Thyme is a tough small shrub-like plant with woody stems and tiny leaves. There are very many varieties – some edible and some merely ornamental. They vary in height from some being erect -up to 30cm tall to low growing creeping Thymes. They make ideal pot plants and will produce beautiful little flowers in shades of pinks, white and mauves. They are evergreen perennial plants but usually need to be replaced after 2 – 3 years. Regular harvesting makes them last longer!
The leaves and flowers are used for medicinal, cosmetic and culinary use. The different varieties of Thyme lend wonderfully diverse flavours to cooking – compare the brightly lemony taste of lemon Thyme with the deep spicy flavour of garden Thyme. They can be used in just about every dish not only savory ones.
Thyme is valued as an antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal herb. It is used (in a tea or tincture form) to treat sore throats, colds and flu, arthritis, colic and fever. Thyme strengthens the nerves and stimulates digestion. It has cardioprotective and cancer-preventing properties making it an important contributor in the health-giving ‘Mediterranean diet’. The essential oil – Thymol_ has been added to toothpastes and mouthwashes. Thyme is an effective antifungal used for athletes’ foot and yeast infections. DO NOT TAKE THE OIL INTERNALLY. It can be added to bathwater to ease rheumatic pain or added to massage oils. A few drops of oil on water containing mosquito larvae will kill them!
An ideal plant for growing in pots an especially for lazy gardeners! It does not enjoy very rich soil and prefers to be left on the dry side. They are drought-loving but need protection form cold winds, and wet winters. Thyme can be grown from seed but probably easier to take softwood cutting and propagate from these. Trim them often to maintain their shape and to encourage new growth.
Did you know:
Thyme is native to the Mediterranean region and has been used for thousands of years -even by ancient Egyptians as part of embalming regimes. The name Thymus is derived from Greek meaning’ courage’. The knights in Medieval times used to wear sprigs into battle to impart bravery. It was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and to ward off nightmares. It was also used to preserve meat – great antiseptic properties! The Romans took the herb with them through Europe using it in cooking, in cheese making and in their liqueurs. In the form of incense Thyme was placed on coffins to encourage passage to the next life.
Disclaimer: Properties of herbs discussed and their uses in NO WAY replace the advice of a medical practitioner. Please consult a qualified practitioner before using herbs medicinally.