Thyme is a small evergreen shrub and member of the mint family. Native to the western Mediterranean, thyme has been utilized since ancient times for its culinary, aromatic, and medicinal properties. In ancient Greece, thyme was burned as incense during sacred ceremonies and was considered to be a symbol of courage and admiration. Ancient Egyptians valued thyme as an embalming agent used during the mummification process. During the Middle Ages, women presented knights a scarf with a sprig of thyme tied to it over an embroidered bee. In the 16th century, thyme oil was used for cleansing and as a mouthwash due to its antibacterial properties. Today, thyme is a staple in many cuisines around the world.
- Thyme has similar benefits as mint because of its volatile oil content.
- Volatile oil found in thyme contains caravacol, borneol, geraniol, and thymol.
- Thyme has shown to possess antispasmodic, antibacterial, carminative, and fungicidal properties.
- Thyme also contains a variety of flavanoids including apigenin, naringenin, luteolin, and thrymonin, which increase thyme’s antioxidant capacity.
- Its high flavanoid and manganese concentration give thyme a high standing on the list of antioxidant-rich foods.
- Research has shown that thyme may help improve brain function, by increasing the percent of healthy fats found in cell membranes and other cell structures.
- Studies have also shown that thyme can help raise DHA levels in children with attention deficit disorder, and possibly help improve the condition.
Thyme’s flavor compliments hearty legumes such as kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans. Another excellent pairing with thyme is fish. Try topping grilled or baked fish with a thyme and rosemary pesto, with the option to add pine nuts or walnuts. Also, try placing a minimum of five sprigs of thyme on poached fish to add flavor. Infuse your favorite olive oil with a few sprigs of thyme and use it as a dipping oil or even in cooking. Want to know the health benefits of other herbs and spices? My book, “The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods” is a fantastic resource.