Herb: Common Thyme


Latin name: Thymus vulgaris


Family: Labiatae



Medicinal use of Common Thyme:

Common thyme has a very long history of folk use for a wide range of ailments. It is very rich in essential oils and these are the active ingredients responsible for most of the medicinal properties. In particular, thyme is valued for its antiseptic and antioxidant properties, it is an excellent tonic and is used in treating respiratory diseases and a variety of other ailments. The flowering tops are anthelmintic, strongly antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, deodorant, diaphoretic, disinfectant, expectorant, sedative and tonic. The plant is used internally in the treatment of dry coughs, whooping cough, bronchitis, bronchial catarrh, asthma, laryngitis, indigestion, gastritis and diarrhoea and enuresis in children. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women. Externally, it is used in the treatment of tonsillitis, gum diseases, rheumatism, arthritis and fungal infections. The plant can be used fresh at any time of the year, or it can be harvested as it comes into flower and either be distilled for the oil or dried for later use. Thyme has an antioxidant effect, thus regular use of this herb improves the health and longevity of individual body cells and therefore prolongs the life of the body. The essential oil is strongly antiseptic. The whole herb is used in the treatment of digestive disorders, sore throats, fevers etc. The essential oil is one of the most important oils used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is "Bacterial". It is used especially in cases of exhaustion, depression, upper respiratory tract infections, skin and scalp complaints etc. The oil can cause allergic reactions and irritation to the skin and mucous membranes.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Evergreen
Shrub

Height:
20 cm
(7 3/4 inch)

Flovering:
June to
August


Scent:
Scented
Shrub

Habitat of the herb:

Dry slopes, rocks and maquis. Always found on clay or limestone soils.

Edible parts of Common Thyme:

Leaves and flowering tops - raw in salads, used as a garnish or added as a flavouring to cooked foods, going especially well with mushrooms and courgettes. It is an essential ingredient of the herb mix "bouquet garni". It retains its flavour well in long slow cooking. The leaves can be used either fresh or dried. If the leaves are to be dried, the plants should be harvested in early and late summer just before the flowers open and the leaves should be dried quickly. A nutritional analysis is available. An aromatic tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves. Pungent and spicy.

Other uses of the herb:

An essential oil from the leaves is frequently used in perfumery, soaps, toothpastes, mouthwashes, medicinally etc. It has fungicidal properties and is also used to prevent mildew. The leaves are dried and used in pot-pourri. The plant makes an attractive ground cover for a sunny position. Plants are best spaced about 30cm apart each way. The dried flowers are used to repel moths from clothing whilst the growing plant is said to repel cabbage root fly.

Propagation of Common Thyme:

Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. Seed can also be sown in autumn in a greenhouse. Surface sow or barely cover the seed. Germination can be erratic. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. The seed can keep for three years in normal storage. Division in spring or autumn. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the summer or the following spring. Cuttings of young shoots, 5 - 8cm with a heel, May/June in a frame. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Layering.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry slopes, rocks and maquis. Always found on clay or limestone soils.

Known hazards of Thymus vulgaris:

A comment has been made in one report on medicinal uses that the plant should be used with caution. No explanation was given. It quite possibly refers to overuse of the essential oil. All essential oils, since they are so concentrated, can be harmful in large doses.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.