Essential Oil Composition and Preliminary Molecular Study of Four Hungarian Thymus Species


Chemical and genetic differences of twenty taxa belonging to four Thymus species were studied in order to determine whether molecular characters and essential oil components could be used as taxonomic markers and to examine the correlation between them. Plant samples, representing different taxa and geographic regions, were collected from experimentally grown populations. Essential oil samples were analysed by GC/MS and cluster analysis of volatile composition resulted in segregation of thymol chemotypes from sesquiterpenic ones. Thymol was characteristic for all the populations of Thymus glabrescens and T. pannonicus as well as for certain taxa belonging to T. praecox and T. pulegioides. Sesquiterpenes occurred in only two taxa of T. glabrescens, in each sample of T. praecox and in three taxa of T. pulegioides. Plant samples were analysed by random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD). The obtained dendrogram revealed high gene diversity. The 13 primers resulted 114 polymorphic RAPD bands, and the average percentage of polymorphism was 80.8%. The RAPD dendogram showed separation neither at interspecific nor at interpopulational levels. Therefore, further specific molecular studies involving more taxa are suggested. Partial correlation have been found between molecular and chemical assessments.


  1. 1.

    Agostini, G., Echeverrigaray, S., Souza-Chies, T. T. (2008) Genetic relationships among South American species of Cunila D. Royen ex L. based on ISSR. Plant Syst. Evol. 274, 135–141.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Böszörményi, A., Héthelyi, É., Farkas, Á., Horváth, Gy, Papp, N., Lemberkovics, É., Szőke, E. (2009) Chemical and genetic relationships among sage (Salvia officinalis L.) cultivars and judean sage (Salvia judaica Boiss.). J. Agric. Food Chem. 57, 4663–4667.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Cahill, J. R (2004) Genetic diversity among varieties of chia (Salvia hispanica L.). Gen. Res. Crop Evol. 51, 773–781.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Dajić-Stevanović, Z., Šoštarić, I., Marin, P. D., Stojanović, D., Ristić, M. (2008) Population variability in Thymus glabrescens, Willd. from Serbia: morphology, anatomy and essential oil composition. Arch. Biol. Sci. Belgr. 60, 475–483.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Echeverrigaray, S., Agostini, G., Atti-Serfini, L., Paroul, N., Pauletti, G. F., Atti dos Santos, A. C. (2001) Correlation between the chemical and genetic relationships among commercial thyme cultivars. J. Agric. Food Chem. 49, 4220–4223.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Fracaro, F., Echeverrigaray, S. (2006) Genetic variability in Hesperozygis ringens Benth. (Lamiaceae), an endangered aromatic and medicinal plant of Southern Brazil. Biochem. Gen. 44, 479–490.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Groendahl, E., Ehlers, B. K., Keefover-Ring, K. (2008) A new cis-sabinene hydrate chemotype detected in large thyme (Thymus pulegioides L.) growing wild in Denmark. J. Ess. Oil Res. 20, 40–42.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Guo, W. L., Gong, L., Ding, Z. F., Li, Y. D., Li, F. X., Zhao, S. P., Liu, B. (2006) Genomic instability in phenotypically normal regenerants of medicinal plant Codonopsis lanceolata Benth. et Hook. as revealed by ISSR and RAPD markers. Plant Cell Rep. 25, 896–906.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Lima, A. S., Trindade, A. C., Figuereido, A. C., Barroso, J. G., Pedro, L. G. (2010) Molecular and volatiles characterization of Portuguese Thymus caespititius chemotypes. Acta Horticulturae 860, 81–85.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Loziené, K., Vaiciuniene, J., Venskutonis, R. P. (2003) Chemical composition of the essential oil of different varieties of thyme (Thymus pulegioides) growing wild in Lithuania. Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 31, 249–259.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Marin, D. P., Grayer, J. R., Kite, C. G., Veljic, M. (2005) External flavons from Thymus striatus Vahl (Lamiaceae). Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 33, 1179–1182.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Mártonfi, P. (1992) Polymorphism of essential oil in Thymus pulegioides subsp. chamaedrys in Slovakia. J. Ess. Oil Res. 4, 173–179.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Michet, A., Chalchat, J. C., Figuérédo, G., Thébaud, G., Billy, F., Pétel, G. (2008) Chemotypes in the volatiles of wild thyme (T. pulegioides L.). J. Ess. Oil Res. 20, 101–103

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Morales, R. (2002) The history, botany and taxonomy of the genus Thymus. In: Stahl-Biskup, E., Sáez, F. (eds) Thyme. The genus Thymus. Taylor & Francis, London - New York, 2002, pp. 1–43.

