Thyme: Overview, Benefits, Recipes and Side Effects

My favorite tea with a beautiful smell and taste that helps me through the winter. Аctually, I would rather say that plants like Thyme are helping humanity to survive this era of antibiotics.

Thyme or Thymus are aromatic evergreen herbs in the mint family Lamiaceae. They are relatives of the oregano genus. This is why both plants have a strong distinctive smell. In my country, the most common thyme is wild thyme. It’s also called creeping thyme оr Breckland thyme, and this post will be mostly about it.

The wild creeping thyme is one of the main plants in folk medicine and it was used for medical purposes from ancient times until today. It is often described as a magical plant that prolongs life and keeps negative energy away.

It is used as a tea, drink, in a bath, as a relaxing aromatic refresher, spice in cooking, and so many other uses which I will describe individually with recipes later on this post.

Like always, I will start with an overview, continue with benefits, side effects and recipes.

So let’s begin.

What Is Thyme?

Thyme is every plant in the genus Thymus witch are evergreen, aromatic, perennial herbs. It is cultivated in a sunny location with well-drained soil.

Thyme leaves and thyme flowers are used for preparing tea, oil, and culinary spices.

This remarkable herb was used by ancient Greeks and Romans for their baths and was burnt before battles because it was considered a source of courage. The folk people in my country put thyme beneath the pillow to help them sleep and protect against nightmares.

As I mentioned before, I’m more familiar and have more experience with the wild thyme or creeping thyme, so I’ll pay more attention to this genus of thyme.

What is Wild thyme, Creeping thyme or Breckland Thyme?

The scientific name is Thymus serpyllum. Creeping thyme covers rocky, droughts soil in southern Europe (where my country is) and North Africa.

Breckland is creeping dwarf evergreen shrub with woody stems and it is growing wild on mountain highlands. The plant is flowering in the summer with pink-purple head flowers which emit a strong and pleasant smell.

In folk medicine, thyme is mostly used for respiratory problems, has a calming effect on nerve problems, and aids women’s health.

Creeping Thyme dried for tea on a black background.

Thyme Tea and Oil Benefits

There are two aspects to reviewing the benefits of thyme. From one side, there are those benefits that have scientific proof and research proving the effectiveness of the plant to a certain point. This research is mostly done on animals, so further studies are required to prove the effectiveness of this herb. Part of these studies is published on the NCBI web site, so for every research, I will link to them and review the results from it. Тhe idea for this research comes from folk medicine, so yes, this part of the benefits are coming from folk medicine but also has scientific proof about them.

The other part of the benefits is coming from folk medicine. This means that there are no scientific studies and proof, only experiences that are passed down from generation to generation by folk people.
I have more experience with the second one, but I will start by reviewing the ones scientific benefits first.

I’ll divide them into two groups: Benefits from thyme oil and benefits from thyme tea. Benefits from inhalation аnd drinking thyme drinks will be included in tea benefits.

Scientific Thyme Tea and Oil Benefits

The thyme benefits either from tea or oil are huge. Unfortunately, a very little part of their benefits is researched regarding the effects on human health. All these studies require more research to understand the real effect of thyme on the human body.

Scientific Thyme Tea Health Benefits

I use tea all winter to prevent colds and flu. I mix it with other tea but this one is my favorite. Also, I’m drinking it at night for better sleeping, and guess what? It works.

This is no accident. The next research proves that thyme tea influences cough and sleeping.

Thyme Tea Against Acute Bronchitis and Productive Cough

This study shows that thyme and ivy leaves (they used the fluid extract of it) helped in patients suffering from acute bronchitis with productive cough.

The experiment lasted 11 days. For these 11 days, the group that was given thyme-ivy combination had reduced coughing faster and to a greater degree than other groups that were given placebo syrup.

In the end, they came up with the conclusion that the thyme-ivy combination treatment for acute bronchitis was superior to placebo, and that the treatment was safe and well-tolerated.

Thyme Tea for Calmness and Hood Mood

Thyme contains the active substance carvacrol, and because of this, it is used for gastronomic, aromatic, and therapeutic purposes.

This study was to define the effects of carvacrol on brain neurochemistry and behavioral outcome in rats.

They came to the result

“carvacrol is a brain-active molecule that influences neuronal activity through modulation of neurotransmitters. If regularly ingested in low concentrations, it might determine feelings of well-being and could have positive reinforcer effects.”

This means that carvacrol, which is a substance contained in thyme, has an influence on the mood (in a good way) and has a calming effect. Sadly, his study was conducted on rats, so for humans, there’s a need for more research.

