Herbs have been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes for decades. They have formed an important part of our diet and culture apart from being used in traditional medicine. A member of the mint family, thyme is widely used in Mediterranean cuisine. Its name is attributed to the presence of thymol which belongs to the naturally occurring class of compounds known as biocides. These biocides have the potential to destroy harmful organisms.
Thyme is available in several varieties of which garden thyme is the most common. In summer, it bears tiny fragrant, lilac or white-colored flowers. It has grey green leaves, a sweetly earthy flavor and a pungent minty lemon-like aroma. Another variety is lemon thyme which has a more pronounced lemony aroma.
It is a plant known since ancient times; the Egyptians used it in the embalming and later the Greeks used the plant to scent. The Romans also used the thyme in their baths. It’s hard to imagine continental cuisine without the aromatic addition of thyme. But its antimicrobial properties are what get researchers excited.
If you’ve used Listerine or a similar mouthwash — or even some green household cleaners — chances are it contained thymol, a volatile oil component of thyme. A 2004 study showed that thyme oil was able to decontaminate lettuce with Shigella, a particularly nasty type of food poisoning, and other studies suggest it’s also effective against staph and E. coli.
The essence of Thyme is responsible for the following benefits: toning, appetite stimulants, eupeptic, expectorant, antiseptic, anthelmintic and antifungal. Phenol acids and flavonoids reinforce the antiseptic action, and the latter also gives a diuretic action.
Thyme has been used against whooping cough, chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes, asthma, stomach pain, digestive disorders and diarrhea. It´s also been used as a mosquito repellent. It has expectorant effects, which make it special in inhalations for dry cough and bronchial tube. It energizes, stimulates, tones, strengthens, cleanses and purifies.
For external use: dermatitis, boils, skin infections, dermatomycosis, vaginitis, conjunctivitis, otitis, rhinitis, sinusitis, rheumatic pain, stomatitis, dental pain, alopecia, ulcers, bruises, sprains, burns.
Here are a couple of ways to consume thyme:
The following drink will help you use the potent properties of thyme:
- a handful of thyme (fresh or dried)
- 1 cup of water
- honey (optional)
Wash the thyme and place it in a cup. Boil the water, and pour it over the thyme. Leave it for a few minutes, and then strain it to eliminate the solid parts. You can add honey to taste to sweeten the drink.
Thyme is used for adding layers of flavor without being overwhelming. It’s commonly used to season soups, sauces, and braises. It also makes a welcome addition in potatoes, rice dishes, vegetables and even fresh bread. And it pairs well with other Mediterranean herbs like oregano and marjoram, and is used throughout Italian, French, and of course, Mediterranean cooking.
So try out thyme whether you use it as a spice or a delicious tea and enjoy its wonderful benefits.