Warning: Avoid using this herb, in medicinal quantities, if you suffer from hyperthyroidism or hypertension or when pregnant, as it encourages menstruation. Also avoid using the Essential Oil externally or as Aromatherapy when pregnant.
Consider using Thyme Leaves and/or Flowering tops for or as:
- Amennorhea (to induce menstruation)
- Anti-moth and insect Potpourri
- Antiseptic, externally for wounds
- Asthma symptoms
- Bronchial/Respiratory excessive Mucus/phlegm/cattarh
- Digestive system infections
- Enemas for Digestive problems
- Inducing perspiring
- Sinus congestion and headaches
Thyme(us) is one of those plants we sometimes forget to appreciate, because it demands so little of us and provides so much. The fact is, one of the first herbs I ever planted was a Thyme, Creeping Thyme. With its hoard of tiny leaves and its woody stalk, it was a natural cascader, and I placed it at one end of a planter already filled with pink begonias.
With a beginner’s lack of trepidation, I just tamped its roots into the soil which was a rather haphazard mix of backyard earth, packaged potting soil, fertilizer and lime, and I watered it when the earth looked parched. Soon the dark green leaves crawled gracefully over the rim of the planter and clustered down the side of the container.
Although its light pungent scent was already familiar to me from the little tins of dried thyme bought at the supermarket, as with children, the ones you tend yourself seem to be most dear. On late summer afternoons, I would set my chair close enough to ruffle the Lilliputian green leaves, each shaped like a miniature tear drop, each with its own well-pressed crease down the center and tiny cream-colored border.
As with so many deceptively undemanding herbs, the big surprise was still in store. For when summer was long gone, and the showy cousins of the floral families were quietly sleeping beneath the cold earth, that plucky little plant would not quit. What joy it was to wander out into the snow-covered yard to see her plucky little branches, still green with leaf-life, waiting to greet me, and still happy to send out that familiar thymol scent when gently pressed between my fingers.
If you are interested in including Thyme in your garden, there seems to be an endless variety of this sweet little plant with the gold or lavender flowers. Last summer I planted Lemon Thyme, Lavender Thyme, Caraway Thyme, Common Thyme, Silver Thyme, Elfin Thyme, Creeping Thyme, Wooly Thyme, to name a few, along with the more conventional versions.
The low, dense, flat-growing varieties make wonderful natural “carpets” for areas of your property that don’t get too much traffic, and when one does walk on it, Oh! that wonderful aroma! Some lucky gardens have benches that have been planted with a Thyme “mat”, and sitting on them is a scented experience! The Lemon Thyme vies with Lemon Verbena for having one of the most alluring and magical lemon aromas and is wonderful in baking. I’ve added 1 to 2 talbespoonsful of fresh, finely chopped or ground Thyme and Lemon Thyme leaves to my regular butter cookie, sugar cookie, lemon cupcake, and coffee cake recipes with wonderful results.
(If using dried leaves, reduce the amount by about half, because they are much more potent.) And, of course, along with Oregano, it is a basic in Italian recipes.
Legend of thyme
The legends and lore surrounding Thyme are manifold. It was one of the first herbs to be used as incense, and was often sprinkled on church floors, along with lavender, in the middle ages, to eliminate unwanted odors. Some believe the word Thyme, is derived from the Greek word for Courage, and some think it is connected to the idea of cleansing or fumigating.
It has been associated, in ancient lore, with both death and death ceremonies, and yet was also thought to have an ability to attract fairies. Like Sage, it has been burned in many places throughout time to cleanse the air, protect from plague, and ward off evil spirits.
Medicinal uses of thyme
Okay! So down to serious business! Virtually all members of the Thyme family contain a a Volatile Oil called Thymol which is a potent antiseptic and provides the leaves with their familiar scent. Thyme has been used medicinally for centuries and was used as an antiseptic for soldiers in World War I and many wars before that.
It is mentioned in Ancient Greek and Roman writings, and was well-known for its ability to attract bees and be used in the creation of superior and aromatic blends of honey. This warming herb can help loosen and bring up excessive mucus during upper respiratory diseases or sinus problerms, yet, because it has anti-spasmodic tendencies, it can reduce dry coughing. It improves digestion and helps reduce spasms.
