Winter is cold, full of sickness and not much energy, it is the perfect time for thyme!
The Greek word for thyme was said to mean “fumigate” for its strong balsamic odor. It was often used as an incense to dispel illness and germs in the air. Another derived meaning comes from the Greek word thumus, meaning “courage.” In medieval times as well as ancient, it was often seen as an invigorating plant that was a very strong stimulant not only of smell but of courage. (Grieves, The Modern Herbal) http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/t/thygar16.html Thyme was taken with the Romans into Britain as part of their culinary supplies as well as for its courage properties.
In later years, when proper young ladies were well versed in the language of flowers, thyme became a “symbol of activity” (Day/Stuckey, The Spice Book). This characteristic name was inspired as the bees would fly from one flower to the next full of activity. Indeed, large groves of thyme were grown just for the particular flavor it gave the honey made by the bees. Women of the Middle Ages also used thyme in their “tussie-mussie”, a demure flower bouquet. It was held tightly so as the heat of the young maiden’s hand would release the fragrant smell of thyme.
Thymus vulgaris, the common garden variety, is most often known as a culinary herb. It is a member of the mint family and has many of the qualities of mint especially being very aromatic. It is easily grown in a drier sometimes, rocky soil and likes a hotter, dry climate. It can also easily grow in a container garden making it a versatile herb any time of year. It is an especially good flavor with stuffing, meats and tomato dishes. Added in the end of cooking, it leaves a wonderful flavor and smell to any dish.
Because thyme is so readily available, easy to grow and in almost every kitchen, it also makes it an ideal medicinal herb. The leaves and flowers are used most often. It has a spicy, warming energy with affinities for lungs, stomach and the liver. Michael Tierra describes its properties as “carminative, antiseptic, expectorant and antitussive.” (p. 200 Way of the Herbs) https://www.planetherbs.com/. Matthew Woods talks about the detoxifying properties of thyme. It is a “remedy for toxins and closed passageways deep in the body.” Similar to its cousins the mints, it also has a relaxant effect on the nerves, specifically the parasympathetic nervous system. (p. 484 The Earthwise Herbal ). http://www.matthewwoodherbs.com/Mattwood.html It also stimulates the thymus gland which can help immunity and the adrenal cortex.
A strong tea of thyme was often used to treat upper respiratory infections such as whooping cough or bronchitis. Guido Mase’ http://www.btvherbclinic.com/guido-mase-.html uses it as a steam for sinus congestion and infection as well as upper respiratory illness. It works well in conditions with thick mucus, postnasal drip and chronic fits of coughing. As a digestive aid, it works best in conditions of slow digestion, poor appetite, and gas in stomach or intestines. It also has been used with intestinal infections such as worms. As a topical oil, it can be used as part of a hair rinse for head lice or dandruff as well as some skin infections such as athlete’s foot, shingles, boils or abscesses. The essential oil of thyme can cause burning to the skin when applied directly so it should always be used in a carrier oil.
With such a rich history and so many varied uses, there really is no better “time for thyme.” Here is a simple recipe for a cough syrup!
1 cup boiling water
2 tbsp dried thyme
Add thyme to boiling water and steep to make a strong tea, about 8-10 minutes.
Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of honey to slightly cooled tea to make it a bit thicker.
Store in refrigerator in a glass jar and ready to use.