Amazing Herb No Home Should Be Without
Thyme is an herb belonging to the mint family. Its leaves are very small, curled and oval-shaped, each measuring about 1/8 inch long and 1/16 inch wide. The upper leaf is a green-gray color and the underside is whitish. There are at least 350 species of thyme, the most common being thymus vulgaris. This is the variety you likely have in your spice rack and it is generally labeled as “garden thyme” or “common thyme.”
Thymol and carvacol are the major volatile oil components and it is the thymol that gives thyme its distinctive flavor and aroma.
Did you know this about Thyme?
- Thyme has been used since ancient times and has a strong history in the culinary, medicinal and even mystical arenas.
- Ancient Greeks and Romans burned thyme as they believed it would purify their homes and temples. It was also believed that it increased mental awareness and courage in those who inhaled it, and it was a tradition to give the gift of thyme to men going off to battle.
- Roman emperors added thyme to bathwater as they believed that it could protect them from poisons and impart energy.
- In Victorian England it was believed that a patch of wild thyme in the woods was evidence that woodland fairies had danced the night away on those exact grounds. The flowers provide sweet nectar for bees, known to be tiny messengers among the fairies.
- Drinking thyme tea and placing sprigs of thyme under the pillow was thought to induce sleep and prevent nightmares.
Health Benefits of Thyme
Antioxidant, Antiviral, Antibacterial, Immune Boosting, Respiratory Health
Thyme has historically been used in the treatment of infections, particularly those affecting the respiratory and digestive systems. Thyme has been shown to reduce symptoms of asthma, whooping cough, laryngitis, bronchitis, and dry coughs. In fact, Hippocrates often referred to as the “father of medicine”, prescribed the following recipe: “Boil in one pound of water, three tablespoons of thyme and leave it in the water for 10 minutes. Drink two glasses per day to cure bronchitis.”
One study, published in 2012, looked at the antimicrobial activity of thyme essential oil against clinical multi-drug resistant strains of Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Pseudomonas genus and found that “Thyme essential oil strongly inhibited the growth of the clinical strains of bacteria tested.”
Another interesting research study published in the British Journal of Nutrition indicated that thyme oil may help to improve brain function and showed the potential benefit of thyme oil as a dietary antioxidant.
Research performed at Leeds Metropolitan University found that a thyme tincture was more effective at treating acne than benzoyl peroxide, the active ingredient most often found in acne medications and cleansers.
Thyme is a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron, Potassium and Manganese. Vitamin A is vital for maintaining healthy tissues as well as supporting the immune system, bone development, eye health and protecting nerve fibers. Vitamin C also boosts immune health, as well as protects against cancer, promotes wound healing and acts as an antioxidant by protecting DNA and RNA from free radical damage.
The Ancient Greeks used thyme sprigs to preserve wine and fruit. Pliny the Elder, a first-century Roman author, naturalist, and philosopher, used thyme to preserve meat. It has even been said that this herb was sprinkled on sacrificial animals to make them more appealing to the gods.
Prior to the introduction of modern-day refrigeration and food safety laws, thyme was often added to recipes to prevent spoilage and foodborne disease.
Sadly, in modern society processed and fast foods are a staple in many people’s diets and these foods come chock full of artificial preservatives that pose a number of serious health risks including hyperactivity and an increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. It does seem, however, that as research continues to provide evidence that longer shelf life may mean a shortened lifespan for those consuming the preservative laced foods, there is a regained interest in going back to more natural means of preservation.
As reported in Food Science and Technology International, “Thyme oil showed a promising inhibitory activity even at low concentrations, thus revealing its potential as a natural preservative in food products against several causal agents of foodborne diseases and food spoilage.”
A 2009 American Chemical Society presentation provided research data surrounding so-called “killer spices” or “essential oil pesticides” that pose less risk to human and animal health than all of the chemical-laden conventional pesticides. It appears that the oil of thyme, along with rosemary, clove, and mint, is proving to be successful at controlling garden pests, and that pests are less likely to develop resistance to these natural extracts than they are to their conventional counterparts.
Infusing your favorite olive oil with a few sprigs of thyme makes a great flavored cooking or dipping oil.
The combination of thyme, garlic, basil, and oregano is a great addition to the marinara sauce that can be used to top pasta or even pizza.
Try this Sweet Onion and Thyme Pasta Salad—it makes a great meal or side dish on a warm summer evening! The earthy taste and aroma of thyme complement the tomatoes and sweet onion making this pasta salad a standout!
- 8-10 ounces uncooked pasta of choice (brown rice pasta pictured as a gluten free option)
- 1 cup cooked peas, drained and cooled
- 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 1/4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- Whisk together dressing ingredients.
- Add peas, tomatoes and onion to pasta. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently to coat. Refrigerate 2 hours before serving.