It reduces rheumatic/arthritic pain and provides antiseptic properties for wounds. The species known as Thymus Serpyllum contains properties that provide a more sedative effect than the conventional Thymus Vulgaris.
Thyme for indigestion
The Master Herbalist, Adele G. Dawson suggested in her book HERBS, PARTNERS IN LIFE, that dried or fresh Thyme leaves be mixed with equal parts of Lavender, Red Clover, Mullein, Rosemary, Sage, and/or Anise and infused as a Tea to keep the digestive system healthy. (She also recommends Comfrey for this purpose, but at the present time internal use of Comfrey is not advised because of concern that it may have carcinogenic properties).
Another mixture to keep in mind when indigestion hits is to make a tea of equal parts of dried Thyme and Mint leaves and Fennel Seeds. A total of 1 teaspoon of that mix to a cup of boiled water, steeped covered for 5 minutes, and sipped slowly, has often proven helpful for people struggling with flatulence (gas). Add a slice of Ginger to the steeping brew to reduce nausea as Ginger is so effective in reducing, eliminating, and/or preventing nausea, that many people find it superior to over-the-counter motion-sickness preparations.
Thyme for breathing and swallowing
A tea (infusion) made of Thyme, Marshmallow, and Lemon Balm leaves, is very soothing for Sore Throats, and especially delicious if a little Honey and Cinnamon or a Lemon wedge is added to it. As a matter of fact, once you develop a taste for it, just a Thyme “simple”, the herbalist’s term for using just one herb in a tea…made of 1 teaspoon dried Thyme leaves steeped, covered, in 1 cup of boiled water, for 5 to 10 minutes, and laced with honey, becomes a relaxing treat on a cold winter afternoon. For extra help in clearing mucus from the sinus-throat area, add a pinch (just a FEW grains!!!!!) of dried cayenne (chili) powder.
Sinus headaches often respond to herbal vaporizor treatments to loosen the thick phlegm that impacts the sinus cavities and causes so much pressure. A steam treatment that Penelope Oty recommends in HOME HERBAL includes 10 drops of Lavender Essential Oil, 5 drops of Pine Essential Oil, 5 drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil, and 5 drops of Thyme Oil. Fill a large basin or bowl with steaming water, add the Essential Oils, and taking care not to scald yourself, place a “tent” towel or cloth over your head and inhale the steam.
Or, allow the liquid to cool to a more reasonable temperature and dip a soft cloth into the liquid and place over the sinus area. I have gotten very rapid relief of sinus congestion and bronchial congestion…and even oncoming laryngitis, by throwing a handful of Thyme and Sage leaves directly into some steaming water, and inhaling the vapor.
Thymr for other things
Jethro Kloss, in his BACK TO EDEN indicates that for generations hot Thyme tea was taken to induce menstruation when it was repressed (which is why this herb should not be used during pregnancy). Also, he validates that it is effective in increasing perspiration which is why it has been recommended to bring down a fever and help sweat out a cold.
Extenally, a strong tea made of Thyme steeped in boiled water can be used as an antiseptic on sores, wounds, and external infections. It makes a good gargle and mouth rinse for chronic or acute gum problems. (Matter of fact, Thyme is frequently an ingredient in commercial toothpastes and mouthwashes.) Master Herbalist Penelope Ody recommends a gargle for children, using Thyme and Sage leaves, when they have the mumps.
Dian Dincin Buchman, in her book MY FAVORITE HERBS recommends making a paste of warm, moistened thyme leaves and applying them to relieve pain from abcesses, boils or swelling. This has also been known to help sciatica and rheumatic pain as well. Anti-inflammatory anti-pain salves, made by infusing herbs in oils such as Olive Oil or Sesame Oil, often include Thyme for the ability of its volatile oil, Thymol, to deaden pain and quiet spasms.
Because Onions are excellent anti-inflammatories, I often make an Onion broth, with a handful of dried Thyme thrown in, to help with aching joints or muscles from arthritis or from flu. Heating Chopped Onions in some olive Oil, with Coarse Salt and Thyme, until golden, and applying the COOLED mixture to a bruised site, externally, is often also very soothing and effective, and I can attest to its effectiveness on stubbed toes and twisted ankles.
