Thyme isn’t just one of the most popular culinary herbs today — it also has a long, long history of use as a medicinal healer and protector. Back in the Roman era, it was consumed to prevent poisoning and put in baths to stop the effects of poisoning once it already happened. In the days before refrigeration and food safety laws, including it in recipes gave you at least some protection against spoiled meat and food-borne illness. Prior to modern antibiotics coming on the scene, thyme oil was used to medicate bandages.
You might not even realize that you have used this herb medicinally in your life before — thymol, thyme’s most active ingredient, is used in Listerine mouthwash and Vicks VapoRub because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties. The fact that these classics, although not very natural, products choose to use thymol as a key ingredient speaks to the undeniable medicinal benefits of this versatile herb.
Read on to learn about this awesome herb that is super easy to incorporate into your daily life for a wide range of health-boosting effects.
History of Thyme
Long ago, the Egyptians cleverly used thyme for embalming. It made a perfect embalming agent since its high thymol content kills off bacteria and fungus.
Back in ancient times, it was associated with courage, bravery, and strength. Roman soldiers exchanged sprigs of the herb as a sign of respect. Both Greeks and Romans burned bundles of thyme to purify their homes and temples. They also commonly used it medicinally in their bathwater.
In the European Middle Ages, the herb was nestled under pillows to encourage restful sleep. It was also placed on coffins during funerals because it was believed that this would assure passage into the next life.
Thyme is also one of the herbs used in the classic and aromatic Benedictine liqueur developed in 19th century France.
Health Benefits of Thyme
In general, thyme is excellent at supporting the immune and respiratory systems as well as the digestive, nervous and other body systems. It’s a serious powerhouse when it comes to staying healthy. Check out some of the top ways this herb can help improve your health.
1. Fights Sore Throats
Thyme oil is one of the strongest, natural antimicrobials, making it a serious weapon against sore throats. Its carvacrol content is a major reason why it’s one of the top essential oils for sore throat relief. (1)
One recent study conducted by the Medical and Sanitary Microbiology Department at the Medical University of Lodz in Poland tested thyme oil’s response to 120 different strains of bacteria isolated from patients with infections of the oral cavity, respiratory tract, and genitourinary tract. The results of the experiments showed that the oil from the thyme plant exhibited extremely strong activity against all of the clinical strains. It even demonstrated a good efficacy against antibiotic-resistant strains. (2) Next time you have a sore throat, make sure to add this herb to your soup and have some soothing and germ-killing thyme tea!
2. Lowers Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels
The ingestion of thyme has been shown to produce antihypertensive activity, which makes it a great herbal choice for anyone suffering from high blood pressure symptoms. A recent animal study found that the extract was able to significantly reduce the heart rate of subjects with high blood pressure. The extract was also shown to reduce cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL levels while increasing HDL cholesterol levels. (3) Instead of overdoing it on salt, try adding more beneficial herbs like thyme to your daily meals.
3. Prevents Food Poisoning
Thyme has the ability not only to prevent food contamination but to decontaminate previously contaminated foods as well. In several studies published in Food Microbiology, researchers found that the herb’s essential oil was able to decontaminate lettuce inoculated with Shigella, an infectious organism that causes diarrhea and can lead to major intestinal damage. Washing produce in a solution containing just 1 percent of the oil decreased the number of Shigella bacteria below the point of detection. (4)
By adding it to your next meal, you can actually decrease your likelihood of a food-borne illness. Try adding fresh thyme to your next homemade salad to make those raw greens even healthier and safer to consume!
4. Boosts Your Mood
The carvacrol found in this medicinal herb has been studied and shown to have some very positive mood-boosting effects. Research published in 2013 showed that when carvacrol was administered for seven consecutive days to animals, it was able to increase both dopamine and serotonin levels in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Dopamine and serotonin are two key neurotransmitters when it comes to your mood.
The data from this study suggests that carvacrol is a brain-active molecule that clearly influences brain activity through the modulation of neurotransmitters. If thyme is regularly ingested in low concentrations, this study suggests that it might improve feelings of well-being. (5)
5. May Fight Cancer
The properties in this herb have been shown to fight against tumors and cancer. More specifically, carvacrol is a major component of the essential oil that displays antitumor properties, making this beneficial plant a potential cancer-fighting food.
One recent study out of China and published in Anti-Cancer Drugs found that carvacrol inhibited the proliferation and migration of the two colon cancer cell lines. Overall, research shows that carvacrol has therapeutic potential for both the prevention and treatment of colon cancer. (6)
6. Naturally Remedies Bronchitis
Thyme has been used for centuries for the treatment of coughs and bronchitis. A study conducted by the Practice for Internal Medicine and Pneumology in Germany used an oral treatment that was a combination of thyme and ivy. The group treated with this combination had a 50 percent reduction in coughing fits that was achieved two days earlier than the placebo group. In addition, the group treated with this combination had no more adverse events than the placebo group and no serious adverse events at all. (7)
Further research confirms this and suggests this herb makes an effective bronchitis natural remedy as well. (8)
7. Treatment of Acne:
Thyme possesses amazing anti-bacterial properties. It is effective in fighting the bacteria that causes skin acne. Thyme is often incorporated as an ingredient in acne creams and face washes.
