Thymus vulgaris L. is widely used as an ingredient in cooking and in herbal medicine. However, there is little information about its toxicity. The present study was performed to evaluate the acute and repeated 28-day oral dose toxicity of thyme essential oil in rats. For the acute toxicity test, two groups of three rats were used. The rats received a single dose of essential oil: 300 or 2,000 mg/kg of body weight (bw). The rats were observed individually during the first four hours, and then daily until day 14. For the toxicity test with repeated doses, four groups of 10 rats were used. Doses of 100, 250, and 500 mg/kg/day were tested for 28 days. At the end of the experiment, blood was collected and the animals were sacrificed. Histopathological examination showed that in the lungs of rats given the 2,000 mg/kg bw dose, polymorph nuclear infiltrates, hemosiderin macrophages, and interstitial space thickening were present. In the repeated dose study, all rats survived the 28-day treatment period and apparently showed no signs of toxicity. The hematological and biochemical parameters were not altered. The histopathological study of the organs showed severe changes in the lung, with the dose of 500 mg/kg/day; in the other organs, no alterations were observed or the changes were slight. The body weight was only altered in male rats given the 500 mg/kg dose. The relative weight of the organs did not show any significant changes. Our studies revealed that the essential oil of Thymus vulgaris has moderate oral toxicity according to the results of the acute test, whereas the results of the 28-day oral toxicity test suggest that the no-observed-adverse effect level (NOAEL) is greater than 250 mg/kg/day.
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