Beating acne may be a matter of thyme: Herbal cream 'more effective' than prescription gel
Thyme more effective than marigold, myrrh and acne chemical benzoyl peroxide
14:49 GMT, 27 March 2012
Beating acne may be simply a matter of thyme.
Research shows that the herb may be better at zapping spots than expensive creams, gels and lotions, including some are available on prescription.
It may also be kinder to the skin and, unlike these powerful peroxide-based treatments, it would not leave irritating bleach marks on pillow cases and clothes.
Thyme was the most effective of the trio, killing around 100,000 bacteria per ml – or half a million per teaspoonful
Acne affects most people at some point in their lives. It most often strikes girls between the ages of 14 and 17. Boys tend to be blighted slightly later, between the ages of 16 and 19.
It doesn’t always disappear on adulthood and around 5 per cent of women and 1 per cent of men have acne over the age of 25.
Thyme’s spot-busting potential is being studied by researchers from Leeds Metropolitan University.
They prepared tinctures of thyme by steeping the herb in alcohol for days or weeks, a process that draws out the active compounds from the plant.
They then added billions of the pimple -causing bacterium Propionibacterium acnes the tincture and gave it five minutes to take effect.
Tinctures of marigold and myrrh were also tested for antiseptic effects. All three plants are already sold as acne treatments by herbalists.
Thyme was the most effective of the trio, killing around 100,000 bacteria per ml – or half a million per teaspoonful.
It was also slightly more effective than benzoyl peroxide, the chemical in some treatments given on prescription, as well as in widely available preparations such as Clearasil and Oxy 5 and 10.
The Society for General Microbiology’s heard that tests also showed that thyme’s effects weren’t simply due to the alcohol in the tincture sterilising the skin.
Thyme: Not as irritating to the skin as chemicals
Researcher Dr Margarita Gomez-Escalada said: ‘We now need to carry out further tests in conditions that mimic more closely the skin and work out at the molecular level how these tinctures are working.
'If thyme tincture is proven to be as clinically effective as our findings suggest, it may be a natural alternative to current treatments.
'The problem with treatments containing benzoyl peroxide is the side-effects they are associated with.
'A burning sensation and skin irritation are not uncommon. My students talk about how horrible it is.
'Herbal preparations are less harsh on the skin due to their anti-inflammatory properties, while our results suggest they can be just as, if not more, effective than chemical treatments.
'I haven’t put the thyme tincture on my skin but it smells really nice. It smells of the forest.
'If it is proven for it to really work, it would be fantastic for it to become a mainstream treatment.'
Dr Shernaz Walton, a spokesman for the British Association of Dermatologists, said the concept sounds good for two reasons.
Firstly, the alcohol in the solution will help dry up greasy skin, making it easier for the acne-causing bugs to thrive.
And, while bacteria can learn to evade antibiotics, there would be 'no question' of them becoming resistant to thyme.
Dr Walton, a consultant dermatologist at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: 'There is always a need for better treatments for acne, particularly ones you can use without causing any side-effects.
'It might be good if there was something we could encourage young teenagers to use instead of the glossy moisturisers they see advertised in glossy magazines.'
Dr Walton, who is interested in the effect of diet on acne, advises those prone to spots to steer clear of moisturisers and wash their face with nothing more complex than soap and water.