Potted thyme
Thyme in a pot aerial view.

What is Thyme?

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is an aromatic herb from the mint family that is native to the Mediterranean region. It has small, pale green leaves and small purple or white flowers and a strong, sweet aroma which attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. Thyme is an evergreen perennial herb that grows well in full sun and the right soil conditions. It thrives in hot weather but can tolerate cold temperatures as well, making it ideal for growing across various regions around the world. The leaves and flowering tops are used as both culinary and medicinal herbs.

Thyme is an aromatic culinary herb that has been used for centuries in culinary dishes, medicinal treatments, and even in spiritual rituals for its healing properties. Derived from the Greek word meaning courage, it is said that Roman soldiers took thyme baths to energize and prepare for battle. Conversely, women would sew sprigs of thyme into the vests of their knights as good luck tokens. More notably, the Egyptians used it as embalming fluid. It stands to reason since thyme is known to be both a preservative and an antifungal agent.

But beyond its aesthetic appeal, thyme has many medicinal qualities that make it a valuable addition to any home garden or kitchen. In this article, we’ll explore the many uses of thyme and how to grow it in your own garden. We’ll also discuss the various health benefits of thyme, as well as its culinary applications so you can get the most out of this amazing herb! Whether you’re a seasoned herbalist or just getting started, it’s good to have a basic understanding of this delightful herb. Let’s take a look at what makes thyme such an essential part of any herbal garden.

Thyme growing


Location, location, location!

The best time to plant thyme is in early spring; if you live in a colder climate, wait until after the last frost has passed before planting. If you don’t have an outdoor garden space, thyme can also be grown indoors in a well-lit window.  When planting thyme, make sure to give it plenty of sunlight—at least 6 hours a day—and be sure to water the plants regularly.  Thyme prefers soil that is slightly more alkaline than other herbs, with a pH just above 7.0. If needed, add a little lime to the soil or limestone mulch around the plants. Use a soil testing kit for best results.

Caring for thyme is relatively simple; however, there are some tips for keeping your plants healthy and robust throughout their growing season (which typically lasts from May through October). Try to avoid wetting the leaves when watering; instead, water directly into the soil around each plant. As far as watering goes, keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy during the summer months—about once per week should do the trick! 

Additionally, mulching around each plant will help protect its roots during periods of extreme heat or cold weather while also helping retain moisture near its roots. Finally, prune back any dead or dying foliage as soon as possible to keep your plants looking lush and vibrant all season long!

There are many varieties of thyme available. German and lemon are two well-known examples. German thyme is very aromatic and popular for culinary purposes. Lemon has a lovely citrus aroma and flavor that adds an extra pop of bright flavor to dishes.

Bee on a thyme plant
Bee on a thyme plant

Harvesting and Utilizing

Once thyme is established and begins growing vigorously (usually after about two months), it’s time to start harvesting!   When harvesting thyme, timing is important; the best time to harvest is when the flowers are just beginning to bloom and before they wilt away completely.  Harvest them early in the morning when they have had adequate time to soak up the morning dew. Cut off sprigs from each plant at their base—you can also trim back larger branches if desired—but make sure not to over-harvest as this can weaken your plants and discourage further growth.

Harvested sprigs should be hung upside down in bunches away from direct sunlight so they may dry out or use a food dehydrator if you have one available; once they are completely dry, strip off the leaves and store them in an airtight container for later use as seasonings, teas, and other herbal remedies. Discard the stems or use to make stocks and broths.

Culinary Benefits of Thyme

Mushroom soup with thyme
Mushroom soup with thyme

Culinary Benefits of Thyme

Thyme adds a wonderful flavor to all kinds of dishes. Its savory notes pair well with meats such as chicken or lamb as well as vegetables like mushrooms or potatoes. You can also add fresh sprigs to soups or salads for an extra kick of flavor without adding any extra calories! Just remember that when cooking with dried herbs like thyme, you should use half the amount than if you were using fresh herbs since they are more concentrated in flavor. 

