Thyme, a common name used to indicate the Thymus vulgaris plant , is a cosmopolitan plant that abounds in the Mediterranean basin. It is a xeric plant , that is, which needs particular drought and sunshine conditions, to grow luxuriantly. Under these conditions, the plant takes on a low-bush appearance that is very fragrant and pleasing to the eye. Added to this is the completely peculiar aspect that distinguishes it when flowering occurs.
This event is characterized by the appearance of many inflorescences in the shape of small spikes of a color ranging from white to lilac, also very fragrant. This characteristic is connected with the abundance of essential oilsof which this plant is an active producer and which sanction its enormous success in the herbal and phytotherapy field . Furthermore, these oils make thyme highly appreciated also in the field of cosmetics as well as in that of phytocomplexes useful in the health sector.
The virtues and benefits associated with the consumption of thyme have been studied for many centuries having been discovered, for the first time, in Ancient Greece. In fact, just think that in ancient times, thyme was used to treat gastrointestinal and airway disorders .
Furthermore, all these properties are linked to the tannin molecules of which this plant is rich. In particular, a molecule seems to guarantee this efficacy: thymol. This molecule has antiviral properties and is an immune stimulant . In addition, the substances contained in thyme oil guarantee antiseptic and balsamic properties.
The culinary use of thyme is made almost exclusively for the flavor that its addition can bring to the dishes. In fact, its aroma is highly appreciated on meat and fish . In addition, thyme has the ability to stimulate appetite by promoting the correct assimilation of fats. In fact, only 5 g of this spice can contribute up to 10% of the daily requirement of calcium and a large part of that of iron.
Thyme: what it is
Thyme belongs to the Lamiaceae family (also known as Labiate). It is a family characterized by about 3000 species all more or less capable of producing essential oils . The most representative species of the family certainly include basil, sage, mint, oregano and marjoram.
Origin of the name
The origin of the name of the plant is debated and there are two hypotheses, both deriving from Greek words. On the one hand it is thought to derive from the name θύμον (pronounced thýmon). This word takes on the meaning of ‘courage’, ‘strength’. It owes this origin to the fact that it was assumed that by smelling its smell, this was able to awaken daring virtues even in the most fearful people.
Then, on the other hand, we refer to the typical smell of this aromatic plant assuming the origin of its name from the Greek word which means ‘perfume’.
Thyme in mythology
Legends tell that, thanks to its perfume, the thyme flower is the favorite of fairies.
The Thymus vulgaris plant grows spontaneously throughout the Mediterranean and Caucasian basin:
- all over Europe
- Mediterranean Asia
- Northern Africa.
In fact, it prefers very sunny places and, consequently, characterized by very arid soils, with a clear preference for marine areas and for gravelly or rocky soils. So, it is precisely this aspect that makes the concentration of molecules in its essential oil so high, guaranteeing the multiple properties of this species .
The genus Thymus has many species (about 350), all very similar to each other and difficult to identify. Among the best known, in addition to the protagonist of this article, Thymus vulgaris , there are Thymus citriodorus , much loved for its characteristic lemon scent , and Thymus serpyllum , a more wild form.
As can easily be deduced from the etymology of its name, the history of the use of thyme has its origin in the period of ancient Greece. In some botanical treatises written by Theophrastus (371 BC – Athens, 287 BC), it is possible to find, among the names of various species of plants mentioned, also that of the thyme.
In the description made by Theophrastus, among the main virtues of Thymus vulgaris , there is that of a plant capable of being incinerated as if it were incense. For this quality, the plant was considered almost sacred and used during religious rites , especially those in which sacrifices were made to ingratiate themselves with the favors of the divinities.
Historical notes on thyme: the Middle Ages
It is in the Middle Ages that the plant obtained its consecration as a plant species capable of instilling courage. In fact, it was used by knights precisely for this purpose. As a virtuous plant , it was often the wives of the fighters who gave it to their husbands before they went down to the battlefield.
The knights washed the body with thyme water and drank thyme-based infusions.
Historical notes on thyme: nowadays
One of the two main uses of this plant is related to its ability to produce essential oils.
The second use is ornamental , due to the bushy habit that the plant assumes, even in nature, in contexts of Mediterranean scrub. In the series, we combine business with pleasure.
