Dr. Margarita Gomez Escalada, a senior lecturer in Microbiology and Genetics at the university and student Kimberley Sanderson have together found thyme to be more effective in killing the acne bacterium, particularly in sensitive skin than traditional chemical-based creams as the herb is believed to be less irritating.
“All preparations of thyme tincture killed a number of bacteria, and were found to be most effective, even better than benzoyl peroxide,” says Dr. Escalada.
“We now need to carry out further tests in conditions that mimic the skin to confirm the effectiveness in practical use. If thyme tincture is proven to be effective for the treatment of acne, it will provide a natural alternative to current treatments,” she adds.
According to the researchers, marigold and myrrh tinctures were also tested alongside thyme on Propionibacterium acnes.
“While all three killed the bacterium after five minutes exposure, thyme was the most effective of the three.”
A solution, known as a tincture, can be made using plants and herbs, where the plant is steeped in alcohol for days or weeks. This extracts the different compounds from the plant.
To create the tinctures, the researchers steeped the plant materials in alcohol to draw out the active compounds. The effects of the tinctures were then measured against an alcohol control.
Finally, Escalada and Sanderson compared the activity of the tinctures to benzoyl peroxide used in acne creams.
A natural alternative treatment
Acne caused by a bacterium, propionibacterium is currently being treated with a topical cream or wash containing the chemical benzoyl peroxide or even antibiotics.
These treatments are often associated with side-effects, for example benzoyl peroxide often causes a burning sensation on the skin and irritation.
Thyme, marigold and myrrh tinctures are commonly used by herbalists as well as other alternative medicine practitioners to treat acne and other skin conditions.
The researchers plan to continue to research the use of tinctures to treat acne, and to conduct further tests in conditions that mimic the skin environment in addition to investigating how the tinctures work at the molecular level.