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How to Use Thyme Oil

By Karen S. Garvin

Thyme is commonly grown for use in cooking, especially in Mediterranean cuisine. It is a hardy, attractive ground cover and attracts bees. The essential oil has been used medicinally for a variety of purposes, including acne treatment, bronchitis and coughs, and sore throats. Its scent is supposed to help relieve headaches. The oil contains a strong phenol called thymol, which is a potent bactericide. Both the plant and the essential oil are generally recognized as safe for human consumption, but the oil can be extremely potent and should not be taken internally. Thyme oil is a wonderful addition to many aromatherapy products and homemade cosmetics.

Purchase your thyme oil from a reputable source so you know what you're buying. Thyme oil is most often found as either red thyme oil or white thyme oil. Red thyme oil is the strongest; it is produced after one distillation from the raw plant material. White thyme oil is produced from distilling the red thyme oil even further. There are many varieties of thyme, and some are less toxic than others. Lemon thyme and those called linalol are generally non-irritating and can be used directly on the skin in small amounts.

Your oil most likely will be packaged in a brown or blue apothecary-style bottle. Essential oils should be kept sealed in their original containers and kept away from direct sunlight and other sources of heat. Make sure children and pets cannot get to them. A bedroom closet shelf or pantry shelf makes a good storage area; you also can keep the bottles in your sock drawer as long as they won't get knocked around.

You can use thyme oil in a bath. A few drops of the essential oil added to the bath will help with skin irritations and athlete's foot fungus. The aroma supposedly helps calm headaches and reduces stress. Alternatively, you can add a drop or two to a bowl of hot water and carefully inhale the steam to help clear your lungs.

It's easy to make your own air spray. Get a clean spray bottle. Use a pure-grain alcohol (one that doesn't have flavoring or coloring) as a base, and add several drops of thyme oil. Shake thoroughly to mix the oil, and spritz into the air. Start with small amounts of oil and add more as wanted. Do not use water as a base, because oil and water won't mix.

One of the safest and easiest ways to enjoy thyme oil is to use it with an aromatherapy diffuser. These take several forms, ranging from inexpensive strips of card that can be used with a plug-in diffuser to machines that vaporize the oil into the air. You also can place a few drops of oil into a bowl of potpourri and just let the oil evaporate into the air. You will need to refresh the potpourri occasionally.


Things You Will Need

  • Thyme oil
  • Pure-grain alcohol
  • Spray bottle


  • Use small amounts to test for allergies (one to two drops).


  • Do not ingest the essential oil.
  • Avoid thyme oil when pregnant.
  • Keep thyme oil away from children and pets.

About the Author


Karen S. Garvin has been a professional writer since 1988, when "Dragon" magazine published her first article. Her recent work includes encyclopedia entries on historical subjects. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and is pursuing a master's degree in European history. Her interests include photography, science, history and Steampunk.