Thyme – so small but so strong

by Jenny Chapman Enchanted Beings

A bout of ‘flu in the Winter was followed by bronchitis.  No amount of coughing could clear my lungs, breathing was difficult, throat was so sore.  I looked at the herbs hanging drying in my kitchen and thyme fell into my hand.  I recalled the shaman Apu Caesar pointing it out to me to chew on to help with the affects of high altitude leading to a shortage of oxygen during a visit to Peru I crushed a fat sprig of the tiny shrivelled up leaves and poured on some boiling water.  After about 15 minutes it had had enough time to steep and was cool enough to drink.  The relief this brought to my raw throat was instant and the coughing fits stopped.  A short time later I realised I was breathing with ease, my lungs seemed to have cleared. I felt this was nothing short of awesome! I continued drinking cups of this three times a day for the next few days and made a speedy recovery.  I must find out more about this tiny miracle that had come to my rescue in the middle of the night.

A drumming journey with friends and a thyme plant revealed it likes to have ’dry feet’ and is ‘a brave warrior that likes to do a thorough job’.  This certainly rang true with my own experience.  What do the text books have to say:

         Botanical Name:  Thymus vulgaris

         Family:  Lamiaceae (Labiatae)

         Parts used:  Leaves and flowers

         Medicinal Action and Uses:  Antiseptic, antispasmodic, tonic and carminative.

Many species of thyme grow around the Mediterranean and on banks and dry hilly pastures throughout Europe and parts of Asia.  It was well known and used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The only species native to Britain is the tiny creeping wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum) found growing in wild, windswept places, including on the way up to the lake at Llyn-y-van-vach with its links to the Physicians of Myddfai and the healing handed down by word of mouth from the time of the ancient Druids.  Culpeper describes it as:  “a noble strengthener of the lungs, as notable a one as grows, nor is there a better remedy growing for whooping cough …it is so harmless you need not fear the use of it …” All species have similar healing properties.

It is an aromatic perennial, prefers a well-drained soil and flowers throughout the summer.  July and August is the time to pick it to dry and/or to make into a tincture or to distill the essential oil.  The main chemical constituents of thyme can be found in Caroll Newall’s ‘Herbal Medicines’.  These show thyme to be expectorant, anti-spasmodic and relieve coughing.  Research has shown thyme essential oil to be strongly anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and active against Candida albicans and E. coli. Its antiseptic properties help remove bacteria from the throat. Mrs Grieve’s ‘A Modern Herbal’ describes its numerous other uses for instance in healing, perfumery, cooking and embalming.  Stephen Harrod Buhner in ‘Herbal Antivirals’ and ‘Herbal Antibiotics’ gives an account of current research being carried out with thyme, its synergistic properties when used with other herbs and the significant results obtained with research into MRSA.

So much of this rings true as I recall my own experience and I feel blessed to have thyme as an ally and feel our relationship will deepen with time.  A truly awesome and brave warrior indeed for such a tiny plant.   

Rosemary - Bristol, UK