The real thyme (Thymus vulgaris) belongs to the mint family. The flowers are white-violet, small and gathered in large numbers on the branches of the upper leaves.
Thyme originally comes from the sunny Mediterranean regions and is a natural gift for our health. The Greek name of thyme is "thymus", which translates as "strength" and "courage". The ancient Greeks also used the fragrant herb as incense in ritual sacrifices to appease the gods and purify the air. After a bath, the ancient Greeks massaged their bodies with fragrant oils made from thyme and threw sprigs of the herb into the fire so that the smoke could reach the gods.
In the Middle Ages, the herb was known to have disinfectant properties and so it was used in epidemics such as leprosy, cholera and pestilence.
Essential oil is obtained from the herb and the flowers of thyme, the main component of which is thymol, which has a strong bactericidal (antibiotic) effect. Thymol, along with other non-volatile flavonoid antioxidants, increases the antioxidant capacity of thyme so much that it is at the top when it comes to antioxidants. Fresh thyme is an important source of vitamin C. Dried real thyme is also a source of calcium, manganese and vitamin K.
Naturopathy uses thyme for colds, breathing difficulties, heart failure, epilepsy, heartburn, headaches, nervous diseases and insomnia. As a drug, thyme helps with anemia and stimulates blood formation. It is still used today to relieve coughing fits, particularly those associated with influenza, bronchitis, and colds, through its anticonvulsant properties.
As a spice, it is used to flavor hearty game and meat dishes, as it helps with digestion. Thyme is also often used to make herbal liqueurs.