Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is native to the western Mediterranean region. It is a small, many-branched, perennial shrub. Thyme has a strong piquant or lemony flavor with a faint clover aftertaste. For fresh use, the flavor is best just before flowering. It ranks as one of the finest herbs of French cuisine. Thyme enhances the flavor of meat, fish and poultry dishes. For chicken and fish marinades, bruise fresh sprigs of thyme and tarragon, and combine with red-wine vinegar and olive oil.
Thyme can also be used in herb butters and cottage cheese and with vegetables, eggs, and rice.
The herb was known to the Sumerians, used by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Thyme was grown in monastery gardens in southern France and in Spain and Italy during the Middle Ages for use as a cough remedy, digestive aid and treatment for intestinal parasites. It was praised by the herbalist Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) as "a notable strengthener of the lungs".
Its main medicinal application is in treating coughs and clearing congestion. Many current formulas for mouth washes and vapor rubs contain thymol, one of the constituents found in thyme. It also improves digestion, destroys intestinal parasites and is an excellent antiseptic and tonic. In addition, thyme has antifungal properties and can be used against athlete's foot.
Main properties of Thyme: Antiseptic, tonic, relieves muscle spasm, expectorant.