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Pharmacopoeia Hungarica, 8th ed. (2004), Medicina Könyvkiadó Rt, Budapest, Hungary, Vol. 2, pp. 2359–2360.

  16. 16.

    Pluhár, Zs., Héthelyi, É., Kutta, G., Kamondy, L. (2007) Evaluation of environmental factors influencing essential oil quality of Thymus pannonicus All., and Thymus praecox Opiz. Journal of Herbs, Spices & Medicinal Plants 13, 23–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Pluhár, Zs., Sárosi, Sz., Novák, L., Szabó, E., Gimesi, A., Pintér, A., Kiss, U. (2007) Evaluation of drug quality and polymorphism of Thymus pannonicus All. 38th International Symposium on Essential Oils, Graz, Austria, September 9–12, 2007. Book of Abstracts, p. 110.

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Pluhár, Zs., Sárosi, Sz., Novák, I., Kutta, G. (2008) Essential oil polymorphism of Hungarian common thyme (Thymus glabrescens, Willd.) populations. Nat. Prod. Comm. 3, 1151–1154.

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Sarwat, M., Das, S., Srivastava, P. S. (2008) Analysis of genetic diversity through AFLP, SAMPL, ISSR and RAPD markers in Tribulus terrestris, a medicinal herb. Plant Cell Rep. 27, 519–528.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Schmidt, A., Bischof-Deichnik, C., Stahl-Biskup, E. (2004) Essential oil polymorphism of Thymus praecox subsp. arcticus on the British Isles. Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 32, 409–421.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Stahl-Biskup, E. (1991) The chemical composition of Thymus oils: Areview of the Literature 1960–1989. J. Ess. Oil Res. 3, 61–82.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Stahl-Biskup, E. (2002) Essential oil chemistry of the genus Thymus — a global view. In: Stahl-Biskup, E., Sáez, F. (eds) Thyme. The genus Thymus. Taylor & Francis, London - New York, pp. 75–143.

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Sunar, S., Aksakal, O., Yildirim, N., Agar, G., Gulluce, M., Sahin, F. (2009) Genetic diversity and relationships detected by FAME and RAPD analysis among Thymus species growing in eastern Anatolia region of Turkey. Romanian Biotechnological Letters 14, 4313–4318.

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Trindade, H., Costa, M. M., Lima, S. B., Pedro, L. G., Figueiredo, A. C., Barroso, J. G. (2008) Genetic diversity and chemical polymorphism of Thymus caespititius from Pico, São Jorge and Terceira islands (Azores). Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 36, 790–797.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Trindade, H., Costa, M. M., Lima, S. B, Pedro, L. G., Figueiredo, A. C, Barroso, J. G. (2009) A combined approach using RAPD, ISSR and volatile analysis for the characterization of Thymus caespititius from Flores, Corvo and Graciosa islands (Azores, Portugal). Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 37, 670–677.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    van den Dool, H., Kratz, P. (1963) A generalization of the retention index system including linear temperature programmed gas-liquid partion chromatography. J. Chromatogr. A. 11, 463–471.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Vieira, R. F., Grayer, R. J., Paton, A., Simon, J. E. (2001) Genetic diversity of Ocimum gratissimum L. based on volatile oil constituents, flavonoids and RAPD markers. Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 29, 287–304.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Weglarz, Z., Osinska, E., Buchwald, W., Geszprych, A., Pióra-Jabrucka, E., Pelc, M. (2009) The diversity of wild-growing medicinal plants in Poland. In Lipman, E. (ed.) Report of a Working Group on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. Biodiversity International, Rome, Italy, pp. 170–176.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Zsuzsanna Pluhár.

Rights and permissions

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Pluhár, Z., Kocsis, M., Kuczmog, A. et al. Essential Oil Composition and Preliminary Molecular Study of Four Hungarian Thymus Species. BIOLOGIA FUTURA 63, 81–96 (2012).

Download citation


  • Thymus spp.
  • wild thyme taxa
  • essential oil composition
  • genetic variability