Materia Medica-ThymeBotanical name: Thymus vulgaris
Common name: Thyme, Garden Thyme
Family: Labiatae (Mint)

Parts used: Young leaves and flowers

Native Region: There are more than 220 species of the genus Thymus, most of which are low growing, perennial, small evergreen shrubs, native to the Mediterranean region.

Botanical Description: Growth habit is low-growing, often ground creeping,  with plant height to 12 inches. The small, lance-shaped , elliptical or oval leaves, up to 3/8” long, are arranged opposite on short stalks. Rubbing the leaves releases a pungent, lemony scent.Tiny whitish pink to pale lavender flowers are borne in tight, whorled terminal heads. The upper and lower of the two lipped calyxes differ in size or shape between the upper and lower segments. Thyme blooms from May through August.

Growing: Native to dry, rocky soils of southern Europe, thyme is particularly associated with Spain, Portugal, southern France, Italy, and the mountains of Greece. Taken to England by the Romans, it has grown in English gardens since 1548 and in American gardens by 1806 or earlier.It can be grown from seeds, cuttings or layering or by root division. It likes room to spread. Give it at least a foot of space. Plant it in light, warm, dry, well-drained soil with a slightly alkaline pH. [1] Herbalists of the Middle Ages regarded thyme as a stimulant and antispasmodic and recommended sleeping on thyme and inhaling it as a remedy for melancholy and epilepsy. Later herbalists prescribed the oil externally as an antiseptic for fungal infections like athlete’s foot. [2]

Harvesting: After 3 or 4 years, it becomes woody and dies back in the center. Clumps can be divided and spread out. Leaves and flowers can be harvested any time of year. Thyme dries well and is one of the eight herbs in the blend Herbs de Provence.

Culinary Uses: Thyme imparts an agreeable depth of flavor to almost any meat dish. Thyme is traditionally combined with bay leaves and parsley to make the French Bouquet Garni can be dropped into soups, stews, and boiled grains as they simmer. The classic blend of Herbs de Provence are widely used in French cooking.These floral herbs flourish in the hills of France and include rosemary, marjoram, thyme, sage, fennel seeds, savory and lavender. Add it to chicken, pork, fish, veal and shrimp recipes.It adds an excellent flavor to stuffings, marinades, and salad dressings. Add it to mashed potatoes, into red or white pasta sauces, gravies, soups and soup stocks. Thyme used alone also add a pleasant flavor.

Medicinal Uses: The aromatic compounds also called essential or volatile oils are the important part of thyme leaves and flowers. They help to relieve coughs, both as an antispasmodic and an expectorant. [1]

The volatile oil produced in thyme contains phenol, thymol and carvacrol and is strongly antiseptic. The latter two components are antibacterial and anti fungal. An infusion of thyme can be used to bathe infected wounds, to clean them, and promote healing. The essential oil of thyme is one of the most important oils in aromatherapy. It is used to boost the mind, spirit, and body. The vapor is used to treat exhaustion, headaches, and depression as well as upper respiratory complaints, skin and scalp irritations and to prevent warts. The essential oil is used in commercial toothpastes, mouthwashes and in liniments and creams for the topical treatment of gout, arthritis and rheumatism.[4]

As first aid for a toothache, make a strong infusion of three teaspoons of equal parts thyme, marshmallow and sage and use it as a mouthwash. For mouth ulcers and oral Candida (thrush), use an infusion of thyme as a mouthwash.

For a sore throat and irritable  coughs, add two drops each of thyme, lemon, and sage essential oils to three teaspoonful of vodka. Add two drops of this mixture to a cup of warm water and gargle. [3]

How to Use: Tea – Steep 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh or dried thyme leaves and flowers in 1 cup of hot water for 5 minutes. Strain off leaves, add honey to taste and drink 3 times daily. Use to address coughs, congestion and sore throats. [1]

Dosage and Administration:

As an Infusion:

From 1 to 3 fluid ounces

As an Oil:

From 2 to 10 drops on sugar, or in emulsion

Potential Side Effects:

Some people have demonstrated sensitivity to the essential oil, so patch tests are appropriate. 

Although it is safe to use thyme as a seasoning during pregnancy, high doses should be avoided since it is a uterine stimulant. [4]

Recipes: No kitchen should be without the heady, aromatic flavor of thyme. It is best when used fresh, but you can buy it dried. The intensely pungent flavor complements most meats, especially  chicken and game meats. Its robust nature means it can withstand long cooking times. It works well in slow-cooked dishes such as stews and soups. It is one of the herbs in Bouquet Garni and marries well with rosemary and sage. Chop it up in stuffings for poultry or lamb. It can also be used as a marinade for olives. Tuck a few sprigs with a half of lemon and an onion inside a chicken before roasting. [5]

Herbs de Provence (


1 Tbs marjoram

1 Tbs thyme

1 tbs summer savory

1 tsp dried sweet basil

½ tsp dried rosemary

½ tsp fennel seeds

¼ tsp sage


Mix and store in a jar. Sprinkle on whatever you’re cooking.

Blend with grated parmesan cheese and put in a shaker bottle on the dinner table.

Sprinkle on freshly steamed vegetables

Can be added to mayonnaise or other sandwich spread recipes.

For each 4 servings in a recipe, add approximately 1 teaspoon of Herbs de Provence

Comforting Cottage Pie (


1 tbs olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 ¼ lb ground beef

14 oz can tomatoes

1o oz beef stock

1 bay leaf

1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves stripped

2 tbs tomato purée

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the topping

1 ½ lb potatoes, peeled and chopped

8 oz parsnips, peeled and chopped

2 tsp creamed horseradish

2 ½ oz butter

2 oz milk

Directions: Heat oven to 375ºF, heat oil in large pan. Add onion and carrots and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the minced meat and cook for 3 minutes , to brown. Add the tomatoes, purée, beef stock, bay leaf and thyme. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Season to taste. Meanwhile, to make the topping, boil the potatoes and parsnips in water until soft. Drain and mash with the butter and milk. Stir in horseradish and season with salt and pepper. Spoon meat mixture into an oven proof dish. Top with mashed potato/parsnip mash and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.


1. Johnson, Rebecca L. & Steven Foster, Tirana Low Dog, M.D. & David Kiefer, MD. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs, National Geographic Society, pp. 95-97

2. Dobelis, Inge N. Magic and Medicine of Plants, 1989, Readers Digest, p. 321

3. Holt, Geraldene. Geraldene Holt’s Complete Book of Herbs, 1991, Henry Holt & Company, p. 217



Billie Nicholson, Editor
June 2018

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