So, it’s a good idea to drink thyme tea before sleep.
Wild Creeping Thyme tea in a glass.

Scientific Thyme Oil Benefits

Except for aromatic and therapeutic purposes, thyme oil can boost human health. Here are some scientific studies that show if thyme oil can influence the human body or not.

Thyme Reduces Heart Rate, Blood Pressure, and Cholesterol

This research used thyme extract for their study and it shows that thyme plant can decrease the heart rate with by previously decreasing blood pressure.

It is interesting that beyond this reaction, thyme also causes a decrease in cholesterol.

These studies were made on rats only.

Thyme as Treatment Against Acne

There is a study about how thyme extract works on bacteria that causes acne.

This study is made on bacteria in the laboratory, and it shows a surprisingly greater and stronger antibacterial and antimicrobial effect than the substance that is in cosmetics products against acne and alcohol.

This was presented as a conference abstract so far, without details about used methods and results. Because of that, it is not sure how thyme will work on human skin. So, before use, you should be cautious and fully investigate because some herbs can cause skin rashes.

However, thyme can be very useful for acne treatment, but it needs more research to prove that, especially on human skin.

Thyme Against Mold

Mold is a common problem for many houses. Once you notice the trace of mold, try thyme essential oil to stop it from further expansion.

The Following Research Took Place in Zagreb, Croatia

This study was about how thyme essential oil and pure thyme work on different mold species isolated from damp dwellings.

The results that came up showed that thyme essential oil has antifungal and long-lasting suppressive activity on mold from damp dwellings, but only in low concentration.

Thyme for Indoor and Outdoor Pests

Thyme is also a substance in pesticides for outdoor and indoor pests. It is used to target animal pests like rats and mice.

A study shows that additionally to outdoor pests, thyme also works on indoor bacteria and viruses.

By rubbing leaves between your hands to release the essential oil, you will get rid of mosquitoes.

Also, if you want to be more efficient at home, mix five drops for every 2 ounces of water or four drops of thyme oil to every teaspoon of olive oil.

Thyme Treatment for Alopecia Areata

The Department of Dermatology made a study of how thyme reacts to Alopecia Areata. They split two groups of people having the disease. The first group was massaged with essential oils (thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood) in a mixture of carrier oils (jojoba and grapeseed) into their scalp daily. The second group was given only carrier oil to massage their scalp.

The studies lasted 7 months, and after that, it gave the result that the treatment on the first group who used oil with thyme was more successful than the group who used only carrier oil.

Also, they concluded that aromatherapy is a safe and effective treatment for alopecia areata.

Thyme and Breast Cancer

This study is about wild thyme and its anticancer effects.

At the end of the research, they got a positive result and conclusion. Ok, I will quote this

“ the first preliminary data on the effects of the methanolic extract of T. serpyllum in normal and breast cancer cells were obtained and suggest that T. serpyllum may be a promising candidate in the development of novel therapeutic drugs for breast cancer treatment.”

Creeping thyme as a promising candidate in the development of drugs for breast cancer treatment, I guess thyme has more benefits than I thought.

Thyme as a Natural Antiseptics for Food

Thyme essential oil contains antimicrobial properties, and this research was made to demonstrate the efficacy of it, and to identify new sources of natural antiseptics.

They tried the antimicrobial activity from Thyme essential oil on 7 common food-related bacteria and fungi.

The results show effectiveness. The oil used for the tests contains strong antimicrobial properties, and in the future, it may become a new source of natural antiseptic used in the pharmaceutical and food industry.

Thyme for Oral Health

Thyme is part of many dental products. The reason for that is it’s antibacterial and antifungal properties. Thyme oil also has anti-inflammatory effects that are reducing inflammation and infection.

According to this study, the properties mentioned before making Thyme beneficial for oral health.

Thyme for Prevention of Heart Diseases

The Thyme oil component carvacrol has an anti-lifestyle-related disease effect.

This is a result of a study that concludes that component carvacrol in thyme oil can be used as a prevention of lifestyle-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Folk Medicine Thyme Tea and Oil Benefits

In this section, I will be saying other benefits of thyme too, but this time, they will be related to folk medicine beliefs. These beliefs include what this plant can do how it can contribute to human health.

In my country, this herb is described as a divine herb that can restore a person’s health and vitality, and also can help with the tiredness coming from fast life with its calming effects

Except for benefits that are scientifically proven, folk medicine claims that thyme can help with many other diseases, and I will review them next.

Folk Medicine Thyme Tea Benefits

The healing properties of thyme tea are increased if you add honey and fresh-squeezed lemon juice in it.

Thyme Tea for Smokers

If you are a smoker, then thyme is a great tea choice for you.