Add thyme early in the cooking process so it has time to release all its wonderful flavor. Sprinkle the fresh leaves into your pasta sauces or add them directly into soups, stews, and braises. Tie whole thyme stems together with parsley stems and a bay leaf to create a classic “bouquet garni” to season your soups and broths. 

Combine fresh thyme with rosemary and sage for a wonderful marinade for grilled meat. Lightly toss potatoes, carrots or other root vegetables in a little olive oil, fresh thyme and some salt and pepper before roasting.

Thyme can be dried, frozen alone or in ice cubes with water or oil or preserved in olive oil or made into an herbal butter for later use.

Thyme tea
Thyme tea

Health Benefits of Thyme

Not only does thyme make a delicious addition to many dishes but it also offers numerous health benefits due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Thyme contains several potent antioxidants that help fight off free radicals and keep your body healthy. These antioxidants are thought to protect against inflammation, reduce oxidative stress, and even prevent certain types of cancer. In addition, thyme contains vitamins A and C which help boost immunity and protect your cells from damage.

  • Fighting infection – Thyme oil has been shown to have strong antimicrobial properties which make it effective at fighting bacterial infections such as E-coli or Staphylococcus aureus. It can also help fight fungal infections such as Candida albicans.
  • Treating respiratory problems – Thyme is often used to treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis or asthma due to its expectorant properties. It helps reduce inflammation in the airways which makes it easier for people to breathe more easily when suffering from these conditions.
  • Reducing inflammation – The antioxidants found in thyme can help reduce inflammation throughout the body which can help reduce pain associated with chronic conditions such as arthritis or fibromyalgia. It’s said that drinking thyme tea can help reduce inflammation in the body while helping with digestion issues as well as providing relief from respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis due to its high levels of vitamin C and calcium content!
  • Reducing redness and swelling – It can also help reduce redness and swelling associated with skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis due to its antibacterial properties.
  • Improving digestion – The volatile oils found in thyme are known to stimulate digestive juices which can help improve digestion and reduce bloating and gas after meals. Taking a cup of thyme tea after meals may provide relief from digestive issues like heartburn or indigestion.        
  • Thyme also has antiseptic qualities. Surely one time or another it has been used as a tea bag and placed on the eyes to cure sties, and aid in treating pink eye or conjunctivitis.
  • Externally applied, thyme has been used to help treat tumors, dental decay, plaque, thrush, tonsillitis, halitosis, deep wounds, and bruises. It is said to be effective for destroying skin parasites, such as scabies, crabs and lice. 
  • Used internally, thyme properties work to rid parasites in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • If you happen to have an herbal garden, thyme can be crushed and used to clean cuts and scrapes, offering an immediate antiseptic remedy. Studies have shown that the innate qualities in thyme destroy many forms of fungus and bacteria.
  • As a tea, thyme has beneficial results in gastrointestinal problems. In addition, it can relieve both hangovers and act as a digestive aid or tonic.
  • Especially helpful to women, because of its antispasmodic qualities, it offers relief from cramps associated with monthly periods.
  • This herb is said to be effective in the treatment of chest infections for which phlegm can be expelled from the lungs.  It has been used effectively for sore throats, coughs, croup, whooping cough, acute bronchitis, laryngitis and asthma.
  • Thyme oil has been used to treat topical fungal infections and is also used in toothpastes to prevent gingivitis.  It is also considered an excellent expectorant.  It is said to relax the muscle of the stomach, relieving a variety of stomach upsets.
  • Thyme is also used to alleviate chronic gastritis, lack of appetite, indigestion, irritable bowel and colic. In addition, it is also used to ease convulsions, epilepsy, menstrual cramps and spasm-induced coughing and diarrhea.
  • As a tonic, thyme is believed to stimulate the nervous system, alleviating such nervous disorders as depression, nightmares, nervous exhaustion, insomnia and melancholy.
Fresh thyme by the window


With all that said, thyme is one efficient and effective herb!  From its antioxidant content to its distinctive flavor profile, there are plenty of reasons why you should be adding thyme into your cooking repertoire. Not only does it add an extra layer of flavor but it also provides some health benefits too! So next time you’re looking for something new to spice up your favorite recipes, try adding some fresh or dried thyme–your taste buds will thank you!