8. Maintains Skin Health:
Thyme helps in maintaining skin health by eliminating the bacteria that is responsible for causing various skin problems. Thyme essential oil can be diluted with water and used as a toner to tighten mature skin. It is gentle on your skin and can be used for all skin types.
9. Treatment of Athlete’s Foot:
The antifungal properties of thyme make it beneficial for the treatment of athlete’s foot.
10. Stimulates Hair Growth:
Delivery of nutrients to the hair follicles is vital for hair growth. Thyme improves blood circulation to the scalp. Rubbing an oil mixture with thyme in it or thyme essential oil benefits in facilitating the delivery of nutrients to the scalp and encourages hair growth besides making it healthier and shinier.
11. Treatment of Hair Thinning:
If you are experiencing hair thinning or hair loss, thyme essential oil is a great remedy. Usage of thyme oil for hair either by itself or with other ingredients can make your hair thick and lustrous as well as combat hair loss.
12. Treatment of Dandruff:
Due to its antibacterial properties, thyme essential oil can clear dirt from the entire scalp and is effective in the treatment of dandruff. This herb is often used as an ingredient in shampoos, conditioners and scalp treatments.
It should be kept in mind that there are different types of thyme, the two main varieties being red thyme and white thyme. Excess use of red thyme for hair can cause skin irritation; it is advisable to utilize white thyme in hair mixtures.
13. Anti-inflammatory Properties:
As per research, thyme contains several anti-inflammatory properties which are effective in preventing chronic inflammation in the body. It can help you get rid of your acne problems.
14. Treatment of Indigestion:
Thyme tea is known to promote good digestion, and reduce gas and bloating. This herb contains volatile oils which can cure intestinal cramping.
15. Treatment of Respiratory Disorders:
The antiseptic and antibiotic properties of thyme make it an effective remedy for respiratory conditions like coughs and bronchitis as well as cold and sore throat. You can prepare your own thyme tea by steeping a couple of leaves in warm water and allowing it to brew. Sweeten it with some honey. Regular consumption of this tea will help to treat respiratory conditions and cold. In case of throat ache, you can boil water along with thyme and gargle with it. Thyme is a proven natural remedy for bronchitis.
16. Bone Health:
Thyme is an excellent source of Vitamin K and a great source of iron, calcium, and manganese. These minerals play a crucial role in bone health, promoting proper bone growth and development, and reducing the risk of bone disorders. Thyme helps in sustaining powerful, healthy bones and preventing bone diseases.
17. Cardiovascular Benefits:
The amazing combination of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of thyme helps prevent chronic inflammation which is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease. Thyme oil is particularly beneficial in this regard as its anti-spasmodic property promotes cardiac health. It enables the proper functioning of the cardiac valves and relaxes the veins and arteries, reducing blood pressure and strengthening the heart. It is considered a great tonic to improve heart health as it enables your heart to function more efficiently.
18. Treatment of Muscle Cramps:
One of the top health benefits of thyme is its effectiveness in treating menstrual cramps and other types of spasms in the body. Thyme tea is often recommended for treating PMS as well as menstrual cramps in women.
19. Improves Vision:
Thyme is also rich in Vitamin A which is a fat-soluble vitamin and an antioxidant. This vitamin helps promote healthy vision and minimize eye diseases.
20. Anti-bacterial Properties:
The antibacterial properties of thyme benefits to fight different varieties of bacteria and fungi, E.coli being one of them. Thyme oil extract has been found to possess fighting power against antibiotic-resistant strains of different types of bacteria. It can kill off bacteria both inside and outside the body. Thyme tea is also used to disinfect the skin and surfaces.
21. Prevention and Treatment of Anaemia:
Thyme is an excellent source of iron, providing nearly 20 % of the daily recommended allowance of this mineral. Iron is vital for the development of red blood cells and energy production. Deficiency of iron can cause anemia, exhaustion and increased susceptibility to infection. Incorporating thyme in your diet helps in the prevention and treatment of anemia and other blood disorders.
22. Oral Health:
The antibacterial properties of thyme make it one of the popular remedies for bad breath as it helps fight bacteria and infection in your mouth. Increase in bacteria in the mouth is responsible for causing bad breath. Thyme is also used as an ingredient in antiseptic mouthwashes meant to cure cavities and gingivitis.
23. Boosts the Immune System:
Thyme is loaded with antioxidants which keep your body healthy by preventing infections and ailments. The volatile oils in thyme benefit the mind by increasing favorable omega 3 fatty acids within the brain, keeping your body cells healthy and slowing down the aging process. Fatty acids assist in constructing the cell walls and also preserve the structure of the nervous system, the brain, and arteries. Being a strong antioxidant, thyme helps protect these fats from damage caused by free radicals. Thyme is considered a great energy tonic to promote a person’s longevity.
