Along with basil, rosemary, and oregano, thyme is a classic among Mediterranean spices. Its spicy, bitter-sweet aroma gives all dishes a warm, harmonious taste. Thyme is also known for its healthy and healing effects: Its antibacterial, antibiotic, and expectorant properties are used primarily for coughs, colds and hoarseness. Thyme is therefore considered a healthy alternative to conventional medicines and even antibiotics. Of course, thyme is free from unfavorable side effects.
Thyme – an herb with a Mediterranean flair
Thyme originally comes from the eastern Mediterranean area, but then spread to Central Europe as early as the 11th century.
Today, thyme is mainly cultivated in Central and Southern Europe, the Balkans, East Africa, and in Morocco. Especially in the countries around the Mediterranean like France, Italy, and Spain.
But why is thyme still so popular today – and has been for centuries?
Thyme – myth, and truth
Derived from the Greek “thymos” – which means strength and courage – Roman legionnaires are said to have bathed in thyme infusions before the fight to increase their general motivation.
But in addition to myths like these, countless written records show that thyme was already very popular with the ancient Egyptians and in antiquity as a kitchen and medicinal herb, and even as a perfume ingredient.
The famous Greek doctor Hippocrates (460 – 377 BC) successfully used thyme to treat respiratory diseases.
And even today, people like to use thyme as a medicinal herb. Especially when you catch a bad cold in autumn or winter.
Thyme – healing power through essential oils
Coughs, runny noses, sore throats, and hoarseness are therefore ideally tackled with thyme tea, thyme inhalations, or gargle solutions made from thyme.
A good choice. Because the healing power of thyme is based primarily on the properties of its essential oils: They have an antibacterial, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and antispasmodic effect.
The most important components of thyme oils are the phenols thymol (30-50%) and carvacrol (1-50%). How high the respective proportions ultimately depend on additional factors such as location, climate, season, and variety.
Thyme – The natural antibiotic
Due to its antibacterial effect, thyme essential oil inhibits the growth of different strains of bacteria. This not only applies to the oils themselves, but also to the aqueous thyme extracts in the form of an infusion.
Thus, thyme has almost proved to be a kind of silver bullet against bacterial strains that are already resistant to antibiotics (such as MRSA, the dreaded so-called hospital germ. Thymol is not only able to reduce the number of pathogens, but also the danger. This is understandable when thyme is popularly referred to as a natural antibiotic.
Thyme – The pro when it comes to colds
Bacteria are often involved in colds. Thyme can therefore be of great help here.
At the same time, the essential oils of thyme stimulate the activity of the cilia on the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract.
Existing viscous mucus is gradually liquefied and can ultimately be transported away and coughed up more easily.
Add to that the typical anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic effect of thyme and it becomes clear why thyme is a wonderful herb for coughs and colds.
Instead of questionable so-called cold remedies, it is therefore enormously worthwhile to reach for thyme the next time you catch the flu.
A spicy thyme tea, an inhalation, or a gargle solution with thyme provides the desired relief – and without any harmful side effects. (Recipe see below under “Recipes with thyme”)
Incidentally, the same applies to all those suffering from allergies and hay fever. They also have to struggle with increased mucus formation in the upper respiratory tract and can therefore benefit very well from thyme.
Thyme relieves cramps
Thyme is also said to have antispasmodic and pain-relieving properties.
The use of its essential oils is therefore also very suitable for the treatment of diseases that are associated with painful spasms of the bronchial muscles, such as whooping cough, dry cough, asthma, and chronic bronchitis.
However, the antispasmodic effect of thyme is not limited to the respiratory tract. It also relieves flatulence and severe abdominal pain during menstruation.
Thyme relieves menstrual pain
Several studies have already shown that thyme relieves menstrual pain – on the one hand, better than a placebo preparation, but on the other hand also better than conventional painkillers such as e.g. B. Ibuprofen. In addition, taking thyme has no side effects, while painkillers always carry a certain risk of side effects.
Thyme – And diarrhea doesn’t stand a chance
The essential thyme oil (or thymol) can even be used to prevent diarrheal diseases or so-called intestinal flu.
Infection with such an intestinal infection can occur via certain foods if they are contaminated with pathogens that cause diarrhea, such as e.g. B. Listeria, Salmonella, or Escherichia coli are contaminated.
But according to researchers, even a low concentration of thyme essential oil has the potential to expel the bacteria mentioned.
Although the corresponding results were only obtained in the test tube, according to the researchers, there is no harm in adding more thyme to your dishes.
Another study also confirms an inhibiting effect on the spread of Shigella bacteria found in lettuce. They don’t stand a chance against the oils found in thyme.
For example, lettuce was placed in a solution of thyme essential oils. The oil concentration was initially 0.5%, then 1%. While only a reduction in the number of bacteria could be observed in the first run, the number fell well below the detection limit in the second test.
