Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Thyme is the leaf of a low-growing shrub in the mint family called Thymus vulgaris. Its tiny grayish-green leaves rarely are greater than one-fourth inch long. For use as a condiment, Thyme leaves are dried then chopped, or ground. There are many varieties of thyme, the most popular being garden thyme, which gives off a minty, light-lemony scent. Other varieties include English, French, caraway-scented, and lemon thyme. They all have tiny leaves.
Culinary Thyme aids the digestion of fatty foods and is part of Benedictine liqueur. It is ideal for for the long, slow cooking of stews and soups. Thyme oil is distilled from the leaves and flowering tops and is a stimulant and antiseptic. It is a nerve tonic used externally to treat depression, colds, muscular pain, and respiratory problems. The oil is added to acne lotions, soaps and mouthwashes. Research has confirmed Thyme strengthens the immune system. Thyme fights several disease-causing bacteria and fungi. Try sprinkling dried herb on your wounds. The antispasmodic action soothes the muscle tissue of the gastrointestinal tract.
The primary chemical constituents of Thyme include essential oil (borneol, carvacrol, cymol, linalool, thymol), bitter principle, tannin, flavonoids (apigenin, luteolin), saponins, and triterpenic acids. Small amounts of this herb are sedative, whereas larger amounts are stimulant. Thyme is used against hookworm, roundworms, and threadworms. Thyme also warms and stimulates the lungs, expels mucus, and relieves congestion. It also helps deter bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. Both constituents thymol and carvacrol have a relaxing effect upon the gastrointestinal tract's smooth muscles. This herb has had many culinary uses over the years, including its use in soups, stews, vegetables, chicken, jams, fruit salads, bouquet garnishes, gumbos, and Benedictine liqueur. Thyme aids in the digestion of high fat foods, and has been used to preserve meat.
Thyme honey, made when bees collect pollen from Thyme flowers, is excellent. Known topical applications include its use as a gargle & mouthwash for dental decay, laryngitis, mouth sores, plaque formation, sore throat, thrush, tonsillitis, and bad breath. Thyme has been used as a compress for lung congestion such as asthma, bronchitis, colds and flu, and as a poultice for wounds, mastitis, insect bites and stings. It has also been used as an eyewash for sore eyes, and as a hair rinse for dandruff. The essential oil is added to soaps and antidepressant inhalations. The common name Thyme includes the species Thymus serpyllum, which is used interchangeably with Thymus vulgaris.