Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris L.) – A Powerful Herb Growing in Many Gardens

Thyme is one of the most well known culinary herbs and is commonly grown in herb 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 30 cm tall. Its leaves are opposite and green-gray in colour. It is a member of the Laminaceae (Labiatae) family. It’s essential oil is extracted from the leaves and flowering tops by steam distillation.

Thyme is known by many names including: Thyme, common thyme, garden thyme, common garden thyme, mother of thyme, and others.


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. The essential oil content of the dried plant material is between 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 herbal 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:

  • Oil contains the antibacterial chemical thymol.
  • Useful for all types of cough.
  • For asthma (steam inhalation), chronic asthma, nervous cough, dry cough, hacking cough, whooping cough, infection of lung or bronchial tubes, and bronchitic asthma.
  • Used for intestinal infections, intestinal worms, fungal growths, thrush and mouth fungi (mouthwash and gargle), wound cleanser, scrophulous skin conditions (lotion), liver diseases, indigestion, and as a skin disinfectant (washing wounds before dressing).
  • The tea is used for colds, nervous conditions, colic, and headache
  • The steam is inhaled from the infusion for congestion; often combined with marjoram and chamomile.
  • Oil used in liniments for muscle pain.
  • Used to combat itchiness.

The information provided here is not for the purpose of self diagnosis or self treatment. It is provided for the sole purpose of providing general information about herbs used in herbal medicine. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.

© Wildcrafted Herbal Products 2009

The Author:

Danny Siegenthaler is a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine and together with his wife Susan, a medical herbalist and Aromatherapist, they have created Natural Skin Care Products by Wildcrafted Herbal Products to share their 40 years of combined expertise with you. They practice Herbal and Chinese medicine at their Wildcrafted Cottage Clinic.

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