Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a low-growing flowering shrub, in the mint family Lamiaceae. Its name, Thymus, stems from the Greek “thymos” which means courage, strength, vigor.

The ancient Egyptians knew about the antiseptic and preserving properties of thyme and used it in embalming. It was one of the most important herbs for incense in ancient Greece where people used it to stimulate the mind. In Rome, the soldiers bathed in thyme water to give themselves vigor before going to battle. Centuries later, medieval noble ladies embroidered a sprig of thyme on the sash of their favorite knight before he left for battle. Legend has it that thyme was one of the herbs that formed the fragrant bed of the Virgin Mary so it is no wonder that in the Middle Ages, thyme was placed in the birthing bed of women in labor.

Our forefathers didn’t use thyme only as an antiseptic and invigorating herb, they also used it to treat digestive problems, headaches, rheumatic pain, menstrual cramps and respiratory diseases.


The herb Thyme contains:

  • Essential oils
  • Saponins
  • Lamiaceae-tannin
  • Bitter-tasting compounds
  • Flavonoids
  • Rosmarinic acid
  • Caffeic acid
Medicinal use of thyme (herb)

One of the most important herbs to stop a cough, flowering thyme contains essential oil which relieves spasms and is a natural antiseptic. It is an excellent therapeutic agent to treat lung diseases such as bronchitis and asthma as well as nagging coughs like pertussis. Thyme calms the bronchial muscles. It hinders the growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi making it an excellent gargle to treat inflammation of the mouth and air passages. It also eases menstruation and stomach cramps.

The saponins “clean” or purge the lungs from phlegm.

The astringent properties of Lamiaceae-tannin, lower inflammation and constrict the tissues aiding in the treatment of acne (along with essential oils and saponins).

The bitter-tasting compounds regulate the production of mucus by the cilia in the air-passages. Cilia are hair-like structures that move back and forth to help move things. Bitter-tasting compounds also regulate the secretion of stomach juices, increasing appetite and improving digestion.

The flavonoids and rosmarinic acid are strong antioxidants that strengthen the immune system and protect the lungs from cell damaging free radicals.

Caffeic acid warms the body, stimulates blood flow and uplifts your mood. Try thyme tea in the morning and afternoon instead of coffee.

Thyme is a wonderful therapeutic addition to the bath-water as it calms the nerves, invigorates the body (combats fatigue), soothes cramps and helps loosen and remove mucus from the lungs.

Taken internally, Thyme is good to:

  • Stop a cough
  • Relieve spasms
  • Treat bronchitis and asthma
  • Calms the bronchial muscles
  • Soothe persistent coughs
  • Treat inflammation of the mouth and air passages
  • Loosen and remove mucus from the lungs
  • Regulate the production of mucus
  • Regulate the secretion of stomach juices
  • Increase appetite
  • Improve digestion
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Stimulate blood flow
  • Uplift the mood

Used externally, Thyme:

  • Removes unpleasant smells (deodorizes)
  • Calms the nerves (bath)
  • Soothes cramps (bath)
  • Invigorates the body (bath)
  • Helps loosen and remove mucus from the lungs
  • Improves blood flow (bath)
  • Hinders the growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi
  • Treat acne
Daily dose

4-6 g dried leaves, stems and flowers

Homemade preparations
  • Teas
  • Bath
  • Wine
  • Tincture

For therapeutic grade quality, harvest the leaves and flowers by cutting the stems 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) above the ground. Dry the herb quickly by drying them on a flat surface such as a dehydrator or paper towel lined tray. Dry the leaves in a dark and well-ventilated room. When the leaves are fully dried, store them whole in an air-tight container.

Thyme becomes woody quickly and should be replaced every 3-4 years. To delay the formation of wood, cut the plant until August in the first year. In the second year, cut it until end of June/beginning of July and then again at the end of August/beginning of September.

Thyme Essential oil

Thyme essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of thyme leaves, stems and flowers.


The chemical nature (chemotype) of thyme determines the properties of the essential oil. So you don’t just use thyme essential oil. You use a particular chemotype (CT), for example, Thyme CT Thymol or Thyme CT Linalool.

Both the aroma and properties of the same type of thyme differ depending on geographical region, climate, soil, altitude, amount of sunshine and other local conditions.

For example, in the chalky soil of the high plains of the middle and south of Europe, the plant develops the chemotype Thymol. In the lower areas where clay soil is present, the chemotypes Thujanol 4 and Linalool are found. The most common chemotype found in the northern areas of Europe is Linalool.

Properties of the 3 most important thyme (Thymus vulgaris) chemotypes

Thymus vulgaris CT Thymol

This oil is an outstanding antiseptic. It has a high percentage of monoterpene phenols and monoterpene which make this oil a strong analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
Also known as Red Thyme, this plant grows in chalky soil. This chemotype has the strongest scent.


Body – antibacterial (E. coli and Streptococcus B), antifungal, strong antiseptic (disinfectant), anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant (stimulates the immune system), expectorant (loosens phlegm), bronchial spasmolytic (relieves bronchial spasms), analgesic (soothes pain), stimulates blood flow, regulates blood pressure, improves uterine tone, aids digestion and regulates appetite.

Thymus vulgaris CT Thymol contains:

30 – 55 % Monoterpenphenole (Thymol)
20 – 40 % Monoterpene (p-Cymen)
3 – 10 % Monoterpenole (Linalool)
2 – 5 % Sesquiterpene
about 2 % Oxide (1,8-Cineol)


  • Colds and the flu (also preventive)
  • Bronchitis
  • Bacterial angina
  • Insect repellent
  • Tinea pedis (Athlete’s foot)
  • Muscle tension
  • Joint pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Urinary tract infection (bladder infection)
  • Asthenia (physical weakness and lack of energy)

Color: reddish
Viscosity: watery
Smell: intense, herbal

Side effects:
Only apply a high dose (over 1%) to adults and young adults. Avoid during pregnancy (thymol is a uterus tonic). Don’t use in children and people with sensitive skin. Liver damage can happen after prolonged use, usually through the ingestion of capsules as done in French aromatherapy. Long-term use of mouthwash containing thymol can interfere with thyroid function.

