Herbal Medicine - Thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.)

Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

 


Thyme - a time honoured herb

Thyme is one of the most well known culinary herbs and is commonly grown in gardens. It is a small perennial plant native to Europe and Asia, but has been adopted the World over. Thyme is an aromatic shrub with a gnarled woody stem that grows to 30cm tall. Its leaves are opposite and green-gray in colour.

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Thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.)

Botanical name: Thymus vulgaris L.

Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae)

Parts Used: Leaves and flowering tops

Essential oil extraction: Steam distillation

Other Names: Thyme, Common Thyme, Garden Thyme, common garden thyme, mother of thyme

Thyme is one of the most well known culinary herbs and is commonly grown in gardens. It is a small perennial plant native to Europe and Asia, but has been adopted the World over. Thyme is an aromatic shrub with a gnarled woody stem that grows to 30cm tall. Its leaves are opposite and green-gray in colour.

Constituents:

The essential oils of thyme are grouped into three main types: thyme oil, which contains 42 to 60% phenols and is mainly thymol; origanum oil, which contains 63 to 74% phenols and is mainly carvacrol; and lemon thyme oil, which contains citral. Essential oils are extracted by steam distillation. Thyme oil has thymol, terpinen-4-ol, carvacrol, p-cymene, -pinene, camphene, -pinene, myrcene, 1,8-cineole, -terpinene, d-linalool and other compounds. Thyme oil is divided into two types, a red, unrectified oil and a white, rectified oil. Oil content of dried plant material is 2 to 5%.

Traditional Applications in Herbal Medicine:

In herbal medicine, herbalists traditionally consider Thyme as an anti-microbial, anthelmintic (expels parasitic worms (helminths) from the body), antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, emmenagogue (herbs which stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus; some stimulate menstruation), expectorant, resolvent (promotes the resolving and removing of abnormal growths, such as a tumour, swelling , etc.), rubefacient (agent which reddens skin, dilates the vessels, and increases blood supply locally), sedative, stimulant, and tonic. It is one of the herbs that has a large number of therapeutic properties and has both internal and external applications.

Thyme has been used as a folk medicine against asthma, arteriosclerosis, colic, bronchitis, coughs, diarrhoea, and rheumatism and is used to promote perspiration. With its high content of volatile oil, Thyme makes a good carminative for use in dyspepsia and sluggish digestion. This oil is also a strong antiseptic, therefore, it is used externally as a lotion for infected wounds, and internally for respiratory and digestive infections. It may be of use as a gargle in laryngitis and tonsillitis, easing sore throats and soothing irritable coughs. It is thus an excellent cough remedy, producing expectoration and reducing unnecessary spasm. It may be used in bronchitis, whooping cough and asthma.

As a gentle astringent it has found use in childhood diarrhoea and bed wetting.

Combinations: For asthmatic problems it will combine well with Lobelia and Ephedra, adding its anti-microbial effect. For whooping cough use it with Wild Cherry and Sundew.

Other indications include:

 

References

  1. Grieve, M. (1977). A Modern Herbal, Peregrine Books, England.
  2. Purdue University (hort): www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/med-aro/factsheets/THYME.html Last accessed, 10/06/2009.
  3. Stuart, M. (1979). The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism. Orbis Publishing Limited, London.
  4. Valnet, J. (1992). The Practice of Aromatherapy. The C.W. Daniel Company Ltd., Essex, England.

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