Herb Guide: It’s About Thyme
Also, Known As:
- Black Thyme
- Common Thyme
- English Thyme
- French Thyme
- Garden Thyme
- German Thyme
- Winter Thyme
Thyme is a common name given to all the herbs belonging to the plant species called Thymus. The Thymus is indigenous to Europe and Asia and all plants belong to this species are usually low-growing and perennial. Among the different plants of this species, the common or garden thyme is regarded as the main variety and is used commercially for flowering as well as decorative purposes. The garden thyme is a small shrub bearing greyish-green leaves and flowers whose hues vary from white to pink or purple. Several countries in Europe, including Spain, Portugal, France, and Greece, as well as the United States, cultivate and harvest the thyme. Basically, there are three major types of thyme – French, English, and German, and each of them bears leaves of different shapes and colors. Even the chemical composition of the essential oils produced by them is different.
Thyme can be used for preparing an excellent home-made balm that is applied topically for effectively curing cuts, injuries, rash, acne and other skin conditions. This herbal balm is especially useful when applied to the facial skin and on the skin in the areas of the forehead, throat, and neck. In addition, the balm prepared with thyme may also be applied to treat burns, sores, and injuries at any place on the body.
If you desire to prepare the balm with thyme, first you need to prepare the base or foundation. Ayurveda medicine practitioners, as well as unlicensed medical practitioners prescribing herbal products anywhere, prefer to use ghee as the base for numerous herbal balms and oils. Ghee is a clarified butter that is delectable and aromatic oil, which solidifies at room temperature. In order to prepare ghee, thaw two pounds of butter in a saucepan till it attains a slow, progressing boiling temperature. Next, remove the substance from the heat and use a spoon to cautiously cream off the foam. After removing the foam put the saucepan in the oven once again and repeat the process two times more. Each time, cream off as much as foam from the substance that you can. When the saucepan has been removed from heat and cooled, take away the slim layer that appears at the top of the material. Allow the heated butter to cool for some time and while it is still somewhat hot and in liquid form, filter it by means of a minutely netted tea strainer. However, stop pouring the substance when the most profound solids at the base of the saucepan come into the strainer. The strained liquid is pure ghee or clarified butter, which should be collected in a glass bottle and cooled finally before placing the lid. The complete procedure to prepare ghee from butter does not take even half an hour to get done. If you use two pounds of butter, it will produce approximately two cups of ghee. It is important to mention that pure ghee can be stored without refrigeration and at room temperature for as long as six months.
Having prepared the ghee from butter to be used as the base of the thyme balm, heat the ghee again. This time, ensure that the temperature does not touch the point at which the substance will effervesce or start burning or emitting smoke. When the ghee is heated, add two handfuls of roughly chopped and somewhat crushed garden thyme to the container. Keep the container covered while reheating the ghee as well as through the duration of moderately cooking the thyme, which may take about an hour’s time. Next, remove the cover of the container partially, only enough to strain the liquid by means of some kind of a crude wire sieve. After straining the liquid, cover the container once again and place it in the oven to reheat it for another five minutes or so. Following this, remove the cover and add around one to two tablespoonful of melted beeswax and carefully blend it with the mixture in the pot. In addition to the beeswax, you also need to add approximately half a tablespoon of unadulterated vanilla. This may be added along with the beeswax. Now, pour all the ingredients from the container into unspoiled shallow jars. Empty baby food jars are ideal for storing the balm. Let the balm settle and cool down and then put the lids tightly. You may store this balm in a cool and dry place for future use.
As mentioned earlier, thyme is one of the numerous fragrant herbs, such as rosemary, peppermint, savory and sage that are very useful in disinfecting water in nations, such as Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Italy, and Greece. Usually, you will find some species of the Thymus being sold commercially in the local markets. You may obtain them and boil them in water to be used for purifying it and use as drinking water. You may add one handful of chopped thyme with one quart of water. Put them in a container, cover it and boil over an oven first. Once it has been boiled, reduce the heat and allow the thyme to steep in water for around 20 minutes. Remember to keep the container covered all through the process. Filter the water in another container for drinking purposes later. Water processed in this manner is pure and bereft of any contagions or microbes. Hence, now you can be sure that drinking this water will prevent you from having the fever or suffering from diarrhea or other stomach disorders.