Thyme salves and pastes have also been used effectrively to treat fungus. As a matter of fact, insects, in general, are repelled by the scent of Thyme, and so it has often been used in anti-moth, anti-insect potpourris to be used in closets, hanging from hangers or tucked into pockets. Other insect-repelling herbs that can be mixed with Thyme, and formed into little muslin-wrapped packages, include Lavender, Santolina, and Tansy.
Essential oil of thyme
Thyme, with its powerful Volatile Oil, Thymol, is also used as an Essential Oil, both in Aromatherapy and directly on the skin. It is frequently used in men’s toilet articles. Be aware, however, that people can be sensitive to either of these uses, as the Essential Oil is extremely powerful, and it does enter the body through skin pores or the olofactory system. In the wonderfully compehensive book, AROMATHERAPY, A LIFETIME GUIDE TO HEALING WITH ESSENTIAL OILS, Valerie Gennari Cooksley remarks that the scent of Essential Oil of Thyme may help with depression and that the Essential Oil of Thyme has anti-inflammatory and analgesic (effects) on osteoarthritis, as do the Essential Oils of Chamomile, Cypress, Cedarwood, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Juniper, Lavender, Pine, and Rosemary.
The scent of Thyme has also been mentioned to overcome sluggisnness and maintain alertness, and Thyme Essential Oil is considered by some to fight the development of cellulite on the thighs. When first starting to introduce Essential Oils into a health regime, as components of a salve or for the aroma, use them VERY sparingly …. literally one drop from a dropper.
Don’t put any Essential Oil directly on your skin until you know how your skin reacts to it, but add it to a spoonful of Olive of Sesame Oil. When trying out the aroma, make sure to do it in an area that you can leave, because aromas that don’t agree with you can make you nauseous, dizzy, headachy, “spacey”, etc.
Thyme for food
Although I love to cook (and eat!) I don’t usually involve myself with the gourmet uses of herbs on this website. However, it would be a serious omission if I didn’t indicate that Thyme is one of the basic ingredients in the herb mixture known as ( italics) bouquet garni, and is an essential herb in Classical Gourmet French cooking. It is less widely used in desserts and baking, yet adds a distinctive and exciting pungency to many puddings and cookies.
Thyme is a lovely addition to meatballs, beet salads, orange and Bermuda Onion salads, and herbed butters or mayonaisse. It is excellent in a Vinegraitte dressing and on fish. Adele Dawson reveals that Thyme can even be used to make an herbal pipe tobacco, along with dried leaves of comfrey, mullein and lovage, and suggests mellowing the herbs in an air-tight tin with a slice of apple for a month. I have never done this, so I cannot endorse it or guarantee the outcome, but it is part and parcel of herbal lore and use.
Materia medica of thyme
PARTS USED: Leaves and flowering tops. Collect the flowering branches on a hot dry sunny day between June and August. I dry them easily in wire baskets, on drying racks, tied and hung from a nail, etc, and then strip off the dried leaves/flowers. I find they keep well in an ordinary brown paper sandwich bag, turned down on top and held with a paper clip…not very exotic, but the thyme stays wonderfully for me, in a dry spot for many months.
CONSTITUENTS: Volatile oil rich in Thymol, Carvacol, Cymol, Linalol and Borneol; Bitter principle, Tannin, Flavonoids, Triterpenoids.
PROPERTIES & ACTIONS: Carminative (helps with digestion) , Anti-microbial, anti-spasmodic, expectorant, astringent, anti-fungal.
ENERGY & TASTE: warm energy. Perhaps the flavor might be described as slightly minty, slightly licorice-like…easily recognized as an Italian-flavoring herb, similar to Oregano.
PRECAUTION: Avoid if pregnant or if hyperthyroidism or hypertension is present. Do not use in large-doses for long periods of time. Some people are skin-sensitive to the oil.
DOSAGE: According to David Hoffman in THE HERBAL HANDBOOK, make an infusion of 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried herb to 1 cup of water (see instructions in tea section), and allow to steep, covered, for 10 minutes. Drink 1/2 cup, three times a day. Or, take 2-4 ml of Tincture three times a day.