The pleasant aroma of the thyme plant already drew the attention of ancient Egyptians, who used it to make ointments for embalming. At present, we know that its ability to prevent putrefaction and bacteria reproduction is due to its content of thymol and carvacrol, two powerful antiseptic substances. Embalmers and taxidermists still use it as proof of its anti-microbial powers.
Thyme Plant Scientific Facts
- Other names: Garden thyme.
- French: Thym.
- Spanish: Tomillo.
- Environment: Native to Mediterranean countries and commonplace in western Mediterranean ones, it grows in calcareous or argillous soils of mountain regions, sunny and dry. It is naturalized to some of the American Continent.
- Description: Little shrub of the Labiatae family, growing up to 30 cm high, with winding woody stems, very branched. The leaves are small, oval-shaped, with edges turned downside and lighter on their undersides. The flowers are small, terminal, pink or white, with the upper lip divided into three superficial teeth and the lower one into two deep teeth.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The flower clusters (leaves and flowers).
Healing Properties and Indications
The thyme plant contains 1%-2% of essence rich in two isomers, thymol and carvacrol, and other monoterpenes such as p-cymene, borneol, and geraniol. Thyme owes most of its properties to this essence. It also contains flavonoids and phenolic acids, which help enhance the properties of this essence.
The use of thyme is adequate in the following cases:
- Antiseptic: The essence has an antiseptic power superior to that of phenol and peroxide. In the 19th century, when antibiotics were still unknown, the thyme plant was regarded as the “disinfectant of the poor.” At present, the bactericidal action of thyme essence on typhoid, diphtheria, and tuberculosis causative micro-organisms, especially on meningococcus (which causes meningitis), pneumococcus, and streptococcus, is well documented.
Its antiseptic action is mainly centered in the digestive, respiratory, genital, and urinary systems, and especially in the pharyngeal and oral mucosa, and as those of the genitalia. Its antimicrobial action is enhanced by the capabilities of thyme to stimulate leukocytosis (an increase of leukocytes in the blood), as it has been experimentally proven. Unlike antibiotics, which depress the immune system, thyme stimulates it, promoting the activity of leukocytes.
The use of the thyme plant is thus recommended for all infectious diseases, especially those with a bacterial cause affecting the digestive, respiratory, genital, and urinary systems.
- Nervous system: General stimulating of the body, it enables the intellectual faculties and mental agility, however, lacking side effects like those of coffee or tea, to which it is a good substitute. It is recommended for physical exhaustion (asthenia, weakness, hypotension) and psychological fatigue (loss of memory, anxiety, insomnia, depression, nervous irritability).
- Digestive system: Antispasmodic, eupeptic (digestion stimulating), and carminative (prevents flatulence and gas formation). It increases appetite, promotes digestion, and combats intestinal putrefactions caused by imbalances in the colon flora. It is recommended for gastroenteritis and colitis caused by bacteria of the genus Salmonella, responsible for many infections caused by food in bad condition, especially in summer.
- Vermifuge: It expels intestinal parasites, especially active with taeniae. It is also a suitable insecticide for lice and fleas.
- Oral and pharyngeal afflictions: As rinsings, it combats sores, pyorrhea, and stomatitis (inflammation or irritation of the oral mucosa). As gargles it is very effective in treating pharyngitis and tonsilitis.
- Respiratory system: The thyme plant has expectorant, antitussive, and balsam antiseptic powers make it very helpful for sinusitis, laryngitis, bronchial catarrh and bronchitis, asthma, spasmodic cough, and whooping cough. In these cases, we recommend taking its infusion or essence and take inhalations. We recommend its consumption during influenza epidemics, whether as an infusion or in the more traditional thyme soup or salad dressing.
- Genital and urinary system: Its diuretic and antiseptic properties are recommended for urinary infections. When externally applied as cleansing, it acts favorably on infection on the external genitalia caused by lack of hygiene, diabetes, or other reasons, both in females (vaginitis, vulvitis with or without leukorrhea) and in males (balanitis, posthitis, infection of the glans and the foreskin). When applied as a hot poultice, it alleviates renal colic pain and that of cystitis.
- Antirheumatic: Externally applied as a massage, baths, and poultices, it calms rheumatic aches caused by arthritis and gout. When orally taken, it also has diuretic and sudorific properties, eliminating excess acid metabolic waste from the blood that causes arthritis and gout. In external applications, thyme also alleviates pain caused by a stiff neck, lumbalgia, sciatica, arthrosis, etc.
- Skin infections: As baths and compresses, it is applied on infected or torpid wounds, sores, varicose ulcerations, chilblains, furuncles, abscesses, dermatitis, etc. Due to its antiparasite properties, it is beneficial for scabies and lice, and flea infestation.
- Hair invigorating: Applied as a lotion or massage on the scalp, it gives strength to the hair and prevents its loss.
- When taken orally, do not exceed the dose of 2-3 drops three times a day. Overdose can provoke nervous irritability and motor incoordination. These phenomena only occur when using the essence and seldom when using natural parts of the plant.
- In local application, it is used in steam inhalations (2-3 drops in half a liter of hot water), massaging the aching area, or in baths of the affected skin area. It is slightly irritant on the skin, and dissolving it is required. Bear in mind that its antiseptic powers manifest themselves even with solutions weaker than 1:3000 (six drops in a liter of water).
- Steam inhalations are done with 3-4 drops of thyme essence in half a liter of boiling water. Breathe the vapors for five minutes, three or four times a day.
- Inhalations consist of breathing the essence after putting 2-3 drops on a handkerchief or hand.
How to use Thyme
- Infusion, with 20-30 g of flower clusters per liter of water. Drink up to five cups daily. When concentrated (50-60 g per liter), it achieves a stimulant effect similar to tea or coffee but lacks any disadvantages.
- Mouth rinses and gargles with a decoction made with 100-120 g of flower clusters per liter of water, boiling until liquid reduces to a half.
- Steam inhalations with the essence.
- Compresses and baths with this decoction.
- Lotions and massage with the decoction or the essence.
- Baths: infusion with 300-500 g of thyme in 2-3 liters of water; this can be added to the bathwater.
- Poultices: Wrap flowers and leaves of thyme, without branches, in a cotton cloth. Heat the cloth on iron or over a heater, and apply to the aching area.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 769,770,771. Print. [Thyme plant]