Brewed in a tea thyme energises the whole system, and through its fortifying effect on the nervous system it is excellent for treating physical and mental exhaustion, tension, anxiety and depression.
The relaxant action of thyme can help relieve wind and cramping in the stomach and bowel and can be a useful treatment for those with irritable bowel syndrome. It’s also a good choice for treating diarrhoea, bowel infections and ‘holiday tummy’ and to help re-establish a normal bacterial population in the gut.
These traditional uses persist today and, in addition, we now know that thyme is as good of the body as it is for the mind. According to the USDA, 3g (about 2 tsps) of dried thyme (roughly equivalent to 28g or 1oz of the fresh herb) meets about 60% of your daily needs for vitamin K, 20% of your iron, 10% of your manganese and 5% of your calcium.
It is also rich in the volatile oil constituents carvacolo, borneol, geraniol and thymol.
These substances have been proved to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties against Streptococcus mutans, Staphalococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis and E. coli.
It is also effective against Shigella sonnei, a bacteria that causes diarrhoea. Washing lettuce in a solution that is just 1% thyme oil or thymol has been shown to drop the number of Shigella bacteria below detection point. Scientists are now trying to develop natural food preservatives based on thyme essential oils.
While individual constituents of thyme are effective, there is also evidence that in some instances they are no more effective than thyme oil or extract, suggesting they work synergistically in the whole plant.
A powerful antioxidant
These days modern science is finding some basis for thyme’s traditional use as an energy tonic and aid to longevity. It’s not just thyme’s volatile oils and vitamins and minerals but its antioxidant phenols and flavonoids, that make it so beneficial in protecting DNA against oxidative damage.
The volatile oils in thyme have been found to help protect the brain by increasing beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in the brain, keeping the body’s cells healthy and helping to slow the ageing process.
Fatty acids are vital for building cell walls and for maintaining the structure of the brain, the nervous system and blood vessels. Because it is a powerful antioxidant, thyme helps protect these fats from damage caused free radicals. Studies are ongoing to determine whether thyme might help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
For colds, coughs and more
Thyme’s antiseptic and antibiotic properties make it a great remedy when you have a cold, cough or sore throat. The German Commission E, which evaluates safety and efficacy of herbal preparations in Germany, has approved it for the treatment of bronchitis and coughs. So the next time you have a sore throat or congested chest try a cup of thyme tea.
Hot thyme tea sweetened with a bit of honey is also good for bringing down fevers, as encourages perspiration. A cool or lukewarm tea is a good choice for cystitis and an irritable bladder, particularly if combined with soothing herbs like marshmallow and couch grass. Because it helps to clear excess uric acid from the system, thyme is also sometimes recommended to relieve arthritis and gout.
Can also be given to dogs - use one teaspoon of thyme tea with one pint of boiling water and give with food