Antifungal activity of Thymus oils and their major compounds

Pina-Vaz C, Gonçalves Rodrigues A, Pinto E, Costa-de-Oliveira S, Tavares C, Salgueiro L, Cavaleiro C, Gonçalves MJ, Martinez-de-Oliveira J
Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2004


The increasing recognition and importance of fungal infections, the difficulties encountered in their treatment and the increase in resistance to antifungals have stimulated the search for therapeutic alternatives. Essential oils have been used empirically. The essential oils of Thymus (Thymus vulgaris, T. zygis subspecies zygis and T. mastichina subspecies mastichina) have often been used in folk medicine. The aim of the present study was to evaluate objectively the antifungal activity of Thymus oils according to classical bacteriological methodologies – determination of the minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) and the minimal lethal concentration (MLC) – as well as flow cytometric evaluation. The effect of essential oils upon germ tube formation, an important virulence factor, was also studied. The mechanism of action was studied by flow cytometry, after staining with propidium iodide. The chemical composition of the essential oils was investigated by gas chromatography (GC) and gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy (GC/MS). The antifungal activity of the major components (carvacrol, thymol, p-cymene and 1,8-cineole) and also possible interactions between them were also investigated. The essential oils of T. vulgaris and T. zygis showed similar antifungal activity, which was greater than T. mastichina. MIC and MLC values were similar for all the compounds tested. At MIC values of the essential oils, propidium iodide rapidly penetrated the majority of the yeast cells, indicating that the fungicidal effect resulted primarily from an extensive lesion of the cell membrane. Concentrations below the MIC values significantly inhibited germ tube formation. This study describes the potent antifungal activity of the essential oils of Thymus on Candida spp., warranting future therapeutical trials on mucocutaneous candidosis.


Pina-Vaz C, Gonçalves Rodrigues A, Pinto E, Et Al. Antifungal activity of Thymus oils and their major compounds. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2004 Jan;18(1):73-78.

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