Its smell often evokes the scents of the Mediterranean – richly seasoned goat cheese dipped in olive oil or freshly baked buns sprinkled with olive oil and fresh or dried thyme leaves. Thymus vulgaris is a famous herb and a recognisable part of North African za’atar which is used to season many dishes, from meats to salads. It should not be confused with Breckland wild thyme, Thymus serpyllum, which is its close relative. This low bushy plant originates from a region where one cannot imagine life without it – the Mediterranean belt stretching from the far western part of the Mediterranean to the south of Italy. Today it is cultivated all over the world and still thrives as a wild plant on rugged coastal terrain. Rubbing its leaves releases an intense incense smell, stronger than oregano; it is especially beautiful in early summer when it is covered with purple flowers.
Thyme has left its mark not only on cooking, but also on mythology and medicine. Ancient Egyptians used it for mummification and ancient Greeks used to add it to baths and to incense their temples with its burning bouquets. It was believed that this plant could invigorate and strengthen the body, in addition to driving away evil forces. Romans used to add it abundantly to their food, believing that it could ease digestion even after the heaviest of meals. All these customs and beliefs were not without foundation. Today we know that thyme contains thymol, which, if added to meat products, acts as an excellent preservative. It is an excellent antiseptic, so it certainly drove away “evil forces” which took the form of various microbes in ancient places of mass gatherings; it has a very favourable effect on the digestive system, so it definitely helped the Romans after overeating during their famous Bacchanalia festivals.
WHY IS THYME MEDICINAL?
According to the European Medicines Agency, thyme has been a valued folk cure throughout Europe, where it has been used for centuries for respiratory tract inflammation, colds, coughs and bronchitis; modern research backs up not only this, but also a much wider use of this great plant. Thyme oil contains up to 47 percent of thymol, about five percent of carvacrol, p-Cymene, linalool, alpha-Pinene – phenols with exceptional antiseptic properties. It is also rich in powerful antioxidants – zeaxanthin, apigenin, lutein, luteolin and thymine, as well as terpenes – monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes – that give it its characteristic scent. It is also rich in vitamins: A, C, B6, K, E and folic acid, as well as minerals – primarily potassium and manganese. Perhaps all these ingredients are responsible for the vitality and longevity of people from the Mediterranean region.
What have modern studies concluded so far? In addition to its effects on the body, thyme is also great for our mental well-being. One study came to the conclusion that this plant acts as a strong anxiolytic. Anxiety is the most widespread mental disorder today, which is accompanied not only by a constant feeling of unease, but also by physical symptoms: palpitations, headaches, sweating, a feeling of pressure in the chest and even digestive disorders. It is believed that phenols are the substance that can successfully remove anxiety, although science has not yet managed to work out the exact mechanism of this plant’s effect on our mental state.
When it comes to the effect of thyme on the stomach, another study concluded that thymol and carvacrol directly increase the activity of trypsin, lipase and protease in the intestines and pancreas, and that they improve and protect liver functions. Carvacrol protects mucosa of digestive organs and regulates gastric fluid and its pH value, thus preventing lesions and inflammation. What’s more, flavonoids from this plant relax smooth muscles of the small intestine by blocking histamine and acetylcholine receptors. That is why this plant can be used to treat ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. With its antimicrobial action, thyme successfully expels everything that has no place in our digestive system, from worms to fungi, yeasts and bacteria. And in that respect, its action does not only apply to the digestive organs, but also to the whole body.
Numerous studies have proven that thyme has strong antimicrobial – antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic – action. Today we know that this plant successfully suppresses a number of harmful bacteria, penetrating directly into their cell membrane: Helicobacter pylori, Salmonella typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureus, Selenomonasartemidis, Porphyromonas gingivalis, Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus. It has also been proven to be effective against fungi Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus parasiticus and Candida albicans. The antifungal effect of thyme is also manifested externally, on the skin, in dermatomycosis, “fungus on the skin” that most often affects the nails and the scalp. But that is not all, thyme is also proven to be effective even with the Herpes simplex virus.
Thyme thujanol essential oil provides great help for bacterial vaginosis and vulvovaginal candidiasis, common gynaecological problems that nowadays affect three out of four women worldwide at some point in their lives. Up to 30% of vulvovaginitis is caused by the Candida fungus, which, when it multiplies and spreads, can be very persistent and unpleasant and often does not respond to standard therapy. This is also where carvacrol and thymol that thyme contains enter the scene: their antifungal activity successfully suppresses candida, and at the same time has an anti-inflammatory effect. Thyme helps to establish normal vaginal flora, which is often disturbed after the use of antibiotics, due to hormonal imbalance, too frequent washing or taking contraceptives.
Thyme oil works best in synergy with other medicinal plants. And when it comes to the health of the vaginal and cervical mucosa, it is ideal in combination with St. John’s wort, marigold, tea tree, and exotic tamanu and ravensara oils. It is precisely this combination that is present in Femisan Herbal Vag – preparations from the Herba Svet laboratory intended for women for the care and maintenance of the vaginal and cervical mucosa. Femisan herbal Vag helps with dryness of the vagina, which is common during menopause, as well as with infections and disorders of the vaginal flora; it also strengthens immunity, helps renew the epithelium and prevents inflammation and infection.
The following products contain this plant: