You probably have the dried variety of this herb in your spice cabinet. But, you may or may not know all of its benefits. Thyme (thymus vulgaris) has a rich history as a healing herb. Not only does it smell good and add a fragrant flavor to many dishes, it has a wide array of medicinal uses and it’s easy to grow! Read on to see exactly why you should start growing thyme right now.
“Thymus” is derived from the Egyptian word “tham”, which means “strong smelling.” In Greek, however, thymus is said to translate to courage. As a result, sprigs were given to knights before they went into battle. Historically, thyme was used in embalming in Egypt and as an incense in Greek temples. It was also used to purify rooms, ward off nightmares, and used in public rooms to ward off disease.
As a medicine, thyme’s uses are equally varied. It’s been used for its healing properties by all early Mediterranean civilizations and was mentioned in writings by both Hippocrates and Dioscorides.
Thyme has antiseptic (it was used to medicate bandages in ancient times), antispasmodic, anti-parasitic, and anti-fungal properties. It can be used to calm skin problems, ease digestion, and fight a sore throat. Here are just a few of the known health benefits of thyme:
- Great for respiratory problems like whooping cough, emphysema, and bronchitis, inhaling thyme vapors can loosen congestion and open up airways.
- Inflammation and infection can be fought with a poultice of thyme. Use dried thyme and water to make a thick paste. Spread it on a small fabric and apply the herb directly to the affected area. Hold or tie in place.
- Thyme can kill athlete’s foot and other fungi.
- It calms the muscles of the digestive system, making it a great cure-all for stomach upsets and digestive woes.
- Applied as a skin tonic, a thyme “tea” can reduce oiliness and prevent acne. It can similarly be used as a rinse for oily scalp.
- Flavanoids like apigenin, thymonin, and luteolin make thyme a great source of health-protective antioxidants.
- Thyme can also help boost immune function and help the body fight infection.
- Taken before bed as a tea, thyme can reduce cortisol levels and help you relax.
Thyme is easy to grow and will do well in a summer garden or in a pot. There are several varieties of thyme, including a lemon thyme that makes a great tea, and creeping varieties that make a pretty ground-cover – though common thyme (T.vulgaris) is the most commonly used in the kitchen and in the herbalist’s workspace.
It prefers hot and dry conditions, so choose it’s location according to this. Somewhere that gets full sun throughout the day is best. It likes dry and coarse soil; over-watering your thyme is the quickest way to kill it, so go light on the moisture.
When the plant begins to produce flowers, you can cut it and dry. Either hang it upside down in a clean and dry place, or use a food dehydrator. Having dried thyme ensures you will be able to reap it’s benefits even in the colder months when your plant isn’t producing.
Use thyme in your cooking for flavor and preventative care, but also in teas, tinctures, and poultices as needed.
A simple thyme tea can be made with a few tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves or a few teaspoons of your dried collection. Pour boiled water overtop and allow to steep for a few moments before drinking.
A hot thyme bath can expose you to its airway-opening vapors while relaxing you at the same time. This is also a great solution if you are under stress or suffering from anxiety. Just add thyme to your hot bathwater and enjoy.
There are many medicinal uses and applications for this herb. Best of all, it’s a simple addition to your home herb garden. Start growing thyme today.