Thymus vulgaris CT Thujanol-4

This oil is excellent to treat Chlamydia, Candida and Streptococcus B infections without damaging the mucosa. It is also effective in treating viral and bacterial infections of the urinary tract, the skin, the digestive system and the air-passages. It also acts on liver cells and the immune system. It is an immunomodulator that aids in healing.

This oil is very gentle on the skin and mucosa. It is safe to use in children and the elderly.

The Thujanol-4 chemotype is found in plants that grow wild in some areas at the foot of the French Pyrenees. While a plant of Thymol chemotype can live 8 to 10 years, the Thujanol-4 starts to become stunted after only three years. This explains the high price of this oil.


Body – antibacterial (Chlamydia), strong antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain-killer), antispasmodic (soothes spasms), immunostimulant (stimulates the immune system) and hepatic stimulator (stimulates liver cells).
Mind – strengthens the nerves

Thymus vulgaris CT Thujanil-4 contains:

54 – 60 % Monoterpenole (vor allem ca. 30% Thujanol-4 und Terpinen-4-ol)
28 % Monoterpene
9 – 11 % Ester
2,5 – 5 % Sesquiterpene


  • Colds and the flu
  • Bronchitis
  • Otitis media (infection of the middle ear)
  • Stomatitis (infection of the mouth, ex. cold sores)
  • Urinary tract infection (bladder infection)
  • Liver disorder
  • Dermatitis
  • Fungal diseases (Candida albicans infection)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Arthritis
  • Inflammation of the tendon sheath (trigger finger)
  • Tendinitis (inflammation of the tendon)
  • Asthenia (physical weakness and lack of energy)

Color: colorless
Viscosity: watery
Smell: herbal, earthy
Note: Top to middle
Blends well with: Lavender, Rosemary, Pine, Lemon, Grapefruit, Bergamot

Side effects:

Thymus vulgaris CT Linalool

This chemotype is very gentle on the skin and mucosa and safe for kids. You can use it to stimulate a child’s immune system. This is a gentle but potent chemotype, especially when you use it in to treat ailments of the throat, nose and ears.

It is a great nerve tonic that strengthens the body and mind. It lends you courage to get on with daily challenges. Great to use in children who are introverted or feel that they don’t belong.

Oils distilled from plants cultivated in France have about 75% Linalool while those cultivated in Spain have 30-40%. So look up where your oil comes from.

For Linalool chemotype, the plant is cultivated at a height of 1200 meter or more only in parts of France and Spain. It has the mildest scent and is considered the most gentle of the chemotypes.


Body – antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, stimulates the immune system, soothes spasms, nourishes the skin, strengthens the heart and improves blood flow.
Mind – balances, strengthens and brights up the mind, improves concentration, a wake-me-up scent.
Thymus vulgaris CT Linalool contains:

75 % Monoterpenole (vor allem Linalool)
6 – 15 % Ester (vor allem Linalylacetat)
bis zu 5 % Monoterpene
bis zu 5 % Sesquiterpene
ca. 3 % Monoterpenphenole (Thymol)


  • Colds and the flu
  • Spasmodic cough
  • Otitis media (inflammation of the middle ear)
  • Weak immune system
  • Digestive problems
  • Skin care
  • Bedsores (pressure sores)
  • Thrush
  • Diaper dermatitis (diaper rash)
  • Yeast infection
  • Concentration problems
  • Discouragement

Color: colorless
Smell: lemon-earthy, sweet, mild
Note: top
Blends well with: Lavender, Bergamot, Rosemary, Lemon, Grapefruit

Side effects:

Properties of the other 6 thyme (Thymus vulgaris) chemotypes

Thymus vulgaris CT Carvacrol – An excellent antiseptic and antimicrobial oil and similar to oregano in its action. It inhibits the growths of several strains of bacteria such as E. Coli, Bacillus cereus and Pseudomonas aeroginosa. It is also an anti-inflammatory. Plant grows at sea level. If harvested in the spring, it contains about 30% carvacrol. If harvested in the Fall while or after flowering, it contains 60-80% carvacrol.

Thymus vulgaris CT Geraniol – Cardiotonic and antiviral, this chemotype is found in plants that grow at high altitudes. It has a lemon-like scent.

Thymus vulgaris CT alpha-terpineol – This plant has a slightly pepper smell and is found in plants harvested in early Spring.

Thymus vulgaris CT 1,8 cineole – About 80-90% cineole, this plant is often used as an insect repellent. It has the same properties of Eukalyptus globulus which has 70-75% 1,8 cineole. It is a diuretic and also soothes pains and cramps, loosens phlegm.

Thymus vulgaris CT p-cymene – Soothes pain when applied to the skin. Useful for rheumatism and arthritis. This chemotype is present only when the plant is harvested while budding in the spring. It harvested in Fall, the chemotype is Thymol.

Thymus vulgaris CT phenol – Chemotype found in plants that are grown further north in the high latitudes. The farther north a plant grows, the more phenol compounds (up to 90 percent) it has.

Contra-indications of thyme essential oil (all chemotypes):

Do not take thyme essential oil if you are pregnant.

If you have liver or thyroid problems, consult a doctor before self-medicating. High doses and prolonged use of thymol and carvacrol can worsen liver and thyroid problems. Long-term use of mