scientific name: Thymus vulgaris
other common names: Tomillo, mother of thyme, garden thyme
growing areas: Native to southern Europe; cultivated around the world
physical description: It is an aromatic shrub with woody stems, small leaves, and pink flowers.
traditional uses: Thyme is another example of a plant that has long been used for both cooking and medicinal purposes. Pliny said it was useful as a treatment for headaches and snakebite, possibly because of the way the plant's stem resembles a serpent. In ancient times it was used as a cough remedy, to treat gastrointestinal problems, and to treat intestinal worms. During medieval times, women gave their knights scarves embroidered with sprigs of thyme as a symbol of bravery. Herbalists from that period said thyme induced childbirth. By the eighteenth century, thyme's antiseptic properties were known, and its oil, known as thymol, was extracted and made available. It was used widely as an antiseptic up to World War I, when shortages of thymol developed. It gradually came to be replaced by other antiseptics.
Herbalists use thyme as an antiseptic, expectorant, massage oil, chest rub, and antibiotic. In Costa Rica the herb is used to combat intestinal worms and to treat warts, diarrhea, toothache, whooping cough, scabies, and flatulence. It is also considered a powerful strength-ener of the lungs. Thymol is a key ingredient in Listerine, a popular mouthwash.
availability and dosage: Thyme is available in many supermarkets and health food stores. It is also available as a liquid extract and can also be purchased as a dried plant in botdnicas. Thyme can be applied directly to the skin to relieve insect bites and help rheumatic pain. Infusions of up to 2 grams of dried herb can be used for tea. An infusion can also be used for a gargle. A dilution of essential oil of thyme can be used on skin for certain conditions.
contraindications: Since it has a history of use as a' uterine stimulant, it should not be used by pregnant women. Fetrow and Avila caution that it should not be used by persons with a history of gastritis and intestinal disorders, nor by those allergic to plants such as grass, nor by those with enterocolitis or cardiac insufficiency.
special precautions: Consult your physician before beginning any use of an ethnobotanical substance for medicinal purposes. Pure thymol should not be taken internally, since even small amounts can be toxic. Thyme may cause allergic reactions in some persons.
medical research: Thyme has been reported as exhibiting antifungal activity and showing spasmolytic action in animal tests.