Thyme benefits have been known and used for over 4,000 years. Common thyme (Thymus Vulgaris) is culinary and medicinal plant with ancient roots. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks both used thyme for a variety of purposes, eventually spreading throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. Benedictine monks brought the herb to Central Europe and incorporated it into their monastic gardens.
Thyme is of the genus Thymus of the mint family Lamiaceae, and a relative of the oregano genus Origanum. Like oregano, thyme is commonly associated with Mediterranean cuisine, though the herb is now cultivated throughout the world for use in many different cuisines.
Thyme is much more than a just a flavor enhancer; it is a powerful medicinal plant. Thyme benefits are many but in this post we will focus on using thyme to treat coughs, digestive problems, and skin blemishes.
Thyme Health Benefits
Thyme, like other common household spices such as rosemary, oregano, and basil, is as an aromatic, Mediterranean herb. The fragrant herb has livened-up meat and vegetable dishes for a long time, but its ancient roots are also as an important medicinal herb.
Ancient cultures in northern Africa and around the Mediterranean regularly used thyme for its aromatic and medicinal qualities. Greeks and Romans bathed in water infused with thyme. Thyme oil extracts from the plant were used to make bath and massage oils and both the oil and dried leaves were used as incense.
Thyme was believed to both strengthen and purify the body, as it was associated with good health and a vigorous spirit. Even today thyme essential oil, thymol, still has many therapeutic applications, as a disinfectant and antiseptic, and thyme infusions are an excellent remedy for respiratory and throat ailments.
“the thyme is warming and drying, and when someone adds thyme to good herbs and spices, it carries off the foulness of the person’s suffering with its warmth and strength… Cook the thyme with the earth sticking to it in hot water. Use this often in a sauna bath, and the warmth and dryness of this herb heated with its dry earth lessens the bad humors, unless God does not wish it.”
Hildegard von Bingen especially raved about thyme benefits in treating whooping cough and as a natural antibiotic. The antibiotic properties of thyme are still recognized to this day.
Thyme essential oil benefits were traditionally recognized in monastic medicine. Loaded with flavonoids and tannins, these volatile oils give thyme its natural antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-rheumatic, anti-parasitic, and anti-fungal properties.
The essential oils found in thyme include thymol, geraniol, camphor, cineol, and others – which work together to help promote the following thyme benefits:
- Mild expectorant
- Cramp relief
- Pain relief
- Mild stimulant
Thyme is among Hildegard’s essential healing spices. In addition to promoting a healthy immune system, thyme benefits by relieving the symptoms of colds, particularly coughs and other respiratory conditions.
Thanks to its properties as an expectorant, when taken as a tea, thyme flower helps relieve discomfort due to bronchitis, asthma, and allergies. Thyme tea benefits also include reduced inflammation in the mouth and throat from coughing or other cold symptoms as well as relieving menstrual cramps, and resolving digestive distress.
The astringent and bitter flavors contained in thyme, along with rich flavonoids, also help strengthen the immune system to prevent colds.
Thyme Tea Benefits
Combine two teaspoons of thyme leaves with 8 to 10 ounces (250 ml) of water and let steep for ten minutes. Strain the leaves into a cup and sip. Drink one 3-4 times per day or until the discomfort improves.
Thyme tea for gargling
Thyme tea benefits as a gargle solution to relieve discomfort due to inflammation in the mouth and throat area. Allow the tea cool down and gargle several times a day.
Thyme for steam inhalation
Place 2 drops of thyme oil in hot / boiling water and inhale the steam.
Thyme benefits for skin health and acne
Due to the natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of thyme, it serves as an effective natural alternative to cosmetic facial and skin cleaners. A simple tincture of thyme can help clear acne, and relieve its effects on the skin. Alternatively, for long-term use, a 5 percent dilution of thyme oil using an alcohol-water solution can be applied twice a day as a skin cleanser.
A bath infused with thyme leaves or thyme flower is a great way to calm irritated skin or relieve other minor skin conditions. Simply boil 100 grams of dried thyme leaves with a liter of water and let it steep (covered) for half an hour. Strain the thyme through a sieve and add to your bath water. The bath simultaneously helps soothe discomfort and itching while invigorating your vitality.
If you choose to enjoy thyme essential oil benefits, limit the long-term use – particularly as a topical application, as the active essential oil thymol readily penetrates the skin. As with any natural or essential oil, thyme oil uses should be carefully administered.
Note: Due to the powerful healing properties of thyme do not ingest more than 10 grams of thyme per day. Pregnant women should not use the essential oil.