Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) grows all over the Mediterranean countries. The name of the herb comes from the Greek word thymon that means courage. Roman soldiers used to bathe in thyme water to gain strength and courage. In Scotland, thyme tea was drunk for the same reasons, and also to keep nightmares away. The ancient Egyptians were aware of the herb’s antiseptic and preservative properties and used thyme for embalming, and in medieval Europe thyme was believed to be a holy herb.
Thyme grows best in sunny places and in the Mediterranean region it grows wild on sunny hillsides. Thyme in the garden attracts a lot of bees. If you grow your own thyme, you can preserve it by drying the leaves, but also by infusing the herb in balsamic vinegar and vegetable oil.
Cooking and Cleaning with Thyme
Thyme is combined with parsley and bay leaves in bouquet garni, to be used in soups, stocks, stews and many meat and vegetable dishes. It is also added to the Benedictine liquor. Lemon-scented thyme gives flavor to chicken, fish, vegetables and even jams or fruit salads.
Thyme is also one of those herbs that can be used as an ingredient in natural cleaning solutions. Make a natural disinfectant for the home by boiling thyme leaves in water for 30 minutes (the less water you use, the stronger the disinfectant effect is). Filter through a sieve and use to clean the bathroom and to create a refreshing scent. You can also combine thyme with rosemary for the same purpose.
Thyme as a Home Remedy
An infusion (tea) made with fresh or dry thyme can stimulate circulation and to aid digestion, especially after a heavy and fatty meal. Thyme tea, flavored with a little bit of honey, is an easy home remedy for colds, coughs and sore throats. It is also said to relieve hangovers. Thyme is believed to increase the production of leukocytes (white blood cells), helping to stimulate the immune system.
The essential oil of Thyme is used in baths and in massage blends during colds, to improve poor immunity and to increase both physical and mental energy, especially during convalescence. The essential oil is also a good choice for steam inhalations during colds or sinus infections, and can be combined with other oils such as Eucalyptus or Lavender.
Thyme is also used in herbal beauty treatments and especially in hair care products. An infusion made with thyme and rosemary can be used as a final rinse when washing hair, to prevent dandruff.
Sources: Lesley Bremness: The Complete Book of Herbs (Studio, 1994)
Photo: Thymus vulgaris by H. Zell (Wikimedia Commons)