Thyme has a wide range of health applications. It has tonic, expectorant, stomachic, carminative, antispasmodic, sedative, and diaphoretic properties. The tea can be gargled for a sore throat or laryngitis. Headaches, gastritis, diarrhea, bronchitis, and intestinal atony have been improved with the tea. It can also be used as an expellant.
The essential oil contains thymol, linalool, carvone, cineole, limonene, and other substances. The leaves contain tannins. Thymol, a powerful antiseptic, is the chief constituent of the oil. The oil has antioxidant, antispasmodic, antibacterial, antifungal, expectorant, and carminative properties. Thymol itself can be highly toxic.
The leaves contain vitamin A, niacin, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
General Herb Information
Like the genus Mentha, Thymus is a taxonomical Pandora's box. There are about 400 species - or 100 species with 400 names. They are creeping, woody-based, evergreen perennials concentrated in the Mediterranean region and western Asia. Leaves are small, entire, and opposite. Flower heads are usually terminal, compact whorled bunches of tiny flowers. We will deal only with a handful of species.
T. vulgaris, common or English thyme, grows from about six to eighteen inches tall and has linear or elliptical leaves up to five-eighths inches long. The dense whorls of lilac or white flowers are terminal or interrupted on upper branches. There are several important cultivars including the silver-leafed 'Argentis', 'Narrowleaf French' - French thyme, 'Broadleaf English' - English thyme, and the golden-foliaged 'Aureus'?
T. x citriodorus, lemon thyme, is a branching perennial with a distinct lemon fragrance. It grows up to one foot high. Flowers are light lilac, and the leaves are oval in shape. The cultivar 'Aureus' has golden yellow leaves; 'Silver Queen' is a silver-leafed cultivar.
T. pseudolanuginosus, creeping woolly thyme, is a low-growing (one-half inch tall) perennial, with one-eighth-inch long, woolly, gray leaves that are elliptical. It produces a few tiny, pale pink flowers in the leaf axils. This plant makes a fabulous ground cover.
T. serpyllum, creeping thyme, is perhaps the most ambiguous name of the thymus classification. According to Hortus Thini, it is rarely cultivated in the United States, and most material offered as T. serpyllum is probably one of five other species. It is a small-leaved, low-growing perennial, with thin creeping stems which form dense mats. The tiny flowers range from white through pink, purple, and red shades.
Thymes are propagated from seeds, cuttings, layering, and root division, although cultivars must be propagated asexually. Give plants six- to twelve-inch spacings. Six pounds of seed will sow an acre of thyme. Root division is the easiest and fastest means of increasing thyme stock. The roots of the low-growing species reach as deep as two feet. Remove them carefully, retaining as much of the original soil material as possible. Give transplants a generous supply of water.
The soil should be light, warm, rather dry, well-drained, and with a pH of 6 to 8 for good thyme culture. Plants may be killed by frost heaving the crowns or burning the foliage in areas where winter temperatures dip below 100°F. Provide plants with a heavy mulch. Clumps tend to become woody and die out in the center. They should be divided every three or four years. One-half to one ton of dried herb can be expected per acre. Harvest just before it blooms.
Thyme is a well-known culinary herb. Use in fish chowder, poultry stuffings, egg dishes, meats, cheese and with vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, and onions.
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