When most people think of thyme leaves, they imagine a sprig infusing basting liquid with flavor or a tablespoon of dried leaves used to add complexity to a soup or stew. It’s well known that thyme is good for cooking because of unique oils and compounds that produce its characteristic flavor. But less well known is thyme’s usefulness in various medical applications.
Thyme is useful as medicine because of the same properties that make it delicious. The essential oils of thyme leaves have been studied thoroughly, and some of the findings may surprise you. In the linked study, thyme essential oils were tested for antibacterial properties in isolated bacterial colonies. In petri dish studies, thyme oil at various concentrations was remarkably effective at killing bacteria, even strains that have developed antibiotic resistance, like staphylococcus.
It’s important to note that the above study indicates nothing about any specific thyme uses in human subjects. Activity in a petri dish doesn’t always mean that the same activity will demonstrate itself within a living subject. However, the study does indicate that thyme is remarkably powerful in certain settings, and that many practical uses could be discovered and developed.
A more recent study of thyme uses and its internal compounds suggests one such practical application. Because of its effectiveness as an antimicrobial agent, thyme was used against common bacteria which cause food-borne illness. The results mirrored those of the previous study.
Essential Oils and Extracts from Thyme Leaves
Reducing thyme leaves to an essential oil or extract is a simple process, though it is likely to be beyond the scope of processes which can be performed in the home. This is because thyme oils are best extracted through steam distillation, very similar to the process used in making liquor.
Potential Benefits of Thyme
Thyme has been demonstrated to help maintain blood pressure levels already within the normal range in animal studies. Though the study referenced used an extract on subjects, a diet that regularly includes fresh thyme leaves or a thyme supplement might be potentially beneficial. The study notes that thyme has traditionally been used for this purpose, even in pre-science societies. Thyme’s efficacy observed in this specific lab study validates traditional herb wisdom as passed down through the generations.
Another study about a preparation of thyme to address coughing, and seems to indicate that various thyme preparations may be of use. Extracts from thyme leaves were found to have a more notable effect than placebo medications, even after analyzing 361 different patients.
Obviously, thyme performs very well as a culinary herb. You can’t get that particular taste anywhere else in nature. This unique flavor is the result of highly evolved chemical compounds which are present in thyme leaves. These same compounds are equally useful in the world of medicine, as science continues to vindicate the wisdom of ancient physicians who regularly made use of thyme. It is impossible to say to what degree an individual will be affected by a diet rich in thyme, but many people are excited to experiment with this wonderful herb, and are frequently happy with the results.