Thyme Heals

Herbal Remedies

Folklore Uses

Traditional Healing

In this edition of the Natural Medicine Chest, we'll discuss the folklore, history, chemistry, and medicinal applications of the common kitchen herb, thyme.

This common culinary spice with the botanical name of Thymus vulgaris is only one member of a large genera that included over 400 species and even more varieties. The Thymus genera are originally native to the Mediterranean region and are a perennial plant that grows wild usually in dry, sandy soil, green heaths, and grasslands.

Thyme is a prolific, fragrant creeping groundcover and often displays an attractive spray of flowering branchlets spanning the spectrum from white to lilac.

A long history

There is considerable debate among historians as to the origin of the name thyme. Some believe it to be from the Greek thyman, meaning to fumigate or to burn a sacrifice, because it was used as sweet-smelling incense and also to keep pests and venomous creatures away from the Greek home. Others believe it came from the Greek thumus, meaning courage or energy, perhaps because it has a reputation of being used by Greek warriors for courage and was bathed in and used as a beverage for invigoration. The Egyptians used tham, now known as thyme, to mummify their dead.

Organic chemistry

The principal chemical constituents of thyme are the volatile oils, consisting of phenol, thymol, and carvacrol. A 1977 article in the scientific journal, Chemical Abstracts, revealed that thymol's antimicrobial activity is 18 times more powerful than phenol. Phenol is the major antiseptic used in commercial germicidal cleaners like Lysol. Thymol is one of the most potent antimicrobial substances known and far surpasses even the strongest antibiotics. It has been illustrated in the Journal of Chemistry and the MERCK Index of Drugs & Chemicals to destroy parasites, worms, fungi, bacteria, mosquito larvae, and many viruses.

Medicinal uses

The pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry is privy to the important medicinal effects of the oil of Thymus vulgaris. It is found in gargles, cough drops, vapor rubs and many mouthwashes.

Oil of thyme is used, albeit very sparingly because of its potency, as a gargle or mouthwash for sore throats and inflamed gums. Because the volatile oil is expelled via the lungs and the kidneys, Naturopathic physicians use it for upper respiratory infections and urinary tract infections. If you are in the midst of a cold, try making a tea with just a teaspoon of dried thyme leaves to a cup of boiling water. It is an excellent diaphoretic, causing the body to perspire profusely. Thyme also helps with poor digestion, flatulence, and intestinal gripe.

So, if you're feeling ill, remember to reach for that thyme in a bottle the next time you open up The Natural Medicine Chest.

Eugene Zampieron, N.D., and Ellen Kamhi, R.N., Ph.D., The Natural Nurse[Trademark], are well-known natural practitioners, researchers and authors. They are the authors of The Natural Medicine Chest and Arthritis: The Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide. Their radio shows are heard internationally on


By Eugene Zampieron and Ellen Kamhi

In the US, there are over new cases of peptic ulcers and 4 million reoccurrences every year. Helicobacter pylori is now recognized as a cause of peptic ulcer, chronic stomach inflammation, and stomach cancer. It also plays a role in skin disorders such as rosacea and urticaria. Dental plaque can harbor this bacterium and cause re-infection in the digestive tract, but herbal mouth rinse can help. Of several herbs tested, the strongest to destroy H. pylori were thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and cinnamon (Cinmmommum zeylanicum). In another study, researchers at the University of Chicago screened other plant extracts and found that 17 herbs out of 30 also inhibited growth of 15 strains of H. pylori, especially goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and blood root (Sanguinaria canadensis) due to the alkaloids berberine and sanguinarine. Two other effective herbs were garlic (Allium sativum) and turmeric (Curcuma longa).

Tabak, M. et. al. 1996. In vitro inhibition of HP by extracts of thyme. Journal of Applied Bacteriology 80 (6):667-72. 1999. Also: Desai HG, et al. 1991. Dental plaque; a permanent reservoir of Hp? Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology 26(11):1205-8; & Mahady, GB, et al. 1999. Sceening of Medicinal Plants for in vitro activity against H.p. American Society of Pharmacognosy/Phytochemical Society of Europe Joint Meeting, Amsterdam.

The American Herb Association.


By M. Tabak

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