Effects of thyme as a feed additive in broiler chickens on thymol in gut contents, blood plasma, liver and muscle

J Sci Food Agric. 2015 Feb;95(3):504-8. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.6758. Epub 2014 Jun 26.


Background: Aromatic herbs as feed additives in animal production are encountering growing interest, but data on the fate of the aromatic compounds from the plant in the animal body are very scarce. In the present study, thyme (Thymus vulgaris) herb consisting of leaves and flowers without stems was used as an ingredient in the diet for broilers. The herb was fed for 35 days to five groups of broilers (0, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, and 1% w/w in the diet). Animal performance and the concentrations of the main essential oil component from thyme, thymol, were measured in gut contents, plasma and liver and muscle tissues using solid phase microextraction and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry.

Results: There were no differences between the groups in feed intake, daily weight gain, feed conversion and slaughter weight. Thymol was detected in gut contents, plasma and liver and muscle tissues. Increased intestinal thymol concentrations were found in the group with 1% thyme compared with the other groups (P < 0.05). In liver and muscle tissues the thymol levels were close to the limit of quantification.

Conclusion: The data do not indicate a positive effect of thyme on animal performance. With high dietary levels of thyme herb, thymol concentrations increased in gut contents and plasma but were very low in edible tissues such as liver and flesh. © 2014 Society of Chemical Industry.

Keywords: Thymus vulgaris; broiler chicken; feed additive; thyme; thymol.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed*
  • Animals
  • Chickens / metabolism
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Flowers
  • Gastrointestinal Contents
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Meat
  • Muscles / metabolism*
  • Oils, Volatile / metabolism*
  • Plant Leaves
  • Thymol / blood
  • Thymol / metabolism*
  • Thymol / pharmacology
  • Thymus Plant / chemistry*
  • Weight Gain / drug effects


  • Oils, Volatile
  • Thymol