Thyme, also known as French Thyme and Garden Thyme, is a popular herb used as spice in cuisines to enhance the taste and flavor of the food. It has a strong fragrance that works wonders with the food. Apart from culinary benefits, Thyme is also known worldwide for its medicinal properties. It is also a dietary supplement used to treat variety of diseases.
The word Thyme is extracted from a Greek word “Thumus” that means “courage”. Greeks were so fascinated by the aroma of this herb that they named it “Thyme” which means “to fumigate”.
Let’s explore about the Thyme herb today.
Botanical Classification of Thyme (1)
I know only a student of botany is interested in knowing about the classification of a plant but I think no description of a plant is complete without its classification.
Species: Thymus spp.
Thymus genus consists of 6 species out of which 4 are mentioned below:
Eurasian Thyme: Thymus kosteletzkyanus Opiz
Creeping Thyme: Thymus praecox Opiz ssp. arcticus (Durand) Jalas
Lemon Thyme: Thymus pulegioides L.
Garden Thyme: Thymus vulgaris L.
Description of Thyme Plant
Thyme is a perennial shrub that reaches up to 40 cm in height. The leaves are curled, very small in size and elliptical in shape. The leaves are aromatic and have pungent smell. The leaves on the top of the shrub are grayish green in color while lower side of leaves are whitish in color. The stem is hard. The flowers are light violet in color with hairy and glandular calyx.
Thyme plant is native to Southern Europe but grown in Australia, North Asia, USA, Canada and North Africa (2).
They prefer to grow in mild climates and in the hills. It is named by different names in different countries. In India, it is known as “Banajwain“.
Chemical Composition of Thyme
For better understanding of a plant, it is good to know the chemicals present inside it. These phytochemicals make a plant different from another. Let’s see what all are present inside a Thyme plant.
Thymol and carvacrol are important phenolic compounds found in Thyme (3,4). It is also rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin K and iron. It also contains copper, potassium, calcium, magnesium and manganese. Flavonoids present in Thyme are zeaxanthin, lutein, thymonin, etc.
Benefits of Thyme
Thyme has been used for centuries to treat human ailments and other diseases. Egyptians also used Thyme for its medicinal uses. This plant is mentioned in many sacred and religious books all around the world.
Ayurveda suggests that Thyme is an astringent, antiseptic, expectorant, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory in nature. According to Ayurveda, this plant can be effectively used to treat respiratory diseases, colic problems and dental issues. Let’s see some of the important uses of Thyme.
Thyme has been also mentioned in the oldest Egyptian book of medicine, the Ebers Papyrus (1550 BC). In Bible, Thyme is mentioned as the bed of Jesus Christ during birth. In 3000 BC, the Sumerians used Thyme as an antiseptic to treat infection.
Greeks used to burn Thyme in temples due to its strong aroma. Romans used Thyme herbs as flavoring agent in alcoholic beverages. Egyptians used Thyme herb to preserve meat. In Europe, Thyme herb was used to aid sleep and relax mind by placing Thyme beneath the pillows.
Culinary Uses of Thyme
Dried and fresh leaves of Thyme are used as a spice to enhance the flavor of the food. To keep the flavor of Thyme intact, it is always advisable to sprinkle Thyme leaves at the final stage of recipe preparation. It is also used with other spices like bay leaf, cumin, parsley, etc. It is also added in soups, curries and used as stuffing and marinating chicken, fish and mutton.
Medicinal Uses of Thyme
Thyme leaves, flowers and essential oil are used for medicinal purposes. Thyme is known for its antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-ulcer properties. It is also anti-inflammatory and analgesic in nature. It is widely used to kill parasitic worms and insects. It is used to treat acne, bronchitis, sore throat, colic pain, arthritis, diarrhea, constipation, tonsillitis, urinary diseases, fungal infection, high blood pressure, etc. Thyme essential oil is also used as a mouthwash to prevent bad breath and to prevent tooth decay. Recent study shows that Thyme extract is effective against treating chronic respiratory diseases (5).
Other Uses of Thyme
Thyme oil is used for making perfumes, scented soaps, cosmetics and even toothpaste. It is also used as an insecticide to kill mosquitoes.
Side effects of Thyme
Thyme is safe for daily consumption, and topical application. However, some people might experience stomach upset or headache after use. It can be safely consumed by children and pregnant women. Thyme can be safely used in combination with other herbs.
How to Store Thyme?
Thyme can be stored in your kitchen in fresh form and dried form. Store fresh Thyme leaves in refrigerator after wrapping it in a paper towel. Dried Thyme leaves can be easily stored in an air-tight glass container at dry place for 6 months.
You can also buy fresh or dried Thyme from the market and herb stores near you and explore the amazing benefits of this herb yourself.
In the next post I will give detailed description of medicinal properties of Thyme. Till then stay healthy and happy.