This aromatic perennial evergreen herb is a staple in kitchens around the world, but its utility goes far beyond seasoning your favorite dishes.
Thyme is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, and is closely related to oregano. While it's native to the Mediterranean, its influence has spread globally, making it a versatile herb that's as beneficial as it is flavorful.
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What Is Thyme?
Thyme, or Thymus vulgaris, is an herb used for centuries in cooking and medicine. It is related to the oregano family and has a strong, pungent flavor. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is now wild thyme is grown worldwide.
There are many different types of thyme, including lemon, orange, and red. Thyme can be purchased fresh, dried, or in oil form.
Thyme is a genus of perennial plants. There are about 350 different species within the family of Lamiaceae. Thyme was first cultivated in ancient Greece and Rome, where the word "thyme" comes from the Greek word "thymos" which means courage.
Let's take a look at the 16 amazing uses and benefits of thyme
What Does Thyme Look Like?
Thyme can grow up to 40 cm tall with stems that are usually narrow or even wiry in structure. The leaves alternate between pairs on these short treelike frames (although some may be more complex). The thyme flowers look similar, too—they have oval petals and green-white tube-like corollas made up of small tubular lobes at their tips...
Thyme has narrow stems with opposite pairs of leaves arranged in opposite directions on them; they're small oval-shaped disks made up mostly of stinging hairs, which protect them against predators at night or during bad weather when there's not much sun available for photosynthesis.
Why You Should Cook With Thyme
One good reason for cooking with thyme is that it tastes delicious. Thyme has a savory, warm flavor that many people love. But there are more benefits than just the great taste of thyme.
Many spices help provide nutrients and antioxidants, but an herb like thyme also serves as a natural antiseptic or disinfectant. This can help stop the spread of harmful bacteria. Another reason to cook with thyme is its antimicrobial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties.
What Does Thyme Taste Like?
Does thyme have a flavor that is distinct from most other herbs? Yes, the pungent flavor of what thyme tastes like comes from thymol oil, which distinguishes this herb's strong scent and taste. It can add a refreshingly lemony flavor to any recipe.
What Does Thyme Smell Like?
Thyme has a strong aromatic aroma, earthy smell that is also a little bit spicy.
People are known to pick up on the essence of lemon. Some people describe it as similar to oregano but with a slightly different flavor. It's a popular herb for use in both savory and sweet dishes.
Health Benefits Of Thyme
There are many uses for this herb.
Thyme contains antioxidants that have been shown to prevent cancerous cells from proliferating. Two of these compounds are carnosol and rosmarinic acid, which inhibit cancer growth by preventing "cancer stem cells" from replicating.
An additional antioxidant found in thyme oil, thymol, has also been proven to effectively stop ovarian, cervical, stomach, colon, lung, and breast cancers from growing.
Thyme has been shown to improve breathing in asthmatic patients, likely due to thyme's bronchodilator effects on the respiratory system. Patients with asthma saw improvement after inhaling thyme oil, suggesting thyme may be useful for treating asthma sufferers. Based on thyme's success in treating some lung conditions, thyme may also prove effective against chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
We recommend consulting with your doctor before taking any medications or supplements.
Thyme is a highly potent antioxidant that can fight free radicals caused by pollution or sun exposure, which can lead to cancer, heart disease, or other illnesses.
Apigenin, found in thyme, is one of the most potent antioxidants thyme has to offer. Thyme also contains thymonin and thymol, antioxidants that help thyme fight free radicals and protect brain cells from potential damage.
Thyme contributes to anti-inflammatory properties because thyme oil reduces inflammation via an immune response that releases cytokines.
Cytokines suppress inflammation and delay cell death in bacteria and viruses, so thyme is a great addition to any meal designed to prevent illness and better health.
Oral and Dental Health
A study was done to see how thyme extract affects dental health. It was found that when measured against controls, the mouthwash had a lower incidence of plaque build-up and bacteria after 10 days.
This is great news for those who suffer from gum disease or tooth decay since these are two major causes of impaired oral and dental well-being in adults today, largely at least partially because we don't brush often enough.
Thyme has been shown to be effective at treating mouth sores in a study of patients with recurring aphthous ulcers.
The study found that the majority of patients saw their mouth sore disappear in 4-10 days when treated with thyme, compared to 25% who saw improvement in this same time period when no thyme was used.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is one of the most prevalent diseases in America. Thyme contributes thymine's anti-inflammatory properties to fight against type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetics cannot produce enough insulin, leading to elevated blood glucose levels. Thymol from thyme has been proven to lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Thyme oil can contribute to improving patients' moods by decreasing cortisol. The compound called carvacrol that’s found in this medicinal herb has been shown to have some very positive mood-boosting effects.
Research published in 2013 showed how, when administered for seven consecutive days, it increased both dopamine and serotonin levels, among other things like alertness or memory function, two key neurotransmitters that contribute heavily towards your state of mind.
The data from this study suggests that not only does thyme possess cognitive activity through modulation, but it also regulates them.
Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels
Thyme may be the perfect herbal medicine to combat high blood pressure. While there is no cure for this disease, thyme has been shown in animal studies and human trials as an effective preventive measure against hypertension because of its ability to reduce cholesterol levels that lead to heart trouble later on down the line if left unchecked.
Prevents Food Poisoning
Thyme is a herb with the power to not only prevent food contamination but also disinfect previously contaminated foods.
In several studies published in Food Microbiology, researchers found that thyme's essential oil was able to reduce levels of Shigella bacteria on lettuce and other produce inoculated with this infectious organism, which can lead to major intestinal damage if left unchecked.
By adding just 1% thymol extract into your dishwashing solution (or water), you will be able to minimize these pesky bugs below detectable levels.
Not sure what to do when your throat is tickling and you can't breathe? Try drinking some thyme tea. Thyme is a natural remedy for coughs and sore throats.
One study found that when the leaves of thyme combine with ivy plants in water distillate form, it helps alleviate symptoms such as acute bronchitis-induced coughing.
We recommend consulting with your doctor before taking any medications or supplements.
How To Convert Fresh Thyme & Dried
For cooking, fresh thyme is preferred, but if you don't have any on hand and need to substitute dried thyme instead of fresh, here's the conversion rate that works.
One teaspoon (tbsp) contains 3 tablespoons or 9 grams of minced leaves, which translates into 6 sprigs weighing almost half an ounce; that's equivalent to just under ¼ cup.
How To Store Thyme
Thyme should be stored in an airtight container away from heat, moisture, and sunlight. Make sure that the spices stay cool; avoid putting them close to any exterior walls, which may radiate hot summer sun all day long (even light can affect dried herbs).
Repel Pests Like Mosquitoes
Pests are not the only thing thyme essential oil can help repel. It's also an ingredient in many outdoor and indoor pesticides; it has been found that this essential thyme plant extract targets bacteria and viruses like the Zika virus (which is responsible for spreading through mosquitoes) with equal efficiency.
A recent study looked at how much repelling power each method had against these pesky insects.
Rubbing thyme leaves between your fingers releases thymol, which helps keep pests away, while an olive oil mixture containing four drops equals five droplets per bottle-sized application OR 5ml = 10 teaspoons' worth of olive oil mixed together.