Thymus vulgaris, Labiatae
Relieves nightmares, strengthens breathing, strengthens weak stomach, gas, cramps, diarrhea, relieves headaches. Thyme is a cultivated form of the wild thyme of the mountains European countries bordering the Mediterranean. Thyme contains very high concentrations of antioxidants (i.e., >75 mmol/100 g). In a normal diet, intake of herbs may therefore contribute significantly to the total intake of plant antioxidants, and be an even better source of dietary antioxidants than many other food groups such as fruits, berries, cereals and vegetables.
Thyme has a long history of use in natural medicine in connection with chest and respiratory problems including coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion. Only recently, however, have researchers pinpointed some of the components in thyme that bring about its healing effects. The volatile oil components of thyme are now known to include carvacrol, borneol, geraniol, but most importantly, thymol.
Significant Antioxidant Protection of Cellular Membranes
Thymol “named after the herb itself” is the primary volatile oil constituent of thyme, and its health-supporting effects are well documented. In studies on aging in rats, thymol has been found to protect and significantly increase the percentage of healthy fats found in cell membranes and other cell structures. In particular, the amount of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid) in brain, kidney, and heart cell membranes was increased after dietary supplementation with thyme.
In other studies looking more closely at changes in the brains cells themselves, researchers found that the maximum benefits of thyme occurred when the food was introduced very early in the lifecycle of the rats, but was less effective in offsetting the problems in brain cell aging when introduced late in the aging process. 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 very good source of manganese, give thyme a high standing on the list of antioxidant foods.
Eradicate Microbes with Thyme
The volatile oil components of thyme have also been shown to have antimicrobial activity against a host of different bacteria and fungi. Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Shigella sonnei are a few of the species against which thyme has been shown to have antibacterial activity. For thousands of years, herbs and spices have been used to help preserve foods and protect them from microbial contamination, now research shows that both thyme and basil contain constituents that can both prevent contamination and decontaminate previously contaminated foods.
In these studies, published in the February 2004 issue of Food Microbiology, researchers found that thyme essential oil was able to decontaminate lettuce inoculated with Shigella, an infectious organism that triggers diarrhea and may cause significant intestinal damage. In addition, washing produce in solution containing either basil or thyme essential oil at the very low concentration of just 1% resulted in dropping the number of Shigella bacteria below the point at which they could be detected. While scientists use this research to try to develop natural food preservatives, it makes good sense to include thyme and basil in more of your recipes, particularly for foods that are not cooked such as salads. Adding fresh thyme and/or basil to your next vinaigrette will not only enhance the flavor of your fresh greens, but will help ensure that the fresh produce you consume is safe to eat.
A Nutrient-Dense Spice
The range of other health-supportive nutrients found in thyme is also impressive. This food emerged from our food ranking system as an excellent source of iron and manganese, a very good source of calcium and a food source of dietary fiber.
A delicate looking herb with a penetrating fragrance, thyme is an herb we should all take time to investigate and enjoy. And with about sixty different varieties including French (common) thyme, lemon thyme, orange thyme and silver thyme, this herb is sure to add some spice to your life. Thyme leaves are curled, elliptically shaped and very small, measuring about one-eighth of an inch long and one-sixteenth of an inch wide. The upper leaf is green-grey in color on top, while the underside is a whitish color. French thyme is known scientifically as Thymus vulgaris.
Names: Common Thyme, Garden Thyme
Habitat: Thyme is indigenous to the Mediterranean region, and cultivated widely.
Collection: The flowering branches should be collected between June and August on a dry sunny day. The leaves are stripped off the dried branches.
Part Used: Leaves and flowering tops.
- Volatile oil, of highly variable composition; the major constituent is thymol, with
- lesser amounts of carvacrol, with 1, 8-cineole, borneol, geraniol, linalool, bornyl and
- linalyl acetate, thymol methyl etherand [[alpha]]-pinene.
- Flavonoids; apigenin, luteolin, thymonin, naringenin and others
- Miscellaneous; labiatic acid, caffeic acid, tannins etc.
Actions: Carminative, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, expectorant, astringent, anthelmintic.
Indications: With its high content of volatile oil, Thyme makes a good carminative for use in dyspepsia and sluggish digestion. This oil is also a strongly antiseptic substance, which explains many of Thyme’s uses.
It can be used externally as a lotion for infected wounds, but also internally for respiratory and digestive infections. It may be use as a gargle in laryngitis and tonsillitis, easing sore throats and soothing irritable coughs. It is an excellent cough remedy, producing expectoration and reducing unnecessary spasm. It may be used in bronchitis, whooping cough and asthma. As a gentle astringent it has found use in childhood diarrhea and bed wetting. Kings’ Dispensatory describes it thus: “Thyme is tonic, carminative emmenagogue and antispasmodic. The cold infusion is useful in dyspepsia, with weak and irritable stomach and as a stimulating tonic in convalescence from exhausting diseases.
The warm infusion is beneficial in hysteria, dysmenorrhea, flatulence, colic, headache, and to promote perspiration. Occasionally the leaves have been used externally, in fomentation. The oil is valuable as a local application to neuralgic and rheumatic pains; and, internally, to fulfill any of the indications for which the plant is used. Dose of the infusion, from 1 to 3 fluid ounces; of the oil, from 2 to 10 drops on sugar, or in emulsion.
Thyme, skullcap and rue of each 2 ounces; peony and black cohosh, of each, 1 ounce; macerated for 14 days in diluted alcohol, and then filtered, forms a good preparation for nervous and spasmodic diseases of children. It may be given in teaspoonful doses to a child 3 years old, repeating it 3 or 4 times a day, sweetening and diluting it, if desired. A strong infusion of theThymusserpyllus, slightly sweetened and mixed with gum Arabic, is stated by M. Joset to be a valuable remedy for whooping-cough, convulsive and catarrhal coughs and stridulous sore throat, the favorable result occurring at the end of a very few days. It may be taken ad libitum.”
Combinations: For asthmatic problems it will combine well with Lobelia and Ephedra, adding its antimicrobial effect. For whooping cough use it with Wild Cherry and Sundew.
Preparations & Dosage: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and let infuse for 10 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Tincture: take 2-4ml of the tincture three times a day.