Evaluations of thyme extract effects in human normal bronchial and tracheal epithelial cell lines and in human lung cancer cell line

Chem Biol Interact. 2016 Aug 25;256:125-33. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2016.06.024. Epub 2016 Jun 29.


Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is used traditionally to prepare herbal remedies possessing expectorant, mucolytic, antitussive and antispasmodic properties. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of a standardized hydroalcoholic extract of thyme on primary human airway (bronchial/tracheal) epithelial cell lines in a model of lung inflammation induced by LPS. In addition, the effects of thyme extract on human lung cancer cell line (H460) were analysed. Thyme extract showed significant anti-inflammatory properties by reducing the NF-κB p65 and NF-κB p52 transcription factors protein levels followed by the decrease of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1 beta and IL-8), and Muc5ac secretion in human normal bronchial and tracheal epithelial cells. Moreover, the extract showed cytotoxic effects on H460 cancer cells, modulated the release of IL-1 beta, IL-8 and down-regulated NF-κB p65 and NF-κB p52 proteins. Taken together, these results substantiated the traditional uses of thyme in the treatment of respiratory diseases. Thyme extract might be an effective treatment of chronic diseases based on inflammatory processes when hypersecretion of mucus overwhelms the ciliary clearance and obstructs airways, causing morbidity and mortality. Moreover thyme extract, evaluated in H460 lung cancer cell line, demonstrated to induce cell cytotoxicity in addition to reduce inflammatory cell signals.

Keywords: Anti-inflammatory; Lung cancer; NF-κB; Normal bronchial and tracheal epithelial cells (HBEpC/HTEpC); Thymol; Thymus vulgaris.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Bronchi / cytology
  • Bronchi / drug effects
  • Bronchi / immunology
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1beta / immunology
  • Interleukin-8 / immunology
  • Lung / drug effects
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / immunology
  • NF-kappa B / immunology
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / cytology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / drug effects*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / immunology
  • Thymol / chemistry
  • Thymol / pharmacology*
  • Thymus Plant / chemistry*
  • Trachea / cytology
  • Trachea / drug effects
  • Trachea / immunology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Interleukin-8
  • NF-kappa B
  • Plant Extracts
  • Thymol