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Central Otago Thyme making its mark as a natural respiratory antibiotic

Central Otago Thyme making its mark as a natural respiratory antibiotic

This article first appeared in April 2020 as a Media Release by Artemis, authored by Debbie Yardley:

Research project results show potential for wild New Zealand thyme to fight respiratory illnesses. 

Artemis, the leading New Zealand producer of traditional plant medicines, has released research suggesting that Central Otago thyme contains additional active compounds beyond the essential oil thymol that can fight bacteria associated with common respiratory infections.

“To date, the results from laboratory testing demonstrated that extracts of Central Otago Thyme are more efficient at fighting bacteria than would be expected from the concentration of thymol found in the extract. This suggests there are additional compounds in the extract that support an antibacterial function,” said Professor Nigel Perry, research team leader at Plant & Food Research, which is conducting the study at the University of Otago.

The research was commissioned to scientifically investigate the potential health benefits of wild-grown Central Otago Thyme and to validate Artemis’ proprietary harvest and extraction processes. This process has been refined over more than 20 years, and ensures that the highest levels of active ingredients are found in the products.

Researchers from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Otago, have demonstrated in the lab that the Central Otago Thyme tincture and essential oils have antibacterial activity against five key bacteria which can cause respiratory illnesses. Thymol is well known as the main antibacterial component, but the Central Otago Thyme extract has been shown to have a better ability to inhibit and kill bacteria than would be expected based on thymol concentration alone.

Artemis founder and expert medical herbalist, Dr Sandra Clair, has long believed that Central Otago Thyme is more powerful than the European variety, based on more than two decades of observations and experience with both plants.

“When I started working with Central Otago Thyme it was apparent that this is an extremely powerful plant, with real potential to fight bacterial and bacterial respiratory infections. It is wonderful to finally have scientific validation to support that knowledge,” she said.

The research project is continuing with further tests designed to measure effectiveness against antibiotic resistant bacteria such as MRSA, and against Heliocobacter pylori, a bacteria which can inhabit the gut and cause ulcers.  In some cases, infection of these ulcers can lead to stomach cancer. 

The Central Otago Thyme research has received R&D funding from Callaghan Innovation, New Zealand’s government innovation agency. It is two years into a three-year research programme. 

“It’s exciting to see research identifying high-value opportunities for natural products like Central Otago Thyme. Scientific validation and process optimisation will be critical as New Zealand elevates its natural health products on a global stage,”  said Katy Bluett, Callaghan Innovation’s Food and Beverage Group Manager.

“Manuka honey is already known around the world as a New Zealand health product, and our hope is that Artemis can support more natural products to achieve scientific validation so they too can be recognised on the global stage,” added Dr Clair.

In much of Europe and Canada, thyme is recognised and regulated as a plant medicine with strict quality standards (pharmacopoeia) in these countries providing guidance for the active ingredient levels and parts of the plant to be harvested and processed for maximum efficacy.

High in the key active compounds that support the body’s immune response, thyme is known for its microbiological effects and has traditionally been used as a treatment for a wide variety of common ailments from skin infections to oral health issues, but is most well-known for treating respiratory health conditions such as influenza, colds, sinusitis, bronchitis, tuberculosis, pertussis and asthmatic coughs. It has been documented in professional European medical texts for more than 2,500 years.

The key active volatiles in thyme have been extensively researched worldwide for their ability to interfere with the growth of a wide range of bacteria and other microbes, including drug-resistant strains.

Antibiotic resistance is recognised as one of the biggest threats to global health, with a growing number of infections, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis becoming harder to treat as antibiotics used to treat them become less effective. (


For more information, including requests for the Plant & Food Research Paper, please contact:
Debbie Yardley, Head of Marketing, Artemis +64 21 470 773 |

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