Thyme: Properties, Traditional Health Benefits & Suggested Uses

Greek thyme, herbs

This article contains many interesting medicinal uses for thyme that have gleaned through research as well as from traditional and ancient medical books, and claims made by those who have used thyme to treat a variety of conditions. We have not verified the claims, although some of them we believe are effective. However, it is our recommendation to obtain medical advice for any medical condition that you may be experiencing!

Thyme – Plant description

Thyme is a thin shrub with a height of 10-30 cm. Its branches are small and woody, while its leaves are 4-10 mm long.

Its flowers are 3-7 mm long and have a pink or lilac color. All parts of the plant have a pleasant aromatic smell and taste. From the plant, we use the blooming branches, although botanists prefer small leaves. It is native to Greece and we also meet it in other Mediterranean countries. It is grown as a house plant in a pot and as also used for its medicinal qualities. In Greece it is well known for its aroma but also for its numerous healing properties. Greek cuisine also gives it a special honour. We often find it growing in the wild. There are more than 100 varieties of thyme; many of them ornamental. Thyme grows easily in poor rocky soils but requires plenty of sunshine and good drainage of the soil.

Compounds Found In Thyme

It contains more than 1% volatile oil (contains thymol, carvacrol, cymol, linanol, borneol), bitter elements, tannin, flavonoids and triterpenoids.

History & Traditions Involving Thyme

The Sumerians, 5,500 years ago, are the first from what we know, to use thyme as both a seasoning and medicine, while the Egyptians called it tham and used it for mummification. Etymologically, the word thyme (θυμάρι) or thymus (θύμους) as it was called by the ancient Greeks, comes from the word “θύω” (theo), which originally had the meaning of “smoke” and later of “sacrifice”. From the same root, come the words θυμίαμα (themiama=incense) and θυμιατίζω (themiatizo=burn incense), while the relationship with the word θυμός (themos=anger) seems to be close also. And “themos” for the ancient Greeks did not mean the anger as in modern Greek, but related to “the vital power, the will.”

For Plato, in fact, anger is one of the three parts of the soul, the driving force of bravery. From the time of Homer, thyme, apart from being used as a seasoning for various dishes, was a symbol of strength and bravery. And even if the famous thyme honey of Hymettus back in ancient Athens was sought after commanded a high price, even the poorest of the city could enjoy the tonic mixture of thyme, plain honey and vinegar. “I eat the same thyme as my master,” says a slave in the Aristophanes theatrical comedy, “Wealth.” The slave means of course that both he and his master are in the same state of poverty.

Thyme was therefore abundant and inexpensive, but it was highly valued due to its properties. The elderly regularly consumed thyme tisane (tea) to maintain their spiritual strength, while a very strong tonic drink was considered to be a tea or tisane made by simmering figs and thyme in water or wine.

Thyme was a plant devoted to the goddess of love Aphrodite, and no one questioned how it causes or strengthens the craving for desire. The Syracuse tyrant, Dionysios the Presbyter, who was known in his era (late 4th century BC) for the symposiums he organized, claimed that he would scatter freshly cut thyme in the rooms so that his guests would be taken over by an erotic mood.

Hippocrates, in his writing “Peri Diaites” (Translated as “About Diet”), reports that thyme is a warming herb that can be used as a laxative, a diuretic, and helps to eliminate phlegm.

Dioskourides, writing in the third book of the volumes entitled Peri Ilis Iatrikis (“About Matters of Medicine“), describes in detail three types of thyme. First, he reports Thymus capitatus or for others, Coridothymus capitatus of modern phytology: “Thyme: everyone knows it. It is a low shrub in the form of a shrub, covered by many narrow leaflets, which has purple colored flowering peaks and grows on rocky and barren soils. When it is drunk with salt and vinegar, it removes the phlegm from the abdomen. Its beverage with honey helps those who have orthopnea, asthma or helminthiasis and helps with menstruation and birth. It is also diuretic, and when blended with honey contributes to fully releasing phlegm and toxins through the urine.”

