Thyme: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Thyme is a fragrant and versatile herb with many culinary and medicinal uses, known for its potential health benefits.

What is Thyme?

Thyme is an edible green herb from the same family as mint (Lamiaceae) that originated in the eastern Mediterranean region and is related to oregano. The most common variety is Thymus vulgaris. Thyme flowers, leaves, and oil are commonly used in food and as medicine. Thyme is thought to have antibacterial, insecticidal, and possibly anti-fungal properties, plus many more health benefits.

Is Thyme Good For You?

Yes! Thyme is thought to have antibacterial, insecticidal, and possibly antifungal properties, plus many more health benefits.

11 Health Benefits Of Thyme

1. Thyme may help with high blood pressure

  • There was a study done on rats with hypertension, and they found that thyme extract reduced BP in them, but not is rats with normal BP.

2. Thyme may help with acne

  • A study in England found that thyme in tincture form may be more

3. Thyme extract may help alleviate cough symptoms

  • A study found that a syrup with the combination of a few other herbs with thyme help reduce frequency and severity of cough in patients

4. Thyme can boost the immune system

  • Thyme has antioxidants from vitamin C and vitamin A, which combat free radicals and contribute to immune defense

5. Thyme may help combat foodborne bacteria

  • A study tested thyme oil and lavender oil, and they concluded that thyme oil was more effective against resistant strains of bacteria, such as Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia and Pseudomonas (acne) bacteria than lavender

6. Thyme may help with other skin issues such as eczema

  • A study in Ethiopia found that an antifungal cream with 3% thyme could help skin conditions like eczema

7. Thyme may protect people against colon cancer

  • A study found that extracts of thyme might protect people from colon cancers 

8. Thyme may help prolong the stability of cooking oils

  • A study found that thyme extract prolonged stability of sunflower oil and it may be a potent antioxidant for its stabilization

9. Thyme may be an effective anti-inflammatory

10. Thyme essential oil may boost mood

  • A study found that the carvacrol (active substance in thyme) may boost feelings of well-being

11. Thymol, a compound in oil of thyme, is a biocide (naturally occurring compound that can destroy harmful bacteria)

History, Background, and General Facts about Thyme

  • Wild thyme grew in the Levant (historical area of Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia: present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine and most of Turkey), where it might have been first cultivated. 
  • The ancient Egyptians used thyme as an embalming fluid. 
  • They used thyme as an incense in temples and added it to bathwater in ancient Greece believing it was a source of courage
  • The Romans used thyme as a flavoring for cheese and alcoholic beverages. They were also supposedly offered as a cure for people who were melancholy or shy. 
  • When the Black Death took hold of Europe in the 1340s, people would wear posies of thyme for protection for its medicinal properties.
  • In the European Middle Ages, the herb was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares. 
  • Natural skin care products, mouthwash, and deodorants contain a form of thyme (antiseptic, antifungal)
  • Oil of thyme (the essential oil thyme), contains thymol. Thymol, an antiseptic, is an active ingredient in mouthwashes such as Listerine. Oil of thyme used to be used in medicated bandages.
  • Thymol is also an ingredient in many natural pesticides for pests like mosquitos. (You can make homemade repellent by mixing 4 drops of thyme oil and 1 teaspoon olive oil, or mixing 5 drops in 2 ounces of water.)
  • Essential oil of thyme and thymol hold many fungicidal properties and may help with mold in houses.
  • Red thyme oil is used in perfumes, soaps, cosmetics, and toothpastes.

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Thyme?

  • France - herbes de Provence, bouquet garni (a bundle of herbs tied together and used in soup and stews)
  • Italy - pasta sauces, eggplant dishes
  • Middle East - za’atar (spice blend of thyme, sesame seeds, salt, and sumac)
  • Greek - Greek salad, lamb dishes
  • Egyptian - dukkah (spice mix with thyme, nuts, seeds, and herbs)
  • Armenia - tisanes (herbal tea)

What Is The Best Way To Store Thyme?

  • Store fresh thyme in a glass of water in the refrigerator or in a breathable container.
  • Store dried thyme in a cool, dry place away from light and heat, such as a pantry.

What Are The Different Types Of Thyme?

The most commonly used version of thyme is French thyme: Thymus vulgaris but there are many different varieties of thyme, including common thyme, lemon thyme, caraway thyme, woolly thyme, and creeping thyme, each with unique flavor profiles and potential health benefits.

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Thyme

  • Thyme eaten as an herb is considered safe unless you have an allergy to it or to oregano
  • Talk to your doctor before taking oil of thyme for medicinal purposes or using it on your skin

Best Thyme Recipes