Essential oils (EO) are volatile compounds produced by the secondary metabolism of aromatic plants. They are complex mixtures whose main components are synthesized by the mevalonic acid and the methyl erythritol phosphate pathways, which lead to the biosynthesis of terpenes, and the shikimic acid pathway, responsible for the biosynthesis of phenylpropanoid compounds. In nature, EOs are stored in the aerial parts of the plant, being of vital importance for their survival due to their antimicrobial properties. In addition, EOs provide protection against herbivores to the aromatic plants and allow them to repel or attract insects because of their strong fragrance, as well as compete with other plants of the same environment. Humans have exploited the properties of their EOs since ancient times, being used as medicinal remedies, among other uses. Currently, aromatic plants are used in pharmaceutical and food industries. One of the most commonly used aromatic plants is thyme. Thyme is a perennial aromatic plant, taxonomically belonging to the genera Thymus and Thymbra, belonging to the family Lamiaceae. These plants are very abundant in the Mediterranean Region. In this review, we focus on the study of the properties and use of EOs of Thymbra capitata (L) Cav. and Thymus hyemalis Lange., whose EOs are rich in phenolic monoterpenes. These compounds are responsible for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic properties.
Part of the book: Thymus