Thyme is a small-leafed, perennial evergreen herb with a storied past. While today it is used primarily as a cooking spice, thyme has historically had many cultural uses, including a symbol for courage, bravery, and strength for soldiers in the Middle Ages.
The herb’s longevity is in part due to its versatility. Thyme’s active agent, thymol, is extracted from thyme leaves and is present in thyme’s essential oil. Yet thyme oil is only one of the herb’s useful attributes. Thyme extract, thyme tea, and even thyme as a cooking spice are all said to have potential medicinal benefits.
Thyme has some nonmedicinal uses, such as simply having a pleasant odor. It is sometimes used in potpourri and aromatherapy. However, thyme is most impressive for its ability to assist the health of various systems in the body. Potential thyme benefits include support for the throat and respiratory system, support for the heart and circulatory system, as well as support for digestion and immunity.
Throat and Respiratory System Support
You may be benefiting from thyme’s active ingredient and not even know it. Thymol, which gives thyme its distinctive flavor, is an ingredient in common hygiene products such as Listerine mouthwash and Vicks Vaporub. Thyme is said to protect against an irritated throat. An excellent way to use thyme to keep your throat soothed is by drinking a “tea” made with thyme leaves. Thyme tea is commonly taken with honey and lemon.
Thyme benefits the respiratory system by acting as an expectorant. The many air pathways of the lungs are needed for moving oxygen throughout the body, but the body often reacts to infection by producing an excess of mucus. This often causes breathing discomfort. Thymol can thin mucus by breaking up the fluid that causes congestion, and therefore lead to easier breathing. In addition to being taken as a tea, thyme has been used in recipes for homemade cough syrup.
Circulation System Support
Thyme contains several nutrients which support a healthy heart. Thyme contains potassium which is known to be a vasodilator. Vasodilators are agents which keep blood vessels functioning properly and support blood pressure levels already in a normal range. Additionally, thyme contains manganese, a nutrient which helps keep blood sugar in a normal range. Manganese is also important for insulin synthesis and secretion.
Thyme has a significant amount of iron for such a common herb. Iron is the essential mineral in hemoglobin, which helps carry oxygen through the blood. Not having enough iron in the body can lead to tiredness due to poor circulation. Fatigue related to poor circulation can have a negative effect that may disrupt normal immune system function.
Support for Digestion and The Immune System
Thyme oil consists mainly of thymol and carvacrol. Carvacrol is known to inhibit the growth of certain bacterial strains. One of the benefits of carvacrol is that it seems to be able to differentiate “good” bacteria from “bad” bacteria in the gut. Carvacrol’s ability to protect against these bad bacteria may provide temporary relief from occasional stomach discomfort and may support healthy digestion
Thyme oil also contains vitamin A and vitamin C. Vitamin A is necessary for immune system tolerance and keeping a healthy gut lining. Vitamin C is necessary for the formation of collagen that is a major component of healthy-looking skin, tissue, and more. These nutrients are a large reason why thyme is thought to support optimal immune system function.
Not only does thyme have a rich history, but there are many ways to take advantage of potential thyme benefits. Whether in the form of essential oil, extract, tea or cooking spice, thyme is a versatile herb waiting to offer your body systems support.