163. Thymus Vulgaris, Linn.—Common or Garden Thyme.
Sex. Syst. Didynamia, Gymnospermia.
(Herba et Oleum.)
History.—The true Thyme, Θνμος of the ancients, is the Thymus capitatus, Hoffm. et Link. (Satureia capitata, Linn.)
Botany. Gen. Char.—Calyx ovate, 10-13-nerved, 2-lipped; upper lip 3-toothed, spreading; lower lip 2-cleft, with ciliate, subulate segments; throat villous inside. Corolla having the tube inclosed by the calyx or imbricated bracts, naked inside; limb sub-bilabiate; upper lip straight, emarginate, flattish; lower lip spreading, 3-cleft, with equal lobes, or the middle one largest. Stamens exserted, or rarely inclosed, straight, distant, nearly equal or didynamous, the lower 2 being the longest. Anthers with 2 parallel or at length diverging cells. Style about equally bifid at the apex, with subulate lobes (Bentham).
Sp. Char.—Erect or procumbent at the base. Leaves sessile, linear, or ovate-lanceolate, acute, with revolute edges, fascicled in the axils. Bracts (floral leaves) lanceolate, obtuse. Whorls loose, rather distant. Teeth of the upper lip of the calyx lanceolate; the segments of the lower lip subulate ciliated (Bentham).—Shrub much branched, ½ to 1 foot high, rather hoary with a short down. Flowers purplish.
Var. α. latifolius; Broad-leaved Garden Thyme.—Cultivated in gardens for culinary purposes.
Var. β angustifolius; Narrow-leaved Garden Thyme.
A variegated variety is cultivated for ornament. Lemon Thyme, which is cultivated for culinary purposes, is T. Serpyllum, var. vulgaris, Bentham.
Hab.—South-West of Europe, in dry, arid, uncultivated places. Cultivated as a sweet herb in England.
Description.—The flowering-tops of garden thyme (herba et summitates thymi) are dried, and sold in the shops as one of the herbs used for culinary purposes. The odour is fragrant, and to most persons agreeable.
Composition.—Similar to that of Origanum vulgare. The odour and condimentary properties depend on volatile oil (oleum thymi).
Effects and Uses.—Similar to the other sweet herbs. Chiefly used by the cook for soups, stuffings, and sauces. In the South of France the herb is used for distillation, to yield the oil of thyme.
OLEUM THYMI; Oil of Thyme.—At Milhaud, Aujargues, Souvignargues, and near the village of Fontanes, as well as at several other places in the neighbourhood of Nismes, in the department of Gard in the South of France, this oil is largely distilled, and is imported into England and sold as oleum origani. Mr. Daniel Hanbury, who visited this district in the summer of 1849, tells me that the plant grows spontaneously in abundance on the arid, rocky, waste hills of that neighbourhood. The entire plants, whether in flower or not, are collected, and, either in the fresh or dried state, submitted to distillation with water. The oil, which is of a reddish-brown colour, is called red oil of thyme (huile rouge de thym), becomes much paler by redistillation, and is then called white oil of thyme (huile blanche de thym). The specimen of red oil of thyme obtained by Mr. D. Hanbury is identical with the oil sold as oleum origani in the London shops, all of which is imported. [The price at which the oil is sold by M. Sagnier, and other exporters at Nismes, is so low as to preclude its distillation in England.] Specimens of the plant which yields the oil have been examined by Mr. Bentham, Dr. Lindley, and others; and by all have been pronounced undoubtedly Thymus vulgaris.
The medicinal properties and uses of oil of thyme are the same as those of the oleum origani, for which it is usually employed (see ante, p. 448).