Be prepared, because it is time to talk about the health benefits of thyme and it’s almost impossible to do so without throwing in a few very bad puns. After all, it’s about thyme you learned about this herb’s exceptional botanical benefits.
Historically, thyme came from the Mediterranean and is a member of the mint family. According to the records, the name thyme originates from a word meaning courage. Perhaps because of this ancient lore, thyme was used as a ritual ornament by knights in medieval Europe. They would place a small bouquet of thyme sprigs on their armor before a battle to stimulate their courage.
Although the link between thyme and courage is debatable, this herb still is known to benefit many health issues. It’s a perfect medicinal herb to work with because, not only is it quite easy to find throughout grocery stores and local markets, but it’s also relatively cheap. Plus, as a culinary herb, it can be deliciously incorporated into many dishes.
How to Prepare Thyme
Ready for tea thyme? Beyond using it in culinary preparations, the simplest way to reap thyme’s many health benefits is making it as a tea. Especially useful during the winter months, when the common cold runs rampant, it’s a relatively quick and soothing concoction to whip up.
- 1 tablespoon dried (or 1 teaspoon fresh) thyme leaves
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 dash of honey
- 1 lemon wedge
Bring water to a boil and pour over the thyme leaves. Let the mixture steep for approximately five to eight minutes before removing the thyme. Add lemon and honey to taste, and enjoy your thyme tea.
Other ways to enjoy thyme therapeutically are through using aromatherapy oils, thyme tinctures and extracts, or even in concentrated thyme capsules. Many products use thyme in conjunction with other herbs to take advantage of complementary medicinal benefits. For example, fenugreek and thyme often are sold together in capsule form for supporting the respiratory system.
The Medicinal Tradition of Thyme
Yes, Simon and Garfunkel sang about “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme,” but many others beforehand sang the praises of this botanical wonder. The list of thyme’s benefits is lengthy.
1. Protection Against Insects
A study published in response to the West Nile virus outbreak discovered that some of the potent medicinal oils found in thyme might reduce problematic mosquito populations. The study examined a mixture of thymol, alpha-terpinene, and carvacrol. This combination was able to kill off the larvae of the dangerous tiger mosquito, known to spread West Nile disease and at least two others.
2. Reduction of High Blood Pressure
A study inspired by the low levels of heart disease linked to a Mediterranean diet explored the benefits of thyme for controlling blood pressure. It concluded that rats dosed with thyme extracts had significantly reduced rates of high blood pressure.
3. Slows Growth of Breast Cancer Cells
An interesting study published in 2012 in the Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemistry indicated that thyme extract might be an important new tool in the fight against breast cancer. The research in the preliminary stages but, according to the 2012 study results, thyme extract promoted cancer cell death, while seemingly having little effect on healthy cells. The authors concluded that thyme could be a significant discovery for the treatment of breast cancer after more research is done.
4. Kills Yeast Infections
A little-known bacteria called C. albicans is the primary culprit behind all forms of thrush, which is also known as yeast infection. In both the vaginal and oral types of the infection, thyme has been shown to inhibit the proliferation of the bacteria, promoting the death of C. albicans.
Especially for women tired of relying on chemical treatments for recurring yeast infections, thyme may offer an all-natural treatment solution.
5. Vitamin Booster
Thyme contains essential vitamins and nutrients, plus a handful of potent volatile oils, which may be responsible for its many medicinal qualities. Thyme contains vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium. Plus, many beneficial oils you likely never have heard about, such as carvacrol, borneol, geraniol, and thymol.
6. Treatment of Canker Sores
When prepared as a mouthwash solution, thyme can help soothe canker sores and other common oral irritations. Its ability to soothe oral canker sores could be because it contains many volatile oils mentioned above.
7. Skin Irritations and Acne
Thyme has a long history of use in skin creams and balms. A recent study in Ethiopia found thyme could reduce fungal infections by up to 66.5 percent when compared to a placebo. Its effects also have been studied for treating acne.
8. Improves Mood
When used for aromatherapy, thyme is known to boost mood, and produce an invigorating and gently stimulating effect. Its often used with Epsom salts for therapeutic baths.
Did you know thyme extracts have been found capable of fighting bacteria? Especially the superbugs evolving in hospitals around the world. Thyme is a potent anti-bacterial agent, and more research is underway to understand better its potential application against E.coli and other superbugs.
10. Cold and Cough Therapy
There is evidence that oral doses of thyme can reduce the symptoms of colds and coughs, including coughs related to bronchitis. When taken in conjunction with other medicinal herbs, it can reduce the symptoms of upper respiratory infections, and soothe coughing fits.
Explore other ways to beat the common cold here.
11. Reduces Discomfort of Muscle Cramps
The volatile oils found in thyme are shown to reduce muscle cramping, especially menstrual cramps. Drinking thyme-infused tea often is prescribed by herbalists to women suffering through tough menstrual cramping.
A Closer Look at the Side Effects
Unless taken as a tincture, capsule or extract, thyme is a gentle herb with mild effects. Only when taken in stronger, medicinal quantities could it trigger any serious side effects. For example, when eaten in reasonable quantities, it’s thought to be safe for use by children as well as pregnant and nursing women.
However, be cautious of its blood thinning properties. Medical experts suggest avoiding eating thyme before major surgery and if you are already on any prescription blood thinners. If you have a known blood thinning disorder, confirm with your doctor before taking any stronger doses.
Finally, thyme might interact with hormone-related illnesses. Some evidence suggests it might be mistaken for estrogen in the body. Therefore, it might stimulate unwanted activation of breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis or uterine fibroids.
All known interactions and side effects are rare, and many are only theoretical, based on the current scientific data. However, everyone is different, and all supplements should be taken after consulting with a doctor.
Making Time for Thyme
Fresh thyme is a perfect herb to spice up a batch of roasted veggies. For those who prefer meaty main dishes, it pairs well with most meats. Thyme is also a popular essential oil in aromatherapy.
With the holidays fast approaching, it’s not difficult to start incorporating thyme into your diet more regularly. After all, it is a hardy herb that easily grows throughout mild winters. It makes a great houseplant as well if you live in a harsher winter climate. It is a delicious fresh herb to have on hand throughout the winter months.