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Thyme Oil Helps Inflammatory Health

By Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS, January 29, 2010, abstracted from “Carvacrol, a component of thyme oil, activates PPAR-gamma and suppresses COX-2 expression” in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Lipid Research

Defined as “a crucial protective mechanism” that helps repair tissue and protect the body against infection, inflammation is a normal reaction by our immune system to help keep us healthy. But too much inflammation can have disastrous health consequences and lead to heart disease, dementia, arthritis, and type 2 diabetes (1, 2), which cost our healthcare system $448 billion (3), $156 billion (4), $128 billion (5), and $174 billion per year (6).

Now a new lab study (7) has found that thyme oil, thanks to an antioxidant it contains called carvacrol, is able to help maintain healthy inflammation levels.  It does this by decreasing pro-inflammatory protein activity and increasing anti-inflammatory protein activity.

In the study, researchers exposed two different types of cells (U937 (8) and BAEC (9) to thyme oil and found two different mechanisms by which thyme oil helps maintain healthy inflammation levels.  In the U937 cells, thyme decreased activity of an inflammatory protein called COX-2.  Specifically, carvacrol at two different doses (200 and 400 microMolar) decreased COX-2 activity by 40% and 60%, respectively, while a higher dose (1000 microMolar) decreased COX-2 activity in the BAEC Cells by 86%.

The second mechanism by which thyme oil helps maintain healthy inflammation levels is by increasing activity of a protein called PPAR, two different types of which are PPAR-alpha and PPAR-gamma.  In both cell lines, carvacrol at levels of 100, 200, and 400 microMolar increased PPAR-alpha levels by 95%, 220%, and 280%, respectively, while increasing PPAR-gamma levels by 45%, 125%, and 145%, respectively, both of which signify a decrease in inflammation (10).

For the researchers, “we identified carvacrol, a chemical component of thyme oil, as a suppressor of COX-2 and activator of PPAR [alpha] and [gamma]” and that “our results may be important in understanding the anti-inflammatory and anti-lifestyle-related disease properties of carvacrol,”

Greg Arnold is a Chiropractic Physician practicing in Danville, CA.  You can contact Dr. Arnold directly by emailing him at mailto:PitchingDoc@msn.com or visiting his web site at www.PitchingDoc.com


1. Gil, Polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory diseases, Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy 56 (2002) (8), pp. 388–396
2. I.A. Shiels, S.M. Taylor and D.P. Fairlie, Cell phenotype as a target of drug therapy in chronic inflammatory diseases, Medical Hypotheses 54 (2000) (2), pp. 193–197.
3. “Cardiovascular Disease at a Glance” posted on www.cdc.gov/NCCDPHP/publications/AAG/dhdsp.htm
4. “The Cost of Dementia: $156 billion and rising” posted on www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20050620/cost-of-dementia-156-billion-rising
5. Arthritis – Data and Statistics” posted on www.cdc.gov/arthritis/data_statistics/faqs/cost_analysis.htm
6. “Direct and Indirect Costs of Diabetes in the United States” posted on www.diabetes.org/diabetes-statistics/
7. Mariko Hotta, Rieko Nakata, Michiko Katsukawa, Kazuyuki Hori, Saori Takahashi, and Hiroyasu Inoue. Carvacrol, a component of thyme oil, activates PPAR-gamma and suppresses COX-2 expression. Journal of Lipid Research, January, 2010
8. Inoue HT.  The cyclic AMP response element plays an essential role in the expression of the human prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2 gene in differentiated U937 monocytic cells. FEBS Lett. 1994; 350: 51-54
9. Inoue HY.  . Transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulation of cyclooxygenase-2 expression by fluid shear stress in vascular endothelial cells. Arterioscler. Thromb. Vasc. Biol. 2002; 22: 1415–1420
10. Lee KS.  PPAR-gamma modulates allergi inflammation through up-regulation of PTEN.  FASEB J. 2005 Jun;19(8):1033-5. Epub 2005 Mar 23