Thyme is considered to be a potent antiseptic suitable for internal as well as external use. Thyme is especially useful for the immune system. This herb reinforces the immune system to combat against different types of contagions caused by bacteria, virus, and fungus. This herb and preparations with it are especially effective in tackling infections in the digestive, respiratory and genitourinary tracts, for instance, colds, coughs, flu, Candida (a genus of the pathogenic yeastlike fungi), gastroenteritis, cystitis and salpingitis (inflammation of a salpinx). Thyme possesses a soothing property which is effective in providing relief in conditions of the bronchial tube, such as asthma or whooping cough. The herb also possesses expectorant properties and this helps in augmenting the production of fluid mucous that helps in removing phlegm. The soothing property of thyme is also effective in alleviating problems of the digestive tract, such as wind and colic, spastic colon and irritable bowel syndrome. The combined astringent and antiseptic properties of thyme help in preventing as well as curing diarrhea and its causes. At the same time, they help to restore the usual bacterial populace in the alimentary canal and are particularly effective in candidiasis (infections caused by fungi of the genus Candida, usually occurring in the mouth, respiratory tract or vagina). In addition, thyme also functions as a liver decontamination tonic. The herb is effective for alleviating indigestion, lack of appetite, skin disorders, anemia, lethargy, and gallbladder as well as invigorates the digestive system and function of the liver.
This aromatic herb possesses an overpowering flavor and warming properties. Thyme also promotes blood circulation and helps in discarding chilliness and weariness and functions as an exciting stimulant for the entire system. The stimulating action of the nervous system makes the herb a brilliant remedy for physical as well as mental fatigue, alleviating tension, anxiety, and sleeplessness. The herb is also effective in treating depression or mood changes. The diuretic property of thyme helps to diminish water retention, contagions of the urinary tract, rheumatism ( a disorder of the extremities or back, characterized by pain and stiffness) and gout. In addition, this aromatic herb is also useful in regulating the menstrual cycle and removing contagions of the reproductive organs.
Plant Parts Used:
Aerial parts, essential oil.
Culinary and Herbal Remedy Use:
Thyme possesses both antiseptic and stimulating properties and these make the herb an effective tonic for the immune system in people enduring persistent fungal contagions as well as a useful medication for all types of chest infections, including whooping cough, bronchitis, and plAn infusion prepared with the thyme leaves is not only nice to taste, but also cures minor throat and chest infections. Often the thyme leaves are chewed raw to treat tender throats.
Many herbal medicine practitioners recommend the use of thyme in combination with other herbs to treat asthma. This type of combined herbal medication is very useful for children. The stimulating features of this aromatic herb stabilize the tranquilizing effect caused by many herbs used to treat asthma. In addition, thyme is also an effective medication to treat hay fever. Moreover, thyme is used extensively to expel worms from the stomach of small children.
When thyme is applied topically to the skin, it helps to alleviate pain and irritation owing to insect bites and stings. Topical application of the herb is also effective in relieving conditions, such as rheumatic pains and throbbing as well as sciatica (a painful disorder extending from the hip down the back of the thigh and surrounding area). The herb is also useful in treating fungal infections and scabies as well as lice. It is often prescribed for people having athlete’s foot, ringworm, and thrush (a disease caused by a parasitic fungus). When the infusion prepared with thyme leaves is blended with the bath water, it functions as refreshment.
Other Medical Use:
- Altitude sickness
- Temporomandibular joint syndrome or disorder / TMJ (TMD)
- Urinary incontinence
The common or garden thyme has multifaceted culinary properties and is virtually central in all kitchens. Freshly harvested thyme can be added to numerous dishes to add flavor and essence. Many chefs also like the dried thyme, which has an acute and sharp fragrance. Most of the herbs lose their essence when they are added early in dishes. However, unlike them, thyme – an essential element of the characteristic French bouquet garni, retains its flavor even when it is added early in the culinary process.
Thyme is widely used to add spice to seafood dishes like mussels and clams, tomato sauces as well as vegetables like onions, potatoes, carrots, peppers, eggplant, and zucchini. Garden thyme and clam and fish chowders go well together. The aromatic herb also blends perfectly with onion, garlic, wine, and brandy to add essence to different types of meats, inclusive of roasts and sausages, wild game, and even poultry. The herb is more effective when used in the preparation of dishes that require prolonged and leisurely cookery. The flavor of garden salads increases manifold if you add fresh thyme leaves and flowers to it. Fresh or dried leaves of this aromatic herb may also be added to butter and cooking oil to enhance essence.
You may prepare a cup of stimulating herbal tea by permeating about 15 ml or three teaspoonful mashed fresh thyme leaves in 250 ml or one cup of boiling water. Cover the container soon after adding the thyme leaves and allow it to soak for around 10 minutes before filtering the tea. Add honey to make the infusion sweet as well as enjoyable.
