Thymus vulgaris (thyme) comes from the mint family called Lamiaceae. It has been used as a cooking spice in Europe for centuries and is used medicinally for coughs and other mild respiratory ailments. It is believed thyme was first cultivated 5,000 years ago by the ancient Sumerian in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq and Kuwait) who used it as a disinfectant. In medieval times the plant was seen as imparting courage and vigour and in the days of chivalry, ladies embroidered a bee hovering over a sprig of Thyme on the scarves they presented to their knights. The ancient Romans used thyme to flavour cheese and liquor and introduced this pungent herb to the British Isles.
You might be surprised to learn that thyme is quite a nutritious plant food. Thyme as a whole plant contains vitamins A, C and B plus minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, manganese and magnesium as well as dietary fibre.
Thyme is also used to aid common mild ailments of the respiratory tract. The main part of thyme that gives it its actions is the volatile oils, namely the phenols thymol and carvacrol. These oils are largely responsible for thyme’s antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions.
The antispasmodic (suppression of muscle spasm) action of thyme makes it very useful in soothing coughs. With the added benefit of an anti-inflammatory action, thyme makes a great cough remedy.
Mild upper respiratory tract infections
Thyme has been used for the common cold plus other mild upper respiratory tract infections. It can be taken internally or alternatively can be used as a sore throat gargle.
Want to incorporate more thyme in your diet? Thyme pairs well with all meats, fish, tomatoes, lemons and wine. You can also try out our Middle Eastern inspired dip recipe below.
Spicy yoghurt, tahini and thyme dip
- 1½ tbsp (approx 30 ml) lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- ¾ tspn salt
- 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
- ½ cup tahini
- 3 tspn za'atar spice
- ½ tspn red chilli flakes
- 3 tspn fresh thyme leaves
In a food processor, place lemon juice, garlic and salt and pulse until the garlic is finely minced. Add the yogurt, tahini, za’atar, red chilli flakes and thyme and puree until smooth.
Transfer the dip to a bowl and, if desired, serve garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and some flaky sea salt.
You can eat this one with some pita chips, sticks of vegetables (carrot, celery, cucumber) or spread onto some freshly baked crusty sourdough bread.
Braun & Cohen. 2015. Herbs & Natural Supplements: An evidence-based guide. 4th edition. Vol. 2. Elsevier Australia. pp.982-986