which are ingredients of various creams.
"Also, the topical tincture preparation lacks greasiness which is an inherent problem in the causation and perpetuation of acne - a positive attribute.
"As regards tolerability, the thyme tincture may cause burning and irritation due to its alcoholic content on inflamed acne skin and so in this respect it may not be superior to benzoyl peroxide."