In fact, why not take advantage of the beauty of this plant and its ability to provide us with a series of products whose nutritional and medicinal virtues are undoubted? For this reason, thyme plants are very common in many gardens , public or private, especially in central-southern Italy. This is because of the perfect climatic conditions observed in these areas of Italy, favoring the optimal growth of the thyme.
Nutritional values of thyme
Calories 276 Kcal
- sodium : 55 mg
- calcium : 1890 mg
- iron : 123.6 mg
- phosphorus: 201 mg
- magnesium : 220 mg
- manganese : 7.867 mg
- potassium : 814 mg
- copper : 0.86 mg
- zinc : 6.18 mg.
- A : 190 µg
- B1 : (Thiamine): 0.513 mg
- B2 : (Riboflavin): 0.399 mg
- B3 : (Niacin): 4.94 mg
- B6 : (pyridoxine): 0.55 mg
- beta-carotene : 2264µg
- folate : 274 µg
- C : (Scorbic acid 🙂 50 mg
- E : 7.49 mg
- K : 1714.5 µg.
Thyme: medicinal properties
It is a caloric spice but it should also be considered that the use made of it is a few grams.
However, it should be emphasized that this caloric power is linked to the high content of carbohydrates with a low glycemic index and mono and polyunsaturated fats. These aspects give the thyme carminative and soothing properties. To this must also be added the essential role linked to the richness in fiber, both insoluble and soluble, useful for promoting full intestinal regularity .
A real iron food supplement
One aspect that is certainly relevant is linked to the iron content in 100 g of product.
From the top of its 123.6 mg of iron , thyme can be considered one of the foods with the highest content of this element. In fact, the Recommended Nutrient Intake Levels ( LARN ) proposed by the Italian Society of Human Nutrition , recommend a daily requirement of 10 mg in men and 18 in women . This configures it as a very useful food supplement for individuals suffering from iron deficiency anemia (hematological disease).
A relevant source of calcium
100g of thyme (it is not possible to consume this amount of thyme but 100g is always used as the reference unit), they are able to guarantee a calcium intake equal to twice the recommended daily quantity. In fact, in 100g of thyme, we can find up to around 1900 mg of calcium.
So, in a daily portion of thyme (equal to about 5g) we find about 10% of the daily calcium requirement.
Thyme is a true ‘multivitamin’ because the abundance of potassium and magnesium stands out, useful for the health of the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems.
The thyme plant guarantees optimum intake of vitamins B group and vitamin A and vitamin K . Hence, it acts as a support for the immune and nervous systems .
Antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory
These are the main benefits obtained from the use of this plant which have been known for centuries.
Suffice it to say that they are mentioned in an essay on medicinal plants, published in the Renaissance period, known as Herbario novo . The main antiseptic effects of thymol are expressed on the oro-bronchial tract, in the treatment of various problems:
- pharyngitis and sinusitis
- nasopharyngitis and rhinosinusitis
- ear infection
In this regard, several scientific studies testify to the efficacy of thyme essential oil against Candida albicans , Aspergillus niger and Cryptococcus neoformas .
This action is also carried out mainly by thymol, an alcoholic molecule capable of counteracting the formation of molecules deriving from oxidative stress .
Thyme and liver
The latter benefit is actually the least studied because it has only recently been hypothesized.
In fact, it has been shown that the consumption of thyme can help the liver in the process of cholesterol metabolism by reducing the circulating levels in the blood. Furthermore, at the same time, it has also been hypothesized a hepatoprotective role of the thymus on the liver when the species is taken simultaneously with the intake of alcohol.
However, it must be remembered that they are very recent studies, which have yet to be confirmed by further research in this area.
Thyme: a natural remedy for healing
The fields of use of thyme are varied, in its different forms.
Precisely for this reason, thyme and its derivatives are very useful in the treatment of various physiological and pathological conditions.
In fact, it is very useful in the treatment of airway infections , due to the strong antibacterial and anti-infective action linked to the tannin compounds with which it is rich. In addition, these chemical properties also make it useful in the treatment of pathway infections :
In the first case, it is recommended for consumption by ingestion, in the form of herbal tea, honey or spice. Instead, in all other cases, it appears more useful if used in the form of essential oil .
Always taking advantage of its anti-inflammatory properties, the infusion of thyme can be useful in the treatment of skin problems such as dermatitis and acne, for topical use.
