109. Thymus vulgaris. Common Garden Thyme.
Also see 110. Thymus serpyllum. Wild, or Mother of Thyme.
Synonyma. Thymus. Pharm. Edinb.
Thymus vulgaris folio tenuiore. Bauh. Pin. p. 219. Tourn. Inst. p. 196.
Thymum durius. Dod. Pempt. p. 275. Gerard Emac. p. 573. Raii Hist. p. 521. Park. Theat. p. 7.
α Thymus vulgaris folio tenuiore. C. B. Narrow-leav'd Garden Thyme.
β Thymus vulgaris folio latiore. C. B. Broad-leav'd Garden Thyme. Hort. Kew. [This is the variety to which the figure and description here given apply.]
Class Didynamia. Ord. Gymnospermia. Lin. Gen. Plant. 727.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Calycis bilabiati faux villis clausa.
Spec. Char. T. erectus, foliis revolutis ovatis, floribus verticiliato-spicatis.
THE root is perennial,woody, and subdivided into small fibres: the stems are numerous, round, hard, branched, and usually rise about a foot in height: the leaves are small, narrow, elliptical, often slightly indented at the edges, beset with small glands, and stand in pairs upon very short footstalks: the flowers terminate the branches in whorls or round clusters: the calyx is tubular, striated, closed at the mouth with small hairs, and divided into two lips; of these the uppermost is cut into three teeth, the lowermost into two: the corolla is monopetalous, consisting of a tube, which is about the length of the calyx, and divided at the brim into two lips, of a pale purple colour; the upper lip is erect, or turned back, and notched at the end; the under lip is longer, expanding, and divided into three segments; of these the middle segment is the broadest: the filaments are two long, and two short: the antherae small and round: the germen is divided into four parts, from the centre of which issues the style, which is thread-shaped, and furnished with a bifid stigma: the seeds are four, small, roundish, and lodged at the bottom of the calyx. It is a native of the South of Europe, and flowers from May till August.
According to C. Bauhin, this plant is the Θυμος of Dioscorides and Theophrastus. ["Dioscorid. L. 3. c. 44. Theophrast. 4. hist. 7. & 6. hist. 2. 1. caus. 5. (greek), quod iis qui animi deliquium patiuntur adhibeatur: alii (greek) deducunt, quod hoc veteres in sacris, quae igne accenso fiebant, primum usi sint, ut apud Rhodiginum, L 3. c. 23. legere est."] It grows wild abundantly in the mountainous parts of Italy and Spain; we are therefore the more induced to suppose it to be the plant of this name so frequently mentioned by the Latin poet. ['Nerine Galatea, thymo mihi dulcior Hyblae.' Both this species and the Serpyllum are probably alluded to; they are equally fragrant, and coveted by bees.] It was cultivated by Gerard, and usually finds place in our gardens with the other pot-herbs.
This herb has an agreeable aromatic smell, and a warm pungent taste. "To water it imparts, by infusion, its aromatic odour, but only a weak taste: in distillation, it gives over an essential oil, in quantity about an ounce, from thirty pounds of the herb in flower; of a gold yellow colour if distilled by a gentle fire, of a deep brownish, red if by a strong one, of a penetrating smell, resembling that of the Thyme itself, in taste excessively hot and fiery: the remaining decoction inspissated, leaves a bitterish, roughish, subsaline extract. The active matter, which by water is only partially dissolved, is by rectified spirit dissolved completely, though the tincture discovers less of the smell of the Thyme than the watery infusion: the spirit brings over, in distillation, a part of its flavour, leaving an extract of a weak smell, and of a penetrating camphorated [This plant seems actually to contain a species of camphor, thus noticed by Murray: Camphorae speciem continet herba, quae sese declaruit mox post destillationem ejus cum aqua, dum oleum ab ea separaretur, tam in gossypio quam orificio vitri, crystallis exiguis, dein post aliquot dierum moram in fundo vitri crystallis, avellanae nucis adeo magnitudinis, cubicis, saccharo candi similibus." App. Med, vol. ii. p. 125. These with the odour of Thyme, had in every other respect the qualities of camphor. See Phil. Trans. Vol. xxxiii. p. 321. sqq. & p. 361.] pungency." [Lewis, M. M. p. 650.]
By Bergius the virtues of Thyme are said to be resolvent, emmenagogue, diuretic, tonic, and stomachic; [M. M. p. 536.] but we find no disease mentioned in which its use is particularly recommended either by him or other writers on the Materia Medica. As agreeing in common with the natural order of verticillatae, its aromatic qualities may be found equally useful in some of those complaints for which lavender, sage, rosemary, &c. are usually employed.