When the great epidemics and the worst of all plagues, arrived, vinegar rubs in which thyme had been steeped in, or simply burning thyme inside homes and buildings, were considered to be effective protective measures. In many Slavic countries, they still burn incense of thyme in their houses and stables to keep infectious diseases away.

The Romans used it in their baths to gain strength and energy. Pliny in 77 AD suggested a thyme and vinegar compress for the treatment of headaches. He also used it as a remedy against the bites of snakes and insects.

In the 16th century, women offered their loved ones a soup of grated thyme and beer as an aphrodisiac. At the same time, they used the thyme to prevent or treat melancholy by filling their patient’s cushions with crushed thyme.

Traditional & Modern Therapeutic Uses Of Thyme

  • Thyme is used against gingivitis (by rubbing the gums with it), cavities, and dental plaque.
  • Gargling with thyme tea (tisane) has reportedly good results as a remedy for sore throat and intense coughs. It helps to expel phlegm and reduces heavy forceful coughing.
  • It can be used in perineum and asthma.
  • Kills germs. The thymol and borneol compounds found in thyme give it antiseptic and antibacterial properties.
  • The tisane (tea) helps the intestinal functions and soothes bloating.
  • Fights physical weakness anxiety, mental and physical exhaustion, depression and apathy.
  • Used as an addition to a bath, relieves patients with rheumatism.
  • Used as a poultice, thyme can relieve itching symptoms.
  • Ιs generally used as a tonic for the body.
  • Αnticonvulsant and stomach aid.
  • It is used externally in a lotion for infected wounds.
  • Helps with respiratory and digestive infections.
  • Helps fight diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome, known as colitis.
  • Has good results with laryngitis, pharyngitis and tonsillitis.
  • Helps with treating established lung infections.

Thyme Uses In Cooking

  • Along with oregano and marjoram flavours soups and sauces.
  • Goes great with roasted aubergines and peppers.
  • Many consider it an ideal spice, even for fish.
  • Along with oregano or on it’s own, makes an excellent rub for meats

Some Ways of Preparation

  • As a tisane (tea): Add 2 teaspoons of dried thyme in a cup of boiled water and leave for 10 minutes. Drink this beverage three times a day.
  • As a tincture: 2-4 ml of tincture, three times a day.
  • Essential oil: 1-5 drops in the bathtub with lukewarm water, we make a very good spa bath if we suffer from rheumatism or arthritis.
  • It is also said that 1 drop of essential oil on the painful tooth relieves pain.

Other Interesting Information About Thyme

  • It is said that people suffering from insomnia sleep pleasantly if they put a thyme sprout under their pillow.
  • For asthma problems it is well combined with lobelia and ephedra.
  • For the pertussis, we combine it with wild cherry and drosera.
  • It is also said that thyme kills germs within 60 minutes.
  • Its two essential oils, thymol and borneol, give it its highly antibacterial and antiseptic properties, and that is why, in the past, thyme solution in combination with soap was used to sanitize the hands and the surgical tools.
  • A bath in thyme-aromatized water gives energy.
  • Thyme with beer stimulates self-confidence.
  • Thyme also has anti-bactericidal properties in microbes and bacilli (carbon bacillus, typhus bacillus), meningococcus, Eberth bacilli, diphtheria, sera, bacteria of tuberculosis.
  • Thyme vapors have anti-bactericidal power.
  • Thyme nectar is the best food for bees.
  • Thyme is used to flavour pastries, drinks and spices.
  • Thyme aromatizes the air and promotes wellness.

