Thymus vulgaris (thyme) inhibits proliferation, adhesion, migration, and invasion of human colorectal cancer cells

J Med Food. 2015 Jan;18(1):54-9. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2013.3121.


Colorectal cancer (CRC) remains one of the most common malignancies and a leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Its prognosis remains poor for patients with several grades of this disease. This underscores the need for alternative modalities, such as herbal medicines, to treat this disease. A commonly used plant that appears to be of high medicinal value is Thymus vulgaris L. However, the effects of this plant on the malignant behavior of human CRC cells remains poorly investigated. This study was undertaken to determine the anticancer efficacy of T. vulgaris extract (TVE) in CRC cells. Our results show that TVE inhibits proliferation in a concentration- and time-dependent fashion. This decreased proliferation was concomitant with increased apoptotic cell death as evidenced by increased caspase3/7 activity. Moreover, TVE also decreased adhesion to fibronectin in a concentration-dependent manner. The migratory and invasive capacities of HCT116 cells were significantly inhibited by TVE. Taken together, these data suggest that the TVE inhibits malignant phenotype of colon cancer cells. Therefore, T. vulgaris could have an anticancer effect and that some of its bioactive compounds may prove to be effective treatment modalities for human CRC.

Keywords: Thymus vulgaris; colorectal cancer; herbal medicine; malignancy.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Caspase 7 / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • HCT116 Cells
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Thymus Plant*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Plant Extracts
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase 7