24. Diuretic Properties:
Thyme oil is considered a great diuretic which assists the body in getting rid of excess salts, water, and other toxins by increasing urination. These properties make it beneficial for weight loss and lowering blood pressure. It is also useful for individuals with chronic renal failure.
25. Other Benefits:
The tiger mosquito, commonly known as Aedes mosquito is native to the tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia. It is responsible for causing yellow fever, dengue fever, and chikungunya fever. Research conducted by the American Mosquito Control Association observed that a combination of thymol, carvacrol, and alpha-terpinene in thyme can destroy the Tiger mosquito larvae, preventing the incidence of these diseases. Thyme is also effective in killing intestinal worms such as round worms and tape worms, maggots in sores and hookworm.
How to Use Thyme
This herb is easily and readily available both fresh and dried year-round. Fresh thyme is more flavorful, but it’s also less convenient. If you purchase it fresh, it can last a week or two in the refrigerator. Dried thyme should be stored in a cool, dark place and ideally used within six months.
The dried version can be substituted for the fresh kind in most recipes. One teaspoon of dried leaves is equivalent to one tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme.
This herb can be consumed in a variety of ways. The most common is as a fresh or dried herb in any culinary creation. For medicinal purposes, it can be purchased in the form of a tea, tincture, supplement or essential oil.
When it comes to using it in your kitchen and daily life, dried or fresh thyme makes such a healthy and tasty addition to chicken, fish, beef, lamb, vegetables (especially green beans, eggplant, carrots and zucchini), cheese (especially goat cheese), pasta dishes, soups, stocks, sauces, dressings and marinades for starters. The options are really endless. If you like the taste, you can add it to just about any dish you like.
Thyme Nutritional Value
The amazing thyme benefits can be attributed to its rich nutritional value. The nutrients in thyme have disease-preventing and health-promoting properties. This aromatic herb is loaded with phytonutrients, minerals, and vitamins which are vital for good health. The in-depth nutritional profile of this herb is explained in the table given below.
- Vitamins: Thуme is also a good source of vitamins. It is particularly rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Vitamin A is an antioxidant, vital for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin as well as good vision. Vitamin C provides resistance against infectious diseases and fights harmful pro-inflammatory free radicals. Among the B-complex vitamins, it is a good source of Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine with a 100-gram serving providing about 0.35 mg or 27% of the daily recommended intake of this vitamin. This vitamin assists in maintaining GABA levels in the brain and acts as a stress buster. Other vitamins found in this herb include Vitamin K, Vitamin E, and folic acid.
- Minerals: Thуme is packed with minerals that are vital for optimum health. Its leaves are excellent sources of potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and selenium. Potassium, being an important component of cells and body fluids, controls heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. Iron is involved in red blood cell formation.
- Volatile oils: Thymol is one of the most important essential oils found in thуme and known for its antiseptic and antifungal properties. It also contains other volatile oils such as carvacrol, geraniol, and borneol.
- Antioxidants: Thуme is a rich source of flavonoid phenolic antioxidants such as zeaxanthin, pigenin, lutein, luteolin, and thymonin. Fresh thуme has the highest level of antioxidants among all herbs. It boasts of a total ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) of 27426-µmol TE/100 grams.
Side Effects & Safety
LIKELY SAFE when consumed in normal food amounts. Thуme is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth as medicine for short periods of time. In some people, it can cause digestive system upset, headache, or dizziness.
Thymeoil is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin. In some people, applying the oil to the skin can cause irritation. There isn’t enough information to know whether thymeoil is safe to take by mouth in medicinal doses.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Children: LIKELY SAFE when consumed by children in normal food amounts. POSSIBLY SAFE when taken as medicine for short periods of time. There isn’t enough information to know whether thymeoil is safe for children when applied to the skin or taken by mouth.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding: LIKELY SAFE for pregnant and breastfeeding women when consumed in normal food amounts. But it’s not known whether it’s safe to use thуme in larger medicinal amounts. Stick to amounts food naturally in foods if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Allergy to oregano and similar plants: People who are allergic to oregano or other Lamiaceae species might also be allergic to thуme.
Bleeding disorders: Thуme might slow blood clotting. Taking thуme might increase your risk of bleeding, especially if used in large amounts.
Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Thyme might act like estrogen in the body. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use thyme.
Surgery: Thyme might slow blood clotting, so there is some concern that it might increase the risk of extra bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using thyme at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs) interacts with THYME
Thуme might slow blood clotting. Taking thуme along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.<br><nb>Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.
The appropriate dose of thуme depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for thуme. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.
Thyme is a seriously impressive plant when it comes to its use in the kitchen as a tasty and extremely healthy fresh or dried her, and it’s packed with disease-fighting nutrients and antioxidants. It can even decrease your risk of food poisoning!
It also has a long history and proven track record as a natural medicine that can fight off bacteria, lower blood pressure, improve your immune system, boost your mood and has even been shown to fight some types of cancer.
The easiest way to make this common herb a part of your daily life is to make sure you keep some dried thуme on hand at all times so you can add it to your meals quickly and easily. You should also opt for fresh thуme when you think of it for an even more powerful punch of flavor and aroma!