A perennial in the mint family of plants, thyme is a small, attractive herb with a plethora of small white, pink, or lilac flowers. Incredibly, there are more than 350 known thyme species, undoubtedly because they hybridize so easily. Thyme can be bushy or low-growing, with leaves varying in color from deep to paler green shades, some with touches of olive, silver (one of the hardiest), or bronze. Some of the variety names are lovely, like Archer's Gold and Rainbow Falls, not necessarily reflecting the different scents which can be reminiscent of pine, caraway, lemon, camphor, or eucalyptus.
Common thyme (T. vulgaris) or lemon thyme (T. citriodorus) is most popular for cooking, but it's also used for medicinal purposes along with Spanish (T. zygis) and creeping thyme (T. serpyllum). These are native to southern Europe and western Asia and cultivated commercially in many areas around the globe.
Fresh or dried, thyme leaves and flowers lend a sprightly essence to flavoring casseroles, soups, stews, and sautéed vegetables. Chopped fresh or dried and combined with parsley and bay leaves, thyme is included in the French combination of herbs called bouquet garni, used to season stock, stews, and soups. Eggs, meats, fish, and bean dishes are all enhanced with a sprinkling of thyme.
Thyme is very easy to grow, especially in sunshine, thriving in rocky crevices or containers, with woody stems and base. It's one herb which snow can be brushed from to harvest the sprigs for kitchen use. While this is an herb notable for deterring garden pests like beetles, the flowers are known for the nectar they generate, which attracts bees that subsequently produce thyme-infused honey. Thyme is so versatile that it's also sought after for soap, toothpaste, cosmetics, perfume, and antibacterial cream.
Health Benefits of Thyme
Thyme goes beyond many other herbs with its wide array of uses: potpourri, mood-enhancing aromatherapy, sachets that repel moths, ointments for fighting infection in scrapes and cuts, and cough elixirs and mouthwashes for canker sores and throat infections. Thyme has been used as an expectorant and is particularly helpful as a remedy for upper respiratory tract problems like bronchitis. (The measurements to make your own cough medicine with a pestle and mortar is one to six ounces of thyme mixed with honey for daily ingestion, according to instructions by Maud Grieve in "A Modern Herbal," published in 1931.)
In order to show what kind of nutrition thyme offers, a larger amount than would be eaten was used in the profile, but this shows what you get when you eat a teaspoon or a tablespoon of this fragrant herb. Thyme is an excellent source of vitamin C (75% of the daily recommended value), vitamin A (27%), fiber (16 %), riboflavin, iron (27%), copper, and manganese (24%), 11% each in calcium and manganese, and doses of vitamin B6, folate, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc as well.
Volatile oils in thyme include carvacolo, borneol, geraniol, and most importantly thymol, with powerful antiseptic and antibacterial properties that have also been shown to have antimicrobial activity against a host of different bacteria and fungi, including Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, E. coli, and the deadly Shigella sonnei.
Studies on thymol reported its ability to significantly increase healthy fats throughout the cells and even increase the DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid) content in kidney, heart, and brain cell membranes. This combination of attributes in the oils, vitamins and minerals, plus rosmarinic and ursolic acids, which are powerful terpenoids, can even be cancer preventive.
Thyme Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1 tbsp (2 grams), dried
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie
Studies on Thyme
Thyme Oil may have the ability to kill the deadly MRSA hospital ”superbug” according to scientists at the University of Brighton. Scientists found it destroyed MRSA within two hours, with no adverse effects on intact skin.
MRSA is often carried on the skin or in the nostrils of healthy people, but when a carrier enters a hospital for an operation or any procedure that punctures the skin, bacteria can enter the body, causing serious medical problems, and each year up to 5,000 people die as a result." The study was published in the International Journal of Essential Oil Therapeutics and was carried out by a team of microbiologists.1
Herbal preparations of thyme might be a more effective treatment for acne than prescription creams, according to researchers from Leeds Metropolitan University, who tested the effect of thyme, marigold, and myrrh tinctures on acne bacterium. While all three preparations killed the bacterium after five minutes, thyme was the most effective, and even had a greater antibacterial effect than benzoyl peroxide, the active ingredient in most anti-acne creams or washes, but without the skin irritation.2
Just in Thyme Chicken Salad
|2 cups dark-meat chicken, cooked & chopped
||½ cup raw cashews
||2 stalks organic celery, chopped
||Small handful organic fresh Italian parsley,
chopped (may also use curly parsley)
|2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
||1/3 cup red onion, chopped
||½ cup to 1 cup fresh, raw cream
||½ teaspoon prepared mustard
|Splash of organic olive oil
||Juice of ½ lemon
Place chicken, cashews, celery, parsley, thyme, and onion in medium-sized bowl. Add lemon juice, raw cream, and mustard (the secret ingredient). Add a splash of organic olive oil and mix well.
(From: Just in Thyme Chicken Salad
Thyme Fun Facts
Ancient Greeks used thyme for incense - in fact its name originally meant "to fumigate." Meanwhile, the Romans added it to their cheese and alcohol as a remedy for melancholy. They both considered thyme an herb able to impart courage and energy, and used it with roses to sweeten the smell of their homes.
Thyme is a fragrant herb known for the warm essence it adds to casseroles, soups, sautéed vegetables, eggs, and meats. It's an easy-to-grow herb offering an array of varieties in different shades of green and exuding subtle fragrance differences such as lemon, pine, or caraway.
While this herb has dozens of household uses, such as keeping moths from linens and beetles from the garden, and is used in soaps, cosmetics, and perfumes, thyme has also been known for millennia as a healer. Its antibacterial, antiseptic, and antimicrobial ability, primarily from the volatile oils carvacolo, borneol, geraniol, and thymol, have been clinically proven; for example, acne cream with thyme as the active ingredient is more effective than benzoyle peroxide. Rosmarinic and ursolic acids are terpenoids that have been shown to be cancer preventive.
Perhaps it's not an overstatement to say "thyme heals all wounds."