Thyme is strengthening nicotine-damaged vessels, cleans bronchial mucus from nicotine resins, and reduces the risk of bacterial infections of the respiratory system.

Thyme Tea for Female Problems

It is believed that this herb is effective as a remedy for female diseases.

It helps with pain and cramps in the womb, menstrual cramps, regulates the menstrual cycle, and has antiseptic action against uterine infections.

Thyme Tea for Calmness and Relaxing

Drinking tea from this herb before going to bed will lower stress and anxiety, and provide a comfortable and peaceful sleep.

Except for drinking the tea, you can use thyme in the bath, especially before you go to bed. Make a small bag of gauze with dried flowers and leaves of thyme. Put this bag under the jet of hot water and fill the tub.

These thyme baths are also used to kill germs, and wounds on the skin, and even relieve the scratching from eczema.

Interestingly, some folk people are putting thyme under the pillow.

Thyme inhalation for Sinuses

Put one tablespoon of dried thyme flowers and leaves in a small pot. Be careful with the temperature of water not to be more than 80°C, because it will lose all useful ingredients.

Inhale it 3-4 times a day. For sinuses, inhale through the nose, and if you have a problem with the throat, inhale through the mouth.

This provides good hydration to the body and water vapor that contains medicinal ingredients from thyme successfully breaks down the secretion in the brooches.

And the other thing that you will be achieved with this type of inhalation is that it gives the best coughing effect.

Thyme Infusion for Oral Health

Put three tablespoons of dried thyme in 1L hot water, not above 80°C in a thermos. Leave it for 4-6 hours. When it cools off, add lemon juice and honey, and take it 3-4 times a day before meal.

This is used for the treatment of infections and fungal diseases of the oral cavity like gym inflammation, stomatitis, nasopharynx, and larynx.

Thyme Tea for Alcoholism

Thyme tea is used in folk medicine for treating alcoholism.

The calming effect and other properties that are contained in thyme are helping people who want to recover from alcoholism to go through it more easily.

Thyme Use in Cuisine

Because of its beautiful smell, dried and fresh thyme is also used a lot like spice in the cuisine.
You can find it in many recipes in the Mediterrane, French, Italian kitchen, etc.
It is delicious and healthy, so feel free to use it often.

What Is the Best Thyme Substitute?

Thyme is mostly used in a sauce for pasta. If you don’t have it at the moment at home, don’t panic. There are substitutes that may resolve your problem and you can continue with the recipe.

  • Firstly, look for Italian Seasoning. If you find it in your home, you’re lucky because it is the best alternative. Italian Seasoning is a mix of herbs (including oregano and basil) who will work as well as thyme and is commonly used in Italian dishes. If you don’t have this, it’s ok because there are secondary alternatives.
  • Marjoram and Parsley are your second choice. For every teaspoon of thyme in the recipe, use 1 teaspoon of marjoram and ½ teaspoon of parsley. Be careful, this combination can not stand long cooking as thyme does. You need to add it at the end of the cooking or the taste will be destroyed. Marjoram has a similar taste like oregano, and sometimes it is called wild oregano. Along with parsley, it will give you the right effect.
  • You can use one teaspoon tarragon as a substitute for one teaspoon of thyme, but this choice is best for fish and chicken dishes.
  • And your last alternative is rosemary. Rosemary has a strong flavor that can overpower other seasonings, so be careful. Use only ¾ teaspoon as a replacement for 1 teaspoon of thyme. This works best for dishes with pork and lamb.

Note: If you don’t have fresh thyme and the recipe requires it, it is ok to add dried thyme. To have supplies of fresh thyme, feel free to freeze it after its picked.

Folk Medicine Thyme Oil Benefits

Before I start with this part of the benefits, I want to mention some important things about using thyme oil.

Do not use this essential oil undiluted or directly on the skin. You should dilute it with other oils, such as almond oil, sesame oil, etc. And do not use it on cats and other animals

Its benefits are similar to the tea’s from before, but the method of use is different, so I’ll stick to that part.

Thyme Oil With Inhalation Against Cough and Sinuses

Thyme oil inhalation is like the previous one with dried thyme and has the same benefits for cough and sinuses. It provides good hydration to the body and water vapor from thyme breaks down the secretion in brooches and helps with coughing.

This time, in 1L hot water at max 80°C, put 5-6 drops of thyme oil. For sinuses inhale through the nose and for cough through the mouth. You can repeat this 3-4 times a day.

Thyme Oil for Skin Irritations

A hot bath with 10 drops of thyme oil will help with insect bites, fungal infections, and skin irritations. Footbath with fewer drops of oil will help you with feet fungal diseases.