Other Known Therapeutic Uses Of Thyme

Internal Uses For Thyme

  • Thymol helps digest fatty foods.
  • Thyme is a general stimulant and is valuable for physical and mental depression and weakness, anxiety, neurasthenia, depression and migraine.
  • It increases mental clarity.
  • It tones the nerves.
  • It helps with rickets.
  • It helps to improve appetite.
  • It improve menstrual cycle if the menstrual delay is symptomatic.
  • Anesthetic of the intestines, the urogenital system and the lungs, therefore it is suitable for intestinal infections, leucorrhea and pulmonary infections, such as bronchitis and tuberculosis.
  • It regulates leukocytosis in infectious diseases.
  • It can induce perspiration and regulates secretions in flu & colds and has been used as preventative during influenza epidemics.
  • It is slightly hypnotic.
  • It prevents fermentation and gas concentration in stomach, abdomen, intestines and colic.
  • Fights diarrhea and dysentery.
  • Spasmolytic for cough, pertussis and asthma.
  • Fights paralysis of the tongue.
  • It is a diuretic.
  • When gargled it’s beneficial to the larynx.
  • Helps blood circulation and strengthens the heart.
  • It acts a painkiller in rheumatic diseases.
  • It can relieve toothache and its compounds are found in some toothpastes.
  • It is antipyretic in typhoid fever.

External Uses For Thyme

  • Fights hair loss.
  • Antiseptic and bactericidal in dermatopathies, heals wounds, pimples and burns.
  • In gargles, is used for respiratory diseases.
  • Fights arthritis and rheumatism in the joints and muscles.
  • Makes the best toothpaste. Thymol is used in toothpastes and oral solutions. When rubbing gums with thyme, it helps cure gingivitis.
  • The bath with thyme prevents fatigue.

Useful Therapeutic Recipes With Thyme

  • Tisane (tea): One sprig for each cup of water. As soon as boiling begins, remove and leave it for 10 minutes, strain and drink three cups after meals. It is bitter. It is best to use it in combination with other herbs. With this tisane you do gargles for stomatitis and irritated tonsils, scabies and ulcerative ulcers.
  • Tea for rickets: 20 grams of flowers in one liter of water. It also helps with headache coming from a cold.
  • Essential thyme oil: 5 drops in a little honey three times a day.
  • For pertussis: Combination of eucalyptus and thyme essential oil in equal proportions.
  • When your nose is conjested and you have a sore throat: chew thyme.
  • Thyme tisane (tea): Add 2 teaspoons in a cup of boiled water or 15 grams in 1 liter of boiled water of leaves, flowers and seeds and leave for 10 minutes. Drink three times a day.
  • For external use ointment or compress for rheumatism and muscle aches and chest pain.
  • As a compress, it helps with bruising and toothache.
  • A drop of thyme juice in each eye helps with sight and fights infections.
  • For problematic hearing and tinnitus: Even parts of thyme and rose water 4 drops of the mixture in each ear 3 times a day.
  • A few drops of thyme essential oil in virgin olive oil for compressing wounds and insect bites.
  • For rheumatism pains: Chop thyme, heat with minimal water, put it on the compress and apply it on the painful part. You can have thyme baths by adding 2 grams of essential oil in a lukewarm bath.
  • Recipe for arthritis, rheumatism, colds and flu: Boil half a kilo of thyme in 4 litres of water and pour it into the bathtub water.
  • For hair loss: Boil a handful of thyme in a litre of water, until half is left and apply on the head. Rinse, rub with the dense liquid, leave for 5 minutes and wash your hair again. It also works for lice.
  • Putting 3 twigs of thyme under the cushion helps you with sleep.
  • Thyme can help if you want to quit drinking because it causes vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, sweat, thirst and disgust for alcoholic drinks. Put a handful of thyme in 3 cups of water, leave for half an hour and drink one tablespoon every 15 minutes.
  • Recipe for men’s cologne: Put 10 grams of thyme flowers in 250 grams of white alcohol, close the bottle with a cork and leave it for three weeks under the sun in the summer. Strain and use.
  • Thyme honey is wonderful and is therapeutic. This is why the honeybees are transported where there is thyme in bloom. A spoonful of honey that is swallowed slowly, helps with respiratory inflammation.
  • If you leave blooms of thyme on dry fruits like figs, raisins, cherries and more, it adds a beautiful scent and protects them from insects also.
  • Smoking thyme helps with a lumbago.


  • Women during their pregnancy should avoid the essential oil of thyme.
  • Its long-term use is contraindicated.
  • In very large intakes it causes thyroid gland overactive with vomiting, diarrhoea and dizziness.

Caution: The above article is provided for informational purposes. Before using any prescriptions or before changing your eating habits, consult the appropriate health professional or nutritionist. If you are taking medication, make sure there are no side effects.