In addition, common or garden thyme is widely as well as commercially used to add flavor to olives, fried chicken, croutons, and poultry stuffing blends as well as liver pate. The essential oil extracted from this aromatic herb is utilized as preservatives. It is used to preserve butter and meat as well as in manufacturing ice cream, candy, chewing gum and the widely accepted liqueur Benedictine.
You may add the fragrant garden thyme in potpourris (blends of different dehydrated petals of roses or other flowers with spices, kept in a jar for their fragrance) and packets to add perfume.
Garden or common thyme is closely associated with the mother of thyme that is often referred to as wild thyme (scientific name Thymus serpyllum). This variety of thyme has a preference for light and well-drained soil that is also somewhat alkaline. In fact, garden thyme plants will not live for long if grown in heavy and wet soils. The recommended pH for growing garden or common thyme is between 4.5 and 8.0. Garden thyme develops and thrives best in places that receive full sunlight and where the plants don’t have to compete for sunlight or growing space.
Common or garden thyme can be propagated from its seeds, stem cuttings as well as layering. Layering is a method of propagating plants whereby a portion of an aerial stem grows roots while still attached to the parent plant and then detaches as an independent plant. If you are propagating garden thyme from its seeds, sow the seeds indoors approximately eight to ten weeks prior to the last date of frosting in your area. The seeds are usually sown shallow, in a depth of about 6 mm (one-fourth inch) or even less below the surface of the soil. It usually takes around two weeks’ time for the thyme seeds to germinate. When the threat of frost is over, you may transplant the seedlings in their permanent position outdoors. While transplanting the seedlings outdoors, remember to maintain a space of approximately 15 cm to 20 cm (6-8 inches) between two seedlings providing them enough space to grow.
To propagate garden thyme by means of stem cuttings, obtain the cuttings during the spring. Cut back a stem of a new growth from the top of the plant. Remove the leaves from the bottom part of the branch and place it in the drenched sand with a view to allowing it to develop roots. Propagation of the garden thyme through the layering procedure should also be done in the latter part of spring. Hold down a lowly positioned branch of an existing plant and plaster it with soil. Just leave the tip of the branch exposed. When the pinned sprig has developed roots, detach it from the mother plant. This is the normal procedure of propagation by means of layering and when this is complete, cut the pinned branch and plant it on the soil as a small plant to grow individually.
It is essential to divide the fully grown garden thyme plants once in every two to three years with a view to stopping them from becoming timbered and unkempt. Garden or common thyme plants are usually free from invasion of pests, but if proper care is not taken they will become vulnerable to root damage or rotting and leaf spot. The thyme plants need to be protected from frosting during the winter months, therefore, arrange for adequate mulching with leaves and straw during the cold period.
The common or garden thyme should be planted in a container having a depth of around 10 inches or 25 cm using the normal potting soil. You need to add some rough sand to the soil with a view to arranging for a proper drainage system. Let the pot become somewhat dry between two watering and add compost that is soluble in water blended at half strength once in every four weeks. Always keep the container or pot warm and in a place that receives adequate sunlight.
It is important to remember that the garden thyme plants need a cold period and also the fact that fully grown plants of this species do not develop properly when they are grown indoors. If you propagate garden thyme from its seeds indoors during the later phase of summer, they develop into young plants by the beginning of the winter and provide you with adequate amount fresh aromatic leaves during the cold months.
The volatile or unstable oil extracted from thyme plant is a potent antiseptic and one of its constituents called thymol is a very effectual anti-fungal element. The oil also possesses expectorant properties and helps to get rid of worms from the body. Apart from thymol, two other constituents of thyme – methyl chavicol and the flavonoids, are effective in alleviating muscle contractions. Studies conducted by scientists in Scotland in the 1990’s hinted that thyme, as well as the volatile oil extracted from the herb both, possesses considerable stimulant properties that not only endorse the body’s usual activities but also help in neutralizing the aging effects.
Components of Thyme:
- Volatile oil with variable content (thymol, methyl chavicol, cineole, borneol)
- Flavonoids (apigenin, luteolin)
Infusion, Essential Oil, Herbal Use:
The recommended dosage of the infusion prepared with thyme is 200 ml or 8 Fl. oz taken twice daily. If you are using a tincture prepared with thyme, the normal dosage is 2 ml or 40 drops taken thrice daily. Thyme can also be taken as syrup and this may be taken in combination with licorice and ingested for treating coughs and tender throats. You may take 10 ml or two teaspoons of the syrup three times daily.
