Many of us who cook from scratch (or scratch-adjacent, if I’m being honest) will often prematurely test our concoctions in order to make flavor adjustments where needed. We use our very professional chef skills of dipping a pinkie in or wafting over a friendly scent to get a feel for what our meals may need. Sometimes they’re just right, and other times they’re just, well, a little wonky. We use our own food knowledge or plain intuition to deduce what the meal may need to set it back on course. This is often a very similar approach to medicinal herbs. In fact, many of our culinary spice cabinets could double as everyday medicinal cabinets to help get us back on track. For example, thyme is not only one of the most popular culinary herbs in the world, but it’s also a highly beneficial medicinal source.
According to a 2018 article on phytotherapy (using plants in therapeutic ways), thymol, one of the main chemicals found in thyme, has been found to exhibit “antimicrobial, antioxidant, anticarcinogenesis, anti-inflammatory, and antispasmodic activities.” What does this mean for us? Thyme is more than just tasty! It has a positive impact on the immune and respiratory systems (filing that away for my winter grab bag of medicinal herb knowledge). It also has been shown to be beneficial to the digestive and nervous system.
Thyme is helpful for:
Sore throats: Thymol, the same chemical mentioned above, is used in mouthwashes like Listerine, as well as Vicks Vaporub. Carvacrol, an oil found in both thyme and oregano, is a strong antimicrobial agent. It has been found to be highly active against infectious bacteria and demonstrates good efficacy against antibiotic-resistant strains!
Digestive Aid: Thyme has been found to help prevent and dispel uncomfortable abdominal gas and bloating. Additionally, it’s a natural diuretic, so it helps remove excess water bloat the abdominal region.
Bronchitis: One randomized controlled trial found a 50% reduction in bronchitis patients’ coughing 2 full days before a placebo group.
Mood: The carvacrol oil from thyme has been found to increase both dopamine and serotonin levels in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, meaning it may improve your mood through the modulation of neurotransmitters. Other studies suggest that carvacrol may contain anxiolytic properties, meaning it can help fight anxiety!
How to use thyme as a medicinal herb:
- Thyme can be used fresh or dried. Once dried, it can be brewed into a warming tea, good for coating the throat. It can also be added to soup-- good for those under the weather days.
- Thyme can be distilled into an essential oil and added to your favorite diffuser. Make sure you use a quality organic source. I love to get a lot of my medicinal herbs and herbal products from Mountain Rose Herbs.
- And finally, my favorite way to use thyme as a medicinal: thyme honey. It’s great for adding to hot teas on the coldest winter days and delicious in iced tulsi tea in the summer!
Swing by the farm stands Wednesdays 4-7 and Saturdays 8-noon (or anytime if you’re a CSA member since we have quite a lot of thyme in the Pick Your Own!) to pick up some thyme and any of your other favorite medicinal herbs!