Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is an aromatic herb that can be used to add flavor and aroma to recipes. It also has relaxing, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, expectorant and bactericidal properties, and is therefore used to improve mood and treat conditions such as coughs and acne.
Thyme is sold in in its fresh form or as dried leaves in supermarkets and farmer's markets. It can be used as a seasoning in cooking or in the preparation of teas. This aromatic herb can also be found in health food stores and pharmacies in the form of a tincture or essential oil.
Thyme can offer any health benefits such as:
1. Combating coughs
Thyme is rich in organic compounds with anti-inflammatory, expectorant and antitussive action, such as carvacrol and γ-terpinene. These help to eliminate excess phlegm from the respiratory tract and combat coughs caused by colds, bronchitis, asthma, sore throats or whooping cough.
2. Managing blood pressure
The terpenoids present in thyme, such as thymol and α-terpineol, are organic compounds with antihypertensive action that control and prevent high blood pressure.
In addition, the organic compounds present in thyme also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action, which help maintain arterial health and facilitate circulation, which also regulate blood pressure.
3. Preventing cardiovascular diseases
The terpenoids present in thyme have powerful antioxidant action, which reduces the damage that free radicals can cause on healthy cells. This keeps blood vessels healthy and prevents cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, atherosclerosis or stroke.
In addition, terpenoids also prevent the oxidation of fat cells, helping to control levels of "bad" cholesterol (LDL) and increase the "good" cholesterol (HDL) in the blood.
4. Combating anxiety and stress
Some studies [1,2] show that the essential oils present in thyme, such as limonene, carvacrol and linalool, help combat anxiety and stress by increasing the activity of neurotransmitters, like GABA, in the brain. This can promote relaxation, well-being and tranquility, as well as reduce agitation and nervousness.
5. Treating acne
Thyme, especially in its essential oil form, has thymol, an organic compound that has antiseptic, disinfectant and antimicrobial action. This helps to treat acne and other skin problems, such as dermatitis.
6. Maintaining healthy teeth and gums
Thyme is rich in thymol, an organic compound that promotes teeth and gum health. It inhibits the growth and spread of bacteria that can cause cavities or gingivitis, such as Streptococcus mutans, Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.
7. Fighting fungal infections
Thymol and limonene, which are present in thyme essential oil, have a potent antifungal action that helps fight fungal infections, such as Candida albicans. This fungus often causes skin or nail infections.
In addition, thyme can also help fight infection caused by Cryptococcus neoformans, a type of fungus found in soil or pigeon excrements, which can be transmitted to humans by inhalation. It can cause cryptococcosis, a disease that affects the lungs and nervous system and lead to pneumonia or meningitis.
8. Helping to treat Alzheimer's
The thymol present in thyme can help treat Alzheimer's because it inhibits cholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. This is an important neurotransmitter for memory and learning, but which is reduced in patients with Alzheimer's disease.
In addition, thymol also has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action. This can reduce inflammation and the damage caused by free radicals in the nervous system, which may help in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. However, more studies on humans are needed to prove the therapeutic benefits of thyme in the treatment of Alzheimer's.
9. Helping to fight cancer
Thyme can help fight breast, intestinal, cervical, liver and lung cancer because it is rich in thymol and carvacrol. These are anti-tumor substances that inhibit the growth and cause the death of cancer cells.
However, scientific studies on humans are still needed to confirm the cancer-fighting benefits of thyme.
How to use
Fresh or dried thyme leaves can be used as a seasoning for preparing meat, fish, vegetables, sauces, pasta or soups.
For medicinal use, the parts of thyme that are most commonly used are its flowers and its leaves (fresh or dried), from which its active substances are extracted.
1. Thyme tea
To make thyme tea, you can use the fresh or dried leaves.
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
- 1 cup of water
How to prepare
Bring the water to the boil, remove from heat, and add the thyme leaves. Cover the infusion, leave to soak for 10 minutes, strain and drink afterwards. You can drink up to 3 cups of this tea a day.
2. Thyme syrup
Thyme syrup can be prepared using dried thyme and honey and is recommended for relieving coughs and sore throats.
- 4 small sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1/2 liter of water
- 1 cup of honey
How to prepare
Add the thyme sprigs and water to a pot and bring to the boil over low heat for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to stand for about 3 minutes.
Then, while the mixture is still warm, remove the thyme sprigs and add the honey, mixing well. Take a teaspoon of the syrup whenever necessary. Store the syrup in a clean, dry glass jar with a lid in the fridge for up to 1 month.
3. Thyme bath
A thyme bath can be used to help relieve cough and cold symptoms, or to reduce anxiety and stress.
To do this, simply add 140 g of dried thyme leaves to 1 liter of boiling water. Leave to stand for 5 minutes, strain and add the infusion to the bath water. This bath can be taken once a week for about 10 to 20 minutes.
4. Inhalation with thyme
Thyme inhalations can be performed to soothe coughs in cases of colds and flu. To do this, simply add 3 to 4 drops of thyme essential oil and 1 liter of warm water to a basin.
Then cover your head with a towel so that it also covers the basin. Tilt your head over the basin and inhale the steam for 10 minutes.
5. Thyme tincture
A thyme tincture can be used to relieve the symptoms of colds, asthma, sore throats and flu. It is generally recommended to take 25 drops of thyme tincture, diluted in a glass of water, 2-3 times a day.
Possible side effects
Possible side effects of using thyme in the form of a bath are burning, irritation or redness of the skin. Oral use of thyme can cause allergic reactions in some people.
Therefore, the medicinal use of thyme should only be done under the guidance of a doctor or other health professional with experience in the use of medicinal plants.
Contraindications for use
When used for medicinal purposes, thyme should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women, It is also not suitable for children under the age of 12 or for people who have a history of estrogen-dependent diseases, such as breast or ovarian cancer or endometriosis, for example.
Thyme should not be used for medicinal purposes by people with shortness of breath, open wounds, skin infections, fever or serious infections.
In addition, thyme for medicinal purposes should be used with caution by people who have high blood pressure, circulation problems and heart failure.
People with gastritis, ulcers, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome or liver disease should only use thyme as directed by a doctor.