What to cure with thyme
The combination of all these properties means that the target organs of the beneficial action of the thymus are many:
- bronchi and bronchioles
- gold-pharyngeal and larynx cable
- gallbladder, liver and biliary tract
- mouth and nasal mucosa
- digestive organs
- excretory organs
- auditory system
- vocal organs
- paranasal sinuses
- immune system
- nervous system
- skin tissue
- upper airways
- urinary tract.
A curiosity about herbal tea or thyme decoction
It would seem that the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial action can also be exercised on wounds . If these are medicated with cotton wool soaked in a thyme herbal tea, the wound is less likely to become infected and heals earlier .
Contraindications of the thymus
There are no known contraindications related to the consumption of thyme even if its abuse in pregnancy is not recommended due to its emmenagogue action.
In addition, given the ability of the thymus to interact with the function of the thyroid hormones , high consumption in hypothyroid subjects is not recommended as it could cause thyrotoxicosis.
Thyme: how to use it
There are many uses that can be made of dried leaves, flowers and thyme seeds.
Thyme herbal tea
Thyme herbal teas can be used both topically, for the disinfection of wounds, canker sores, or skin problems, and orally.
In the latter case, herbal teas can be prepared at different concentrations of thyme , useful in various ways.
For example, at a concentration of 1%, the infusion can be ingested (it can be obtained with 2 teaspoons of dry extract of infused thyme on 300 ml of water). On the contrary, higher concentrations should not be ingested.
For example, to effect soothing gargles against inflammation or oropharyngeal infections , a concentration of 3% is recommended while for topical use it can be up to 15%.
Thyme essential oil
The whole Thymus vulgaris plant is strongly aromatic but the spikes of the flower provide the essential oil . Therefore, to achieve this, the mechanism of steam-based distillation is exploited.
The oil obtained, with its typical red color and very concentrated , is further distilled to make it less irritating. In this second distillation, the red color is lost and the oil takes on the typical white color. This oil is characterized by the presence of ethers including borneol, carvacrol and many forms of tannins.
In fact, what makes thyme essential oil unique is the presence of a specific ethereal molecule known as thymol. In fact, its concentration is very high within the essential oil of Thymus vulgaris , to the point of reaching almost 40% of the total concentration of all ethereal molecules.
This is probably the least known form through which it is possible to exploit thyme plants. This product is based on the exploitation of the large quantities of nectar it produces and which bees can use.
Thyme honey maintains the soothing and antiseptic properties of the plant and consequently promotes expectorant activity.
It can be eaten absolute or added to herbal teas, on fruit, inside a jar of honey. In any form it is consumed, the advice is to avoid heating it otherwise it would risk losing its properties. So if we want to add it to a herbal tea, let’s do it when it is not excessively hot.
Thyme in herbal medicine
The tablets containing dry thyme extracts are used for their diuretic and emmenagogue action (ability to make blood flow to the pelvic area, promoting, for example, the appearance of menstruation).
Beauty recipes with thyme
A curiosity about thyme essential oil
A property, certainly not primary of the thyme, is however of sure interest for all those who suffer from oily hair. In fact, it seems that adding a drop of thyme essential oil to the shampoo (as long as it is not excessively aggressive on the skin) can help reduce the production of sebum on the scalp .
The result will be less oily hair and less oily head skin.
The properties of thyme are highly appreciated in cosmetics and it is an ingredient widely used in the composition of creams and masks. In addition, thyme essential oil, highly concentrated in active ingredients, is very effective for treating skin problems.
WARNING: use thyme essential oil sparingly.
Thyme to fight skin problems
This plant is an antiseptic and is recommended especially for oily skin and acne-prone skin . In addition, it helps fight skin infections such as herpes and mycosis . Indeed, its purifying virtues help fight fungi and bacteria.
To prepare an effective home cure, you can use sterile gauze wet with 2 tablespoons of thyme and 100 ml of boiling water. Once cooled, you can apply the soaked gauze on the areas to be treated.
To relieve acne skin , just boil 100 ml of water and add a little thyme and leave it on the stove for about ten minutes. Then, leave to brew for about twenty minutes and add the juice of one lemon. It can be applied several times a day to the skin with the cotton soaked in the lotion.
