Identification: A small perennial plant with spicy taste and odor. The numerous square stems grow up to 6 inches high and are finely hairy. The leaves are opposite, oval, entire (not toothed), and short stalked, growing to 3/8 inch long. The flowers are small, purple or (rarely) white, clustered at the ends of the branches.
Family: Labiatae (Mint Family)
Other Names: Common Thyme
Flowers: July – August
Parts Used: Leaves & flowering tops
Habitat: Scattered to rare. Nova Scotia to North Carolina; Ohio to Indiana. European alien; escaped from cultivation.
Cultivation: Thyme does best in neutral to alkaline soils, so add lime if yours is acidic. Thyme grown in the kitchen usually is replaced every few years as it gets woody and scraggly.
Light: Thyme thrives in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade.
Moisture: Requires regular watering.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 – 9.
Propagation: Thyme can be grown from seed. It is also easy to root from cuttings taken from non-woody, fast-growing shoots. Another method is to separate out sections of rooted stems and replant.
Constituents: Volatile oil (about 1%, consisting of phenol, thymol, carvacrol), monoterpene hydrocarbons (eg. terpinene) and alcohols (eg. linalool), tannin, flavonoids, and saponins.
Properties: Anti-microbial, anti-spasmodic, anthelmintic, antiseptic, astringent, emmenagogue, expectorant, and tonic.
Main Uses: As a tincture, extract, or infusion, thyme is commonly used in throat and bronchial problems, including acute bronchitis, laryngitis, and whooping cough, and also for diarrhea, chronic gastritis and lack of appetite. For coughs and spasmodic complaints, make the medication from the fresh plant. A warm infusion promotes perspiration and relieves flatulence and colic. A solution of thyme’s most active ingredient, thymol, is used in over-the-counter products such as Listerine mouthwash and Vicks VapoRub because of its well-known antibacterial and antifungal properties Thymol apparently also has a therapeutic effect on the lungs. Ingesting or inhaling the oil helps to loosen phlegm and relax muscles in the respiratory tract.
Thyme baths, (see Hydrotherapy), are said to be helpful for rheumatic problems paralysis, bruises, swellings, and sprains. A salve made from thyme can be used for shingles, (Herpes zoster).
Caution CAUTION: Although the whole plant in medicinal doses is safe, the isolated volatile oil (thymol) is toxic in any quantity and should not be used internally except by professionals. Avoid this remedy if you are pregnant.
For asthmatic problems, Thyme combines well with Lobelia.
For whooping cough, use it with Wild Cherry.
Infusion: Steep 1/2 teaspoon fresh herb or 1 teaspoon dried herb in 1/2 cup water for 3 to 5 minutes. Take 1 to 1-1/2 cups a day, a mouthful at a time.
Tincture: [1:5 in 45% alcohol]. Take 10 to 20 drops, up to 3 times a day.
Bath Additive: Make a strong decoction and add to bath water.
Essential Oil: Diluted with 2 parts vegetable oil as a topical anti-microbial.