The essential oil extracted from thyme may be used in combination with other oils in a base oil or alone. Use two drops of the thyme essential oil in 50 ml or four tablespoons of base oil and massage it on the body to invigorate the blood circulation as well as warm up the cold joints. The essential oil from thyme may also be utilized as an inhaler by adding it to water. Inhaling the watered down essential oil opens up the clogged airways. If you add the infusion prepared with thyme to your bath water, it will not only help you to unwind but also calm down the tender muscles.
Possible Side Effects and Precautions:
Since the oil extracted from thyme is volatile, caution needs to be exercised while using it. This oil may result in some side effects and some people using it may experience dermatitis (inflammation of the skin).
It is not advisable to use the thyme oil without consulting an experienced and competent medical practitioner or healthcare provider as it is venomous. Self-medication with this volatile herbal oil is strictly prohibited. Use of thymol, present in thyme oil, may also result in side effects, such as a headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and muscular debility. In addition, this volatile oil may also lead to the inhibition of the heart’s functioning, slow down respiration and also decrease the body temperature.
This aromatic herb is known to have an influence on the menstrual cycle; hence, its use is not recommended during pregnancy or for nursing mothers. Although consuming thyme during pregnancy seems to be harmless. This is primarily owing to the fact that the amount of the herb usually consumed is less than the therapeutic dosages.
How Thyme Works in the Body:
According to herbalist Culpeper, thyme is basically a medication to treat problems of the respiratory system. This property of the herb is again attributed to thymol present in the volatile oil extracted from thyme. The antiseptic and expectorant properties of thymol are effective for treating chest contagions as well as other respiratory disorders. In addition, thymol is also effective in treating problems of the urinary tract, where it is useful as an antiseptic. When thymol is used in combination with other ingredients they together function as an anti-spasmodic agent. Such combined usage of the herb has a tranquilizing influence that is especially used to treat asthma in children as well as people enduring hay fever. Additionally, the herb has an anti-larval function. The volatile oil obtained from thyme may be applied topically in base oil as a counter-irritant in the musculature system. In other words, the oil may be massaged to bring in blood to parts of the body to warm up cold joints in the instance of rheumatic problems.
- Aerial parts:
- INFUSION – The infusion prepared with thyme leaves is used to treat chest infections, irritable bowel syndrome as well as stomach chills.
TINCTURE – Tincture prepared with thyme leaves is taken to cure diarrhea related to stomach chills as well as an expectorant to heal chest infections.
SYRUP – Syrup prepared from thyme infusion may be taken in combination with honey to treat lung infections and cough.
GARGLE – You may use the thyme infusion or watered down tincture to heal tender throats.
- Essential oil:
- CHEST RUB – Blend approximately 10 drops of the essential oil extracted from thyme with 20 ml of almond or sunflower oil and massage it on the chest to treat chest contagions.
OIL – Blend 10 drops of the thyme essential oil with 20 ml of water and apply the solution topically to treat insect bites as well as contagious injuries. You may also add five drops of the essential oil to your bath water to treat arthritis as well as debility. When thyme oil is used with the bath water, it also has a stimulating effect.
MASSAGE OIL – Mix 10 drops of thyme oil and lavender oil with 25 ml of sunflower oil or almond oil and massage it on areas of the body to alleviate rheumatic pains and sprained muscles.
Thyme stems and leaves should be harvested just before the plant begins to blossom. Leaving around 5 cm or two inches from the ground cut the entire plant with the purpose of drying the leaves and stems for later use. During the remaining part of the season, only harvest the tips of the boughs so that the plants remain strong enough to stay alive through the fall and the winter months.
In order to dry the garden or common thyme, place the cut stems of the plants on a flat surface or hang them in bundles in any shady and arid place. Remove the dried leaves from the stems and store them in a sealed container. Alternately, you may also store the thyme stems by freezing them. To freeze the thyme stems, place them on a cookie tray and store them in sealed freezer sachets for use whenever needed.
Herbs for a Bouillon:
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 2 branches celery with leaves
- 1 sprig fresh parsley, or 1 tsp. dried
- 6 peppercorns
- 1 small carrot
- 1 medium onion, stuck with 5 whole cloves
- 1 Tbs. salt
Tie all the ingredients into a cheesecloth bag, and add to water for cooking fish, lobster, crabs, chicken, veal. This quantity flavors 2 quarts of cooking water.
Oil and Vinegar Dressing:
- 6 Tbs. olive oil, or vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 Tbs. vinegar
- 1/8 tsp. dry mustard
- 1/4 tsp. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
- 2 tsp. minced fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried
Process all ingredients in a blender set on low for 1 minute.
Makes 1/4 cup.