As mentioned before, this bath before going to bed has the best effect because will improve your sleep with its calming and relaxing effect.

Thyme Oil for Headache

If you have a headache or stomach pain put a few drops of thyme oil in warm water. It will calm your body, and with that your muscles and reduce the pain.

Thyme Essential Oil Aromatic Uses

Thyme has a beautiful smell, so that’s why it is used in perfumes. Its smell has a calming effect, so you can use it for refreshing your home. Put a few drops of oil in water, use a sprayer, and refresh your room.

Another way to use thyme essential oil is to put it to aromatize lamb.

Thyme Side Effects and Cautions

There is no specific dosage for thyme. The side effects are from taking too much of it. If you are not sure about dosage or you start to feel odd after a short time of using it, stop and consult with your doctor. Every human is specific, and the dosage can vary differently on different individuals.

If you are allergic to plants in the mint family like oregano, for example, it is very possible to be allergic to thyme too.

Stop using it at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery. There is some concern that might increase the risk of extra bleeding.

Pregnant and lactating women should not use thyme oil before consulting a doctor, especially in the first month of pregnancy.
Thyme affects the muscles of the uterus, so the potential effect of fetal damage or abortion should be considered.
During lactation, thyme tea can increase the quality and quantity of breast milk but the allergic reactions must be considered too.

Thyme oil must be diluted when it is used on the skin because of the fact that it is one of the strongest essential oils.

For kids over 3 years old before use, you need to consult with a pediatrician or doctor. It is used as a mild herbal remedy for colds, coughs, and fever along with other medicines.

Thyme Dosing

This thyme dosage is based on traditional doses because there are not enough evidence and science resources to determine it.

  • For adult oral dose is 1-2g on a day of thyme extract
  • For thyme tea, 1-2g a day in a 150 ml water, left to sit for 10 min.
  • Traditional doses of liquid extracts range from 1-2 g or 20-40 drops of liquid extract or tinctures daily. Traditional recipe use: tinctures 1:10 weight/volume of thyme: 70% ethanol and liquid extracts 1:1 weight/volume fresh leaf, 1:4 dry leaf.
  • You can consume it with sugar by dropping 2-3-drops/sugar cube, 2-3 times daily

Thyme Tea, Oil and Tincture Recipes

These recipes originate from folk medicine. I will start with tea recipes, oil recipes and end up with tincture recipes.

Before I start, I want to mention that thyme should be harvest very cautiously. Do not tear it, instead use pruning shears and cut where the leaves begin. The season for thyme is from June till the end of September.

Thyme Tea Recipes

For these tea recipes, you will need the thyme to be dried or fresh. For tea, you can use the flowers and leaves too. I use whole stems, 2-3 dried stalks in one little pot water.

Basic Thyme Tea Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons of dried thyme or 4 teaspoons of fresh thyme
  • Water
  • Lemon
  • Honey

Instructions:

  1. When the water starts to boil, put it aside and let it cool for 3-5 min to achieve temperature around 80°C.
  2. Add thyme in the water and cover it to prevent the essential oil to escape and to maximize benefits. Leave it like that 5 to 15 min.
  3. In the end, add lemon juice and honey. That’s it, enjoy this warming tea in cold winter days.

Wild Creeping Tea in a glass.

Thyme and Mint Tea Recipe for Weight Loss

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of dried mint
  • Water
  • Lemon
  • Honey

Instructions:

  1. When the water starts to boil, put it aside and let it cool for 3-5 min to achieve temperature around 80°C.
  2. Add dried thyme and mint in the water and cover it to prevent the essential oil from escaping and to maximize benefits. Leave it like that 5 to 15 min.
  3. In the end, add lemon juice and honey, and enjoy

Notes:

Consumption of this tea improves digestion, the general condition of the digestive tract, and normalizes the metabolism. That’s why it’s used for weight loss.

Thyme, Black and Green Tea Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon green or black tea
  • Water
  • Lemon juice
  • Honey
  • Cinnamon and ginger

Instructions:

  1. When the water starts to boil, put it aside and let it cool for 3-5 min to achieve temperature around 80°C.
  2. Add dried thyme and green or black tea in the water and cover it to prevent the essential oil from escaping and to maximize benefits. Leave it like that 5 to 15 min.
  3. In the end, add lemon juice, honey, cinnamon, and ginger. That’s it, enjoy this warming tea in cold winter days.

Relax and Calming Tea Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon mint
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon valerian
  • Water
  • Lemon juice and honey

Instructions:

  1. Pour water with a temperature around 80°C in the tea mentioned above.
  2. Leave it covered for 15 mins
  3. In the end, add lemon juice and honey

Notes:

These three types of tea have aromatic and calming properties which make this mix of tea the best.

