60-Second Science

Thyme Kills Acne Bacteria

Natural compounds in the herb thyme were more effective against acne-causing bacteria in cultures than were conventional treatments. Cynthia Graber reports

Compounds found in the herb thyme have antibiotic properties. Now scientists have demonstrated that thyme might have a future role in fighting acne.

A number of factors cause acne, but the primary agents are bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes, or PA. Topical treatments containing benzoyl peroxide are commonly used to kill the bacteria. But they can irritate the skin.

To test other options, researchers steeped thyme, marigold and myrrh in alcohol to extract the plants active compounds. They tested the resulting tinctures on the PA bacteria. All three herbs killed more of the bacteria than an alcohol control. Thyme was the most effective of all. And thyme was also significantly more effective than the highest prescribed concentration of benzoyl peroxide. The research was presented at a conference of the Society for General Microbiology in Dublin.

The scientists say more research should be done to understand how the tinctures work on the molecular level, and to test them on actual skin environments.

Cooks already pass the thyme to add flavor to food. But acne sufferers could someday see thyme fly—into their medicine cabinets.

—Cynthia Graber

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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