So take advantage of the opportunity here and add fresh thyme and/or a dressing made from thyme oil to your salad dressing. (Recipe see below under “Recipes with thyme”) You not only protect yourself against bacteria but also increase your mental fitness:
With thyme mentally fit into old age
Researchers found that thyme can be extremely beneficial for a healthy, intact brain as part of the aging process.
In a similar experiment with two groups, the first received a diet enriched with thyme oils or thymol. The comparison group, on the other hand, had to do without these additives in the diet.
At the end of the study, to everyone’s surprise, the following result emerged: the diet enriched with essential thyme oil had caused an enormous increase in healthy fatty acids (DHA) in the test subjects’ bodies – especially in the brain.
In the comparison group, on the other hand, nothing of the sort was recorded.
The fatty acid DHA is one of the omega-3 fatty acids and has always been considered a protector against oxidative stress on the one hand and an important nutrient for the brain on the other.
However, DHA levels in the body continue to decline with age, so measures that can naturally increase DHA levels are always welcome.
Even if the underlying processes are not entirely clear: According to the study mentioned above, a diet rich in thyme could prevent or mitigate possible negative effects of a DHA value that is too low.
In addition to cell damage, this also includes various diseases such as Alzheimer’s or senile dementia, since DHA is important for good brain development and performance.
Thyme – a powerful “antioxidant”
In addition to the antioxidant properties of the essential oils, thyme can also score with a selection of secondary plant substances, the so-called flavonoids. They include apigenin, naringenin, luteolin, and thymine.
Flavonoids are also considered antioxidants and offer protection against cardiovascular disease. In addition, they are said to have a preventive effect on certain types of cancer.
Thyme – A Cure for Cancer?
According to studies, the thyme variety Thymus mastichina L. should be able to protect against colon cancer. Scientists were able to demonstrate that the components of thyme have a cell and tissue-damaging effect on the corresponding cancer cells.
Similar evidence was provided by researchers at Celal Bayar University in Turkey. In their study, they examined wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum) for its effectiveness in breast cancer. In laboratory tests, its application led to the death of corresponding cancer cells.
Finally, with the help of thyme, new therapeutic drugs could be developed in the treatment of breast cancer.
Thyme – A herb against “widespread diseases”
In addition to cancer, so-called widespread diseases are increasingly coming into focus. These include high blood pressure and diabetes – mostly caused by poor nutrition. But an herb has grown against it: thyme.
According to a study at the University of Belgrade in Serbia, the extract obtained from wild thyme was able to lower blood pressure in rats. The research team is therefore in good spirits “that thyme can also protect against high blood pressure in humans”.
The antioxidant properties of thymol and carvacrol also show their effectiveness in fighting diabetes. With their help, the type of oxidative stress (“lipid peroxidation”), which is responsible for the development of diabetes, is avoided in particular.
It has also been observed that in the treatment of existing diabetes, thyme, together with other herbs, lowers the level of glucose in the blood. For example, the subjects added thyme as a spice to their meals.
It is therefore not surprising that thyme is one of the herbs with the highest ORAC value due to its outstanding antioxidant effects.
This value indicates the antioxidant potential. It is 27,426 for thyme.
For comparison: the ORAC value of apples is only 7,094 or 7,781, depending on the variety.
Thyme – balm for acne skin
As we have already seen, thyme is very versatile. One more reason to use the power of its essential oils in the treatment of skin diseases, especially acne.
When developing various acne remedies, researchers tested different tinctures of myrrh, calendula, and thyme for their effect on Propionibacterium acnes – a type of bacteria that is believed to be one of the causes of acne.
The tincture obtained from thyme proved to be the most effective. Their antibacterial effectiveness even surpassed that of traditional benzoyl peroxide chemical products.
For acne, it is, therefore, better to first choose natural therapies, which may include thyme, before immediately resorting to chemical products, which often have noticeable side effects.
Thyme – help with fungus and periodontal disease
Last, but not least, thyme is often used for fungal diseases and inflammation in the mouth because of its fungicidal and bactericidal properties.
Studies show: its essential oils are quite capable of inhibiting and curbing the growth of the well-known yeast “Candida Albicans”.
And if you want to protect yourself from caries, gingivitis, and periodontitis, you should also trust in the healing effects of thyme. With the help of essential thyme oil, the bacterial pathogens in the mouth are eliminated.
So show caries and co. your teeth and rinse your mouth regularly with a thyme solution, for example.
Despite everything, thyme is not only known for its properties as a “medicinal plant”. It is also often used in the kitchen.
So that you always have fresh thyme at hand, you can easily care for it yourself in the garden, on the balcony, or even on a sunny window sill as a potted plant.
Thyme – cultivation, and harvest
Since thyme is an evergreen plant, its leaves can be harvested at any time. However, it is best to harvest just before the start of the flowering period, which extends from June to October.
This is when the aroma, flavor, and potency of the essential oils are at their most intense.
But the thyme can still be used during flowering.
Regardless of whether you want to use thyme as a spice or as a medicinal herb, fresh thyme is always preferable. Because taste, aroma, and other active ingredients simply unfold best here.
