Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming. The ancient Greeks used it in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples, believing it was a source of courage. The spread of thyme throughout Europe was thought to be due to the Romans, as they used it to purify their rooms and to "give an aromatic flavour to cheese and liqueurs". In the European Middle Ages, the herb was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares. In this period, women also often gave knights and warriors gifts that included thyme leaves, as it was believed to bring courage to the bearer. Thyme was also used as incense and placed on coffins during funerals, as it was supposed to assure passage into the next life.
The name of the genus of fish Thymallus, first given to the grayling (T. thymallus described in the 1758 edition of Systema Naturae by Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus) originates from the faint smell of the herb thyme, which emanates from the flesh.
Thyme isn’t just one of the most popular culinary herbs today — it also has a long, long history of use as a medicinal healer and protector. Back in the Roman era, it was consumed to prevent poisoning and put in baths to stop the effects of poisoning once it already happened. In the days before refrigeration and food safety laws, including it in recipes gave you at least some protection against spoiled meat and food-borne illness. Prior to modern antibiotics coming on the scene, thyme oil was used to medicate bandages.
You might not even realize that you have used this herb medicinally in your life before — thymol, thyme’s most active ingredient, is used in Listerine mouthwash and Vicks VapoRub because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties. The fact that these classic, although not very natural, products choose to use thymol as a key ingredient speaks to the undeniable medicinal benefits of this versatile herb.
Read on to learn about this awesome herb that is super easy to incorporate into your daily life for a wide range of health-boosting effects.
6 Health Benefits of Thyme
In general, thyme is excellent at supporting the immune and respiratory systems as well as the digestive, nervous and other body systems. It’s a serious powerhouse when it comes to staying healthy. Check out some of the top ways this herb can help improve your health.
1. Fights Sore Throats
Thyme oil is one of the strongest, natural antimicrobials, making it a serious weapon against sore throats. Its carvacrol content is a major reason why it’s one of the top essential oils for sore throat relief.
One recent study conducted by the Medical and Sanitary Microbiology Department at Medical University of Lodz in Poland tested thyme oil’s response to 120 different strains of bacteria isolated from patients with infections of the oral cavity, respiratory tract and genitourinary tract. The results of the experiments showed that the oil from the thyme plant exhibited extremely strong activity against all of the clinical strains. It even demonstrated a good efficacy against antibiotic-resistant strains. Next time you have a sore throat, make sure to add this herb to your soup and have some soothing and germ-killing thyme tea!
2. Lowers Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels
The ingestion of thyme has been shown to produce antihypertensive activity, which makes it a great herbal choice for anyone suffering from high blood pressure symptoms. A recent animal study found that the extract was able to significantly reduce the heart rate of subjects with high blood pressure. The extract was also shown to reduce cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL levels while increasing HDL cholesterol levels. Instead of overdoing it on salt, try adding more beneficial herbs like thyme to your daily meals.
3. Prevents Food Poisoning
Thyme has the ability not only to prevent food contamination, but to decontaminate previously contaminated foods as well. In several studies published in Food Microbiology, researchers found that the herb’s essential oil was able to decontaminate lettuce inoculated with Shigella, an infectious organism that causes diarrhea and can lead to major intestinal damage. Washing produce in a solution containing just 1 percent of the oil decreased the number of Shigella bacteria below the point of detection.
By adding it to your next meal, you can actually decrease your likelihood of a food-borne illness. Try adding fresh thyme to your next homemade salad to make those raw greens even healthier and safer to consume!
4. Boosts Your Mood
The carvacrol found in this medicinal herb has been studied and shown to have some very positive mood-boosting effects. Research published in 2013 showed that when carvacrol was administered for seven consecutive days to animals, it was able to increase both dopamine and serotonin levels in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Dopamine and serotonin are two key neurotransmitters when it comes to your mood.
The data from this study suggests that carvacrol is a brain-active molecule that clearly influences brain activity through the modulation of neurotransmitters. If thyme is regularly ingested in low concentrations, this study suggests that it might improve feelings of well-being.
5. May Fight Cancer
The properties in this herb have been shown to fight against tumors and cancer. More specifically, carvacrol is a major component of the essential oil that displays antitumor properties, making this beneficial plant a potential cancer-fighting food.
One recent study out of China and published in Anti-Cancer Drugs found that carvacrol inhibited the proliferation and migration of the two colon cancer cell lines. Overall, research shows that carvacrol has therapeutic potential for both the prevention and treatment of colon cancer.
6. Naturally Remedies Bronchitis
Thyme has been used for centuries for the treatment of coughs and bronchitis. A study conducted by the Practice for Internal Medicine and Pneumology in Germany used an oral treatment that was a combination of thyme and ivy. The group treated with this combination had a 50 percent reduction in coughing fits that was achieved two days earlier than the placebo group. In addition, the group treated with the this combination had no more adverse events than the placebo group and no serious adverse events at all.
Further research confirms this and suggests this herb makes an effective bronchitis natural remedy as well.