Before you rush to the drugstore for a medicated gel to stub out the zit, hear this: A new study says you may be better off running to your kitchen pantry for some herbs instead.

Researchers from Leeds Metropolitan University tested the effect of thyme, myrrh and marigold tinctures (derived by steeping the plants in alcohol to extract the actives) on P. acnes – the bacterium that causes acne by infecting plugged skin pores.

All three herbs killed more bugs than an alcohol control. But thyme was the most effective of the trio. In fact, thyme did better than the highest prescription strength benzoyl peroxide, a common zit zapper that’s widely available in OTC products like Oxy and Proactiv as well.

This could be good news for acne-sufferers with sensitive skin, as benzoyl peroxide-based topicals tend to cause skin irritation, as well as bleach marks on pillow cases and clothes.

Scientists say more research need to be done to understand how the herbal concoctions work on the molecular level. Clinical testing on actual skin environments will then be conducted, before we can expect to see thyme adding a natural flavor to anti-acne armamentarium.

– By Emily Wong