Thyme Oil Recipes

Thyme has medicinal properties, it is used for marinating in the kitchen and has aromatic effects. This is how you can make it at home.

Thyme Oil Basic Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Fresh flowers thyme to fill the glass bottle 1-1.5L
  • Olive oil
  • One 1 to 1.5L glass bottle

Instructions:

  1. Fill the bottle with fresh flowers, leave three fingers under the cap empty.
  2. Add olive oil for two fingers above the thyme flowers.
  3. Close the bottle and leave it in a warm and light place for 2-3 weeks. Shake it occasionally every second or third day

Notes:

The flowers are picked in the afternoon when is sunny.

Thyme Oil for Marinating in the Cousins

Ingredients:

  • 375ml olive oil
  • 2-3 branches of rosemary
  • 2 branches of thyme
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon of colorful pepper (white, black, red, green)

Instructions:

  1. Wash thyme and rosemary and live to dry
  2. In a clean glass bottle, before adding the washed thyme, add rosemary, garlic, and spices.
  3. Pour this mixture with olive oil and close the bottle
  4. Leave the bottle on light and warm place for 2-3 weeks with occasional shaking on every third day.

Notes:

This type of oil is excellent for marinating meat and salads.
When the oil’s level falls below the thyme and rosemary, remove them from the bottle because they can mold quickly.

Thyme Oil for Hair

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of carrier oil
  • Few drops of thyme essential oil
  • Few drops of rosemary essential oil
  • Few drops of lavender essential oil
  • Few drops of cedarwood essential oil

Instructions:

  1. Mix 3-5 drops of thyme, rosemary, lavender, and cedarwood essential oil with 3 cups of carrier oil.
  2. Massage scalp for 10 min daily with a small amount of the oil
  3. Leave it overnight for best effect.
  4. In the morning, wash it with shampoo
  5. This treatment can take months to take effect. If you notice some irritation on the scalp, stop with the treatment.

Notes:

Do a patch test with each oil to ensure that it doesn’t irritate your skin before the treatment.
Do not use an undiluted essential oil on the skin. The oil must be diluted with other oils like carrier oil.

Thyme Lotion for Hair Recipe

This lotion destroys germs on the scalp that cause dandruff

Ingredients:

  • 1L water
  • 20g thyme
  • 20g rosemary
  • 20g sage

Instructions:

  1. In cold water, add thyme, rosemary, and sage.
  2. Leave it to rest for 3 hours and then heat it to 80°C.
  3. Drain it through gauze and pour it into a glass bottle or jar. Close it and keep in a dark place.
  4. Massage scalp one time a day.

Thyme Tincture Recipes

These thyme recipes are used for massage, rheumatism, and circulation.

Thyme Tincture Recipe for Rheumatism

Ingredients:

    • 1L brandy (homemade is better, we use rakija instead)
    • 80g thyme fresh flowers

Instructions:

      1. In a glass bottle or jar (closed), add brandy and thyme flowers.
      2. Leave it in a warm, dark place for 20 days.
      3. Drain through gauze, close it, and it’s ready.
      4. When needed, massage sore spots on your body.

Thyme Tincture Recipe for Circulation

This tincture is used for better blood circulation and problems with varicose veins

Ingredients:

      • 100gr dried marigold
      • 100gr yellow St. John’s wort
      • 100gr thyme
      • 100gr rosemary
      • 100 gr nettle seeds
      • 1L brandy (we use rakija instead)

Instructions:

      1. In a glass bottle or jar filled with 1L brandy, add the marigold, St.John’s wort, thyme and nettle seed
      2. Close it and leave it in a dark place for 15 days
      3. Drain through gauze, close, and that’s all.
      4. When needed, use 10 drops, 2 times a day.

Notes:

At first, the liquid will have a light color, after 15 days it will get a dark color.

Final words

Ok, that was a long blog but what can I do, there are so many exciting things about such a simple herb. Oh.. to think about it, every plant is just like that.

So, if you want to go over easily through the fast way of life in a big city, drink thyme tea and use thyme essential oil for aromatherapy.

There are so many health benefits from this herb that I mentioned above. It will protect you from cough, flu, and fever through the winter, it is good for tincture, you can use it in the kitchen as a delicious spice, especially with pasta, and so much more.

It is generally a safe herb. Be careful with dosage though. Most side effects are from taking it too much. If you are allergic to oregano, you probably are allergic to this too. Also, don’t use it in the first months of pregnancy.

Wait until summer and then go get this elixir of positivity.

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