Thyme for Thyme

Posted by on Jul 24, 2012 in Aromatherapy Tips | Comments Off

Different geographical locations determine the chemical composition of certain types of plants, resulting in different chemotypes.  The timing of the harvest of a plant also has a direct influence on its chemical composition.  Not every plant can adapt to various growing areas, therefore do not produce chemotypes.  Some common plants that contain various chemotypes are members of the mint (Labiatae) family, rosemary, basil, tarragon, sage, melissa, valerian, and thyme.

Let’s talk about the broad range of chemotypes found in thyme (thymus vulgaris).  The term vulgaris means “common” and is used in naming many plants.  It is not uncommon that growers of thyme (and other oils, as well) would clone a particular plant that had a desirable composition, thereby producing an oil with a similar composition, again and again.  However, oils produced from thyme grown in the wild, (population thyme), will often vary dramatically from plant to plant.  They produce a higher amount of secondary metabolites, and are lighter and softer than oils produced from cloned plants.

Here are just some of the many examples of the various chemotypes of thyme, (CT stands for chemotype):
Thymus vulgaris CT thymol has a strong aroma, and can be quite irritating to the skin.  It is highly antiviral and antibacterial.  It is cultivated in valleys, during the fall, and usually contains around 60 – 70% thymol.  When this plant is harvested in the spring, it contains a different chemotype, CT paracymene, which is less of an irritant.  This type of thyme can be very effective for arthritis.

Thymus vulgaris CT thuyanol is a population oil found along the slopes of the Pyrenees and Nice.  It has the powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties of the more aggressive thyme oils, but is very gentle to the skin and mucus membranes.  It can be safely taken internally to prevent onset of infection.

Thymus vulgaris CT geraniol, and CT linalool are grown in high altitudes and are both gentle and aromatic.  Because of their mild and antiseptic qualities, they are commonly used for skincare.