The name Thyme is a derivative of a Greek word meaning ‘to fumigate’. It is said that the Greeks used Thyme as incense because it symbolized grace and elegance. Others derive the name from the Greek word thumus, which signifies courage.
Classified as T. vulgaris, thyme is a perennial herb cultivated in most countries with temperate climates. Thyme flourishes in Asia Minor, Algeria, Spain and other European countries bordering on the Mediterranean Sea.
There are three varieties of Thyme grown for use: broad-leaved, narrow-leaved and variegated. The most popular variety of Thyme is the narrow-leaved, which can be identified by its small, grayish-green leaves. Also known as Winter or German Thyme, narrow-leaved thyme is more aromatic than the broad-leaved variety.
Thyme has a long history of use in natural medicine in connection with chest and respiratory problems including coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion. Recently, researchers have discovered important volatile oil components of thyme that bring about its healing effects. They are known to include carvacolo, borneol, geraniol, but most importantly, thymol.
Thymol is an antiseptic and disinfectant that prevents the occurrence of putrefaction. A small quantity of thymol added to albumen, milk, solutions of gum or gelatin, will preserve them for several months. Thymol has proven effective in the treatment of wounds, ulcers and abscesses, and is an invaluable disinfectant that is highly effective in disinfecting sick rooms.
Herbs and spices have been used for thousands of years to help preserve foods and protect them from microbial contamination. Now research shows that the volatile oil components of thyme have antimicrobial activity against a host of different bacteria and fungi including Staphalococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Shigella sonnei.
The range of other health-supportive nutrients found in thyme is impressive. Thyme is an excellent source of iron, manganese, calcium and dietary fiber. Thyme also contains a variety of flavonoids, including apigenin, naringenin, luteolin, and thymonin. These flavonoids increase thyme’s antioxidant capacity, and combined with its status as a good source of manganese, give thyme a high standing on the list of anti-oxidant foods.
Thyme can aid in digestion and helps to remove the mucous coating of the intestinal tract. Thyme also has antiseptic properties and is often used in natural toothpastes.
Drinking tea made from the green leaves of thyme can help ease menstrual cramps and relieve PMS symptoms. Thyme tea is also helpful for stomach problems, coughs and fevers. Thyme tea is a good choice for children, as its flavor is pleasant. It is said that thyme tea can alleviate whooping cough, aid in the elimination of phlegm, calm a child’s nerves and eliminate nightmares.
Other conditions thyme has been credited with alleviating include mild sore throat, post nasal drip, sciatica, gout, headaches and rheumatic pain. Thyme is said to aid digestion of fats, making it an excellent complement for any recipes using oils and fats.
An allergic reaction to thyme is unlikely, but seek immediate medical attention if it occurs. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include: rash, itching, swelling, dizziness and trouble breathing.