Thymus vulgaris


Thyme has been considered a valuable culinary and medicinal herb since the days of old. Though most people consider it no more than a cooking spice, thyme possesses powerful antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, antiparasitic, tonic and expectorant properties.

Grandmothers have long used thyme as an antiseptic mouthwash and as a gargle to relieve sore throat. I use infusion, or 20 drops of thyme tincture in a cup of water, as a gargle or rinse.

My friends in Southern Italia told me that the healing properties of timo are due, at least in part, to high energy-giving substances contained in its essential oil, notably two carbolic acids: thymol, which is an antiseptic, antispasmodic and anthelmintic and carvacrol, an antiseptic which is also widely used in perfumery. In the folk pharmacopoeia of Southern Italia, timo is considered an excellent antiseptic and vulnerary for wounds and sores. An infusion of leaves and flowers is used as an anthelmintic, specific for Trichocephalus and Anchilostumu duodenale (European hookworm). In veterinary medicine, thyme is administered as a decoction and given to cows, in order to help placenta expulsion after a difficult delivery.

Antispasmodic thyme is useful for easing coughs, especially dry coughs, and is widely used to help bring up phlegm. German studies show thyme possesses strong expectorant properties and is relaxing to the respiratory tract. Old wives say "thyme is to the windpipe what mint is to the stomach." I find this is true. When dealing with a hard-to-shake lung infection, use 20 drops of fresh plant tincture, or a cup of dried plant infusion, twice daily and also poultice the chest with the strained-out plant material.

Thyme is useful for fighting bacterial and fungal infections. Both thymol and carvacrol also possess preservative, antibacterial and antifungal properties. To inhibit the fungus responsible for athlete's foot, jock itch and vaginal yeast overgrowth, I grind dried thyme into a powder, mix it with a bit of clay and arrowroot powder and dust this over the afflicted area.

Thymol makes thyme a useful disinfectant. I've cleaned kitchen counters, sink and floors with a strong thyme infusion mixed with vinegar or with thyme vinegar diluted in a pail of water.

Thyme's rich essential oils, easily available in teas, help the stomach and liver produce more digestive enzymes and acids. It is a soothing ally for relieving stomach distress, helping allay nausea, expel gas and relieve acid indigestion.

Hildegard von Bingen considered thyme the herb of choice for treating skin problems. Infused in oil, thyme soothes eczema and psoriasis, dry flaky skin and red, irritated conditions. Thyme essential oil diluted in a bland oil and used topically may relieve parasitic conditions such as lice and scabies.

Our European ancestors smoked thyme to ease headaches and treat drowsiness. They often combined it with other smoking herbs such as rosemary, mullein or coltsfoot. Ancient Egyptians used thyme in the embalming process. It is similar to rosemary and sage in its "meat-preserving" properties! Thyme has also been used as a local anesthetic, to help expel worms and as a bug repellent, especially against gnats and mosquitoes. Combining the dried herb and flowers with lavender will protect linens from insects and make your sheets smell wonderful.

Flower Essence Thyme flower essence encourages us to be aware of Nature spirits and other beneficial elements in our environment.

Magical Lore Thyme is an herb of protection, especially against insects and dangerous creatures. Thyme brings the gifts of courage and ambition. It has been burned as a funeral herb, to help establish communion with the departed, to ask their advice or offer them a blessing. Old wives say burning thyme invokes the faerie folk.

Culture Thyme is easy to grow and thrives in a sandy, rocky and dry area. We broadcast thyme seeds in a bed outside in spring and keep it well weeded. We've also started the seeds indoors and transplanted the seedlings out in clumps so they can support each other. Thyme beds need to be scrupulously weeded while the plants are small. There is an old saying that "who weeds thyme cultivates patience." I have found this to be true.

Thyme is a perennial, evergreen, shrubby plant that grows six to twelve inches high. It is covered with tiny, thick dark green leaves and pretty little pale-purple flowers. Those flowers are beloved by honey bees. Thyme presents a dainty yet rugged presence in the garden. I especially like to plant it with lavender. The two seem to love growing together and bring out the best of each other.

I harvest sprigs of strongly aromatic thyme with leaves and flowers, gathering whole stems at the peak of bloom. I dry them on screens or hang in small bunches. I tincture fresh leaves and flowers in alcohol, and infuse them in oil, honey or vinegar. Thyme honey is excellent for dealing with colds or bronchial congestion. 

Decongestant Formula Combine dried thyme with coltsfoot, hyssop and mullein and use as an infusion. Omit the coltsfoot if making this formula as a tincture.

WARNING! Do not use thyme in medicinal quantities if you are pregnant. It possesses uterine-stimulating properties.

Return to Materia Medica