The whole herb can be used – i.e. buds, flowers, and leaves.
Fresh thyme should be refrigerated, wrapped in a damp paper towel, and used within a week.
If you don’t have fresh thyme on hand, you can use the dried version.
In this case, the herb is hung in a bundle in a warm, dry, and dark place. Before use, the dried parts are rubbed between the hands.
The dried thyme lasts about 1 year. The prerequisite for this is that – after drying – it is stored in airtight jars in a dry, cool, and dark place.
Recipes with thyme
Below we present you with delicious and healing recipes with thyme.
We wish you a good appetite or get well soon! Let yourself be surprised by the variety of thyme.
Zucchini Thyme Soup
(for 4 people)
- 1 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin)
- 1 small onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 medium zucchini
- ½ liter vegetable broth
- 75 ml soy cream/soy milk
- 2 tbsp freshly plucked thyme leaves (depending on your taste, e.g. lavender thyme)
- some salt and pepper
First, wash and coarsely dice the zucchini and peel the onion and garlic. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, roughly chop the onion and crush the garlic accordingly.
Then add the onions, garlic, and courgettes to the oil and season with salt and pepper. Sauté the vegetables gently over medium heat.
Finally, it is deglazed with vegetable broth and brought to a boil.
After the whole thing has simmered for about 15 minutes, the soy cream and the thyme leaves are added. Then heat everything up again and let it simmer.
Vegetarian paprika and lentil ragout with thyme
(for 2 people)
- 1 onion
- 2 large peppers
- ¾ cup red lentils
- 1 packet of tomato passata
- some harissa or ajvar
- pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- some thyme (to taste), fresh or dried
First, wash the peppers and peel the onion. Then cut both into cubes and sauté in olive oil. The vegetables should not become too soft but should remain al dente.
Now add the crushed tomatoes and let everything boil. Then add the lentils, bring to a boil again, and then simmer for ten minutes. Finally, add Harissa or Ajvar and stir.
Finally, the dish is seasoned with thyme and pepper.
If you don’t quite get used to the peppers as a vegetable, you’re welcome to swap them out. The dish also tastes good with broccoli, zucchini, or carrots.
Paprika and aubergine spread with thyme
(for 2 to 3 people)
- 200 g red peppers
- 200 g yellow peppers
- 7 tbsp olive oil
- 1 eggplant, approx. 250 g
- 1 clove of garlic
- Leaves from about 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
- some sea salt and black pepper
- 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
The washed and halved peppers are placed skin side up on a baking tray lined with olive oil (1 tablespoon). Then they are drizzled with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and put in the oven. There they are baked on the middle rack for about 15 minutes.
In the meantime, dice the cleaned and washed aubergines and heat them up in a pan with olive oil (3 tbsp).
The diced aubergine is cooked until soft, stirring constantly, and salt and crushed garlic are added. After 15 minutes, drain the chopped aubergine on paper towels and leave it to cool.
The same happens with the peppers. Then their skin is peeled off.
Roughly chop the red peppers and cut the yellow ones into small cubes. The red peppers are then mashed into a paprika pulp with the addition of 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
The eggplant cubes and yellow pepper cubes are stirred into the paprika pulp. Finally, everything is seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and thyme leaves. Now the spread can be filled into jars.
Serve with delicious wholemeal bread made from spelled or Kamut.
For salad dressing
- 300 ml olive oil, extra virgin
- 5 g diced chili peppers/diced pepperoncini
- 5 g pepper mixture
- 1 bunch of thyme, a variety of your choice
All ingredients are filled in a bottle with a stopper. The oil can be used after a storage period of 2 weeks.
Herbal tea thyme
(for 1 person)
e.g. B. in infections of the upper respiratory tract
- 1 – 2 teaspoons thyme herb
- 250 ml (about 1 cup) boiling water
The thyme herb is scalded with a cup of boiling water. Then everything must steep for 5 minutes before the tea can be strained.
A total of 2 to 4 cups of this are drunk daily throughout the day.
The tea is particularly recommended for all types of cough, (hay) cold, hoarseness, sore throat, and bronchitis.
Thyme rinse solution
(for 1 person) e.g. B. in periodontosis, mouth and gum inflammation
- 1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme leaves
- 2 pinches of rose petals (crushed)
- 1 pinch rosemary (crushed)
- 1 pinch sage (crushed)
- ¼ liter of boiling water
All ingredients are mixed and poured over with boiling hot water. They should then steep for 30 minutes before everything is strained again.
If you have problems with periodontal disease, and mouth and gum inflammation, you should definitely rinse your entire mouth with this solution twice a day.
Thyme for inhalation
(for 1 person)
in infections of the upper respiratory tract
- 2 tbsp dried thyme
- 2 liters of boiling water
Put the dried thyme in a large bowl and pour boiling water over it.
The rising vapor should now be inhaled for 10-15 minutes. You should cover your head with a towel. This keeps the healing steam from escaping.