Thymus treatment for hyperhidrosis (sweating of the feet)
Do you suffer from hyperhidrosis? Try this foot bath at least 2 times a week.
In a pot full of fresh water (2 liters), add 3 punches of fresh thyme and bring everything to a boil. Leave to brew for 30 minutes and pour the contents into a bowl. Soak your feet and let them soak for about fifteen minutes.
Thyme: use in the kitchen
Dusting the thyme on the cooked legumes is believed to help reduce abdominal swelling and the flautogenic effect caused by the latter.
1 – Omelette with goat cheese and thyme carrots
The omelette with goat and thyme gluten-free carrots is a light but very tasty second course . It arrives on the table and satisfies everyone’s tastes, including celiacs, because it is prepared with gluten-free ingredients .
Total Calories: 1192 / Calories per Person: 298
Ingredients for 4 people
- 100 g fine buckwheat flour allowed
- 1 egg
- 200 ml soy milk allowed
- 1 kilo of colored carrots
- 10 strands of chives
- 160 g goat cheese
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- pepper as needed
Pour the finest buckwheat flour, egg and soy milk into a bowl. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and mix the mixture with a kitchen whisk, until it is liquid and the ingredients are well mixed.
Grease a non-stick pan with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, spreading it over the entire surface with the help of a silicone brush and dabbing the excess with a little absorbent paper, and let it heat up.
Remove a portion of the omelette dough with a ladle and pour it into the non-stick pan. Distribute the product over the entire surface, forming a thin “disk”. Cook for a few minutes, then turn it over. Once cooked, transfer the omelette onto paper towels and proceed with the next ones, keeping them covered and warm.
Scrape the carrots and cut them into strips. Pour a drizzle of oil into a non-stick wok, add the carrots, flavor with a pinch of salt and pepper and sauté for about 15 minutes, adding a few tablespoons of water and covering for the first ten minutes with a lid, until they will not become crunchy. When finished, add the fresh thyme leaves.
Put the fresh cheese in a bowl, add the remaining oil and the coarsely chopped chives. Mix everything until creamy. Assemble the omelettes by spreading a thin layer of goat’s cream in the center of each and complete with the crunchy carrots and a few leaves of fresh thyme. Close the omelettes, rolling them on themselves along the direction of the filling
2 – Roasted carrots with honey, thyme and toasted hazelnuts
Total Calories: 955 / Calories per Person: 318
Ingredients for 3 people
- 15 carrots (about 1 kg)
- 1 clove of garlic
- fresh thyme leaves to taste
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp light honey.
- 1/2 glass white wine
- coarse salt to taste
- 30 g toasted hazelnuts.
Turn on the fan oven at 220 °.
Prepare the roasted carrots: peel the carrots and remove them from the tuft, if they are very large divide them in half, otherwise if they are thin, leave them whole.
Put them in a pan, sprinkle them with oil and mix thoroughly. Now add some coarse salt, fresh thyme, honey, a whole clove of unpeeled garlic and finally the white wine.
Bake at about 200-220 ° ventilated and cook for about 20 minutes: the carrots must be more tender, but still firm and well caramelized.
Serve the carrots hot or cold, sprinkled with coarsely chopped hazelnuts, after having previously roasted them and fresh thyme.
3 – Beef rolls stuffed with bread and aromatic herbs
Total Calories: 943 / Calories per Person: 236
Ingredients for 4 people
- 4 slices of beef about 110 g per slice
- 3 slices of loaf of bread about 50 g
- 40 g grated Parmesan
- 100 ml white wine
- 1/4 clove garlic
- 1 tbsp EVO oil
- marjoram to taste
- chives to taste
- thyme to taste
- rosemary to taste
- sage to taste
- Salt to taste
- pepper as needed
Soften the bread in the water, then squeeze it and place it in a bowl, add the Parmesan, the piece of garlic and the finely chopped aromatic herbs, add the salt and pepper. Knead until a uniform mixture is created.
Take each slice and fill it with the bread and parmesan filling, then roll it on itself to form the roll
seal with the help of kitchen string or toothpick.
Heat the oil in a pan, add the rolls and let them brown evenly, turning them often, blend with the white wine, then continue cooking with a lid, turning the rolls occasionally: cook for 6-7 minutes, a minute before extinguishing the fire, salt slightly. Serve the rolls cut into rings