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Herb of the week: Thyme.

Botanical name: 

Photo: Thymus vulgaris 11.A short profile:

Latin: Thymus vulgaris.
Family: Lamiaceae, mint family.
Parts used: Aboveground parts.
Taste: Aromatic, sometimes enough so that it's hot.
4 humors: Warm, Dry.


  • Great for coughs, as teas, in syrups, or as a steam (to be inhaled).
  • Carminative / digestive: calms nausea, gas and flatulence.
  • Mint-family anti-inflammatory.
  • Strengthens the lungs.

Food uses:

  • One of our best culinary herbs: it's part of both Bouquet Garni and Herbes de Provence. And in my spice shelf, of course.


  • While some people say that various other species of Thymus can be used, I've found them to be rather inferior. The lemon thyme series of plants leaves a lot to be desired, as do our wild creeping thymes: Thymus serpyllum and Thymus pulegioides.
  • The thymes, they are a-changing. In fact, they're in full flux. If a botanist chances to say that one or the other creeping cultivar belongs to one species, another botanist will turn around and say nope, it's in another species. So call it whatever you like; it's likely to be wrong (or right) anyway, quite soon.
  • Thyme is evergreen and winterhardy. It'll appear below 4-5 months of snow looking great, but will dry away to nothing at all shortly afterward: the sun draws out its water, which it can't replenish because the ground is still frozen.


  • A cough syrup with 1 part thyme, 2 parts hyssop and 3 parts peppermint is divine. Enough so that nothing is left of it when the coughing season starts ... so make enough of it, and keep some in the freezer, too.
  • The tea, sweetened with honey, is our next-best herb for nausea. (The best is of course ginger.)
  • Both thyme and sage (Salvia officinalis) are good lung strengheners. If you get respiratory tract problems more than once a year, try 2-3 cups of tea of either every day for 1-2 months. If these herbs don't help check your living or working environment for mold.

Comments on Facebook:

  • From Judy B.:
    We made an alcohol extract of thyme and added a very small amount to a wound wash formula. I read it has anticeptic properties.
    28 December 2011 at 14:52
  • From Julie J.:
    Thyme tincture is one of those things i keep on hand in large quantities, for everything.
    And when my son was a baby and had a respiratory ick, I put him in baths and poured thyme tincture in--soaking in the liquid and inhaling the vapors works brilliantly for young 'uns who cant ingest it.
    And my cough syrup formula: chopped fresh ginger, lemon (peel and all), and thyme, in honey, warmed just a bit and then left to macerate. I never strain it, as the honey soaked herbs and fruit is quite yummy to eat and gives quite an extra zing.
    28 December 2011 at 16:52
  • From Serena B.:
    When I had recurring terrible, awful sinus infections, I made a weak tea of thyme and used it in a neti pot to wash my sinuses.
    28 December 2011 at 19:13
  • From Sara H.:
    thyme is a fantastic herb - a great all rounder - also good for UTIs as well as RTIs and gut. and a fab topical herb for skin infections. love it!
    28 December 2011 at 21:23
  • From Maria S.:
    Thyme is also a good muscle-relaxant and painkiller. I´ve made thyme-oil and use it for my aching shoulder that never healed properly after a fall three years ago. I rub a small amount of the oil on my shoulder and in ten minutes the pain is gone!
    29 December 2011
  • From Henriette's herbal:
    Oh, great, Maria! I'll have to add that to my "and you make oils from these herbs" thingy! And try it, too, of course :-)
    29 December 2011 at 15:59
  • From Karen Vaughan:
    I find that mixed 50% with fenugreek tincture, it works quite well for sinusitus. Still figuring out who it doesn't work for.
    30 December 2011 at 22:58
  • From Elizabeth L. L'A.:
    I use thyme and fenugreek herb 50/50, a tablespoon each, in tea, for tummy issues, flu, sinusitis, yeasties....
    15 January at 14:59

Comments on the herblist:

  • From Christophe BERNARD
    Date: 2011 12 28 - 14:38:09 +0200

    I live in Provence, so I feel obliged to jump in :) This herb has a long history here, and it is still a tradition to go out at the end of the summer and pick thyme for the winter to come (and yes, to sprinkle on your pizza as well).

    For the joke, its name in the local Provençal dialect is "badasse" - pronounced just like "bad ass". One of the toughest local herbs indeed.

    As Henriette said, on top of my list are the lungs. I have been giving it to folks with acute bronchitis, especially at the end of the infection when the mucus dries up and some folks will not be able to expel the remaining waste - a recipe to have it become chronic. So drink as the infection starts, but up the dose toward the end if lingering.

    The infusion works great but you need to drink enough of it. I have noticed that over and over. Lots of folks drink thyme infusion during a bronchitis, but one or two small cups a day. This won't be enough. The local folks here say "drink it till your breath smells thyme. The thyme breath is a sure sign that the aromatics have reached the lungs and are actively working on liquefying and disinfecting.

    Sometimes the taste can be too harsh, especially here where the plant is very rich in oils and tannins. It might be too strong for kids, or certain people with sensitive taste buds.
    - Don't let it infuse for too long. Usually the oils get extracted quickly. After that, the longer and the more tanins and bitter substances, useful too but not as useful as the oils.
    - If you have some wild plants around where you live, cut them back in the fall. They will make new growth throughout the winter. Those new growth (at least here) are still very aromatic, more juicy, of a tender green, and they taste great (not as much bitters/tannins). I pick them and make a fresh infusion out of them.

    The trick to dry and store it easily is to cut the whole aerial part, let it dry in a large paper bag - don't press too much plant material in it, it needs to be very aerated. Once it is dry, just shake the paper bag, give it a few hits on the sides, and all the tiny dried leaves will fall at the bottom.

    The fresh plant tincture is very strong and effective. I like to make it when the plant flowers in the early spring.

  • From Kimberlee H.
    Date: 2011 12 30 - 01:35:12 +0200

    Thyme is my absolute favorite for colds, infections of all types in the respiratory system, but this is because I'm the type that every cold I get moves into my lungs.

    I got bronchitis every winter for 4 years in a row until I started preparing for the season change. All colds would start w/ snuffles and end with coughing up phlegm.

    Thyme helps in steam inhalation with clogged sinuses and I always take it as tincture.

    The tincture warms and drys. (perfect for winter bronchitis. And I think it just helps your immune system, although I don't know why.

    I always put Thyme and rosemary in my "sick soup."

  • From Christine Herbert
    Date: 2011 12 30 - 19:41:25 +0200

    I've recently been using Thymus vulgaris CT thujanol with T. mastichina and T. capitata (the latter short term) as essential oils mixed in with tinctures for very stubborn chest infections, particularly bronchiectasis. Mix 20 - 30 drops in total of essential oils into a glycerate ( I use a prunella glycerate I made this year) or glycerine, and then make up to 100ml with appropriate tinctures.

    Dose is 5ml after meals. That way they end up with a couple of drops of essential oil daily. I have long term people with bronchiectasis tell me it is the best thing they have ever taken....

    care to only use good essential oils...

    my information and essential oils comes from Ros Blackwell with whom I have no connection :-)

Please add your own experiences etc. in the comments!