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Veterinarian Reviewed on June 14, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
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Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)


Thyme herb (Thymus vulgaris) is a perennial plant with a fibrous root. The Thyme herb can grow to be between 4 and 8 inches in hight. It has narrow and greenish-grey leaves with numerous hard and branched stems. The Thyme herb is widely cultivated in Spain and in European countries found near the Mediterranean.

Thyme is primarily used in cooking; adding a special flavor to dishes and it is an herb that preserves its natural flavors even after drying is done.

History and Origin

Thyme is a Greek word which basically means “to fumigate”. It was used as incense due to its odor. The Greek word “thumus” which means courage, may have also influenced the name of the Thyme herb; it also means to inspire courage owing to the invigorating effects of the herb during ancient times. Wild Thyme was meant to signify Republicanism in France and bits of Thyme were often included in invitations to meetings of Republican parties.

Ancient Uses

During ancient times, it was the Egyptians that used the Thyme herb for embalming purposes. The Ancient Greeks were the first to use the Thyme to run baths and as the main sweet smelling ingredient in their handmade incense.

In Europe, Thyme herbs were used to purify rooms and houses. It was also an important gift for knights and warriors as it symbolized both courage and good luck.

Modern Uses

In modern times, the Thyme herb was found to contain thymol which gives Thyme its strong, aromatic flavor and odor. Thymol is also considered to be an antiseptic and is a main ingredient in the commercial production of Listerine. It is also an ingredient in hand sanitizers and disinfectants.

Thyme can also be used to medicate a wound before a bandage is applied to it. The Thyme herb is also effective in the treatment of fungal infections of toenails by killing the fungus on contact.
Thyme herbal tea is used to treat cough, colds and other diseases of the upper respiratory system. It is very good in the treatment of oral sores, gum problems and as an oral antiseptic.

Thyme and its extracts are widely used as an ingredient in perfumes and embalming procedures. It is an effective insect repellant that can be placed in linens and in articles of clothing when stored for a long time.

Thyme herb may be used as a tea, as a tincture, a salve, in syrup form and even for steam inhalation to liquefy mucus in the lower respiratory tract. Thyme herb preparations can also be gargled and the decoction of leaves on boiled water can be used on wounds after it has cooled.

Side Effects

There are no known side effects of the Thyme herb. It is well tolerated by adults and children. It is however contraindicated in very young children as well as in pregnant and nursing mothers.
For external uses or for mouthwash use, there is no need to consult a medical personnel regarding the use. Tinctures and Thyme herb syrups however needs dosage formulation that may be dependent on the patients age and weight. It is therefore important to consult your doctor regarding the use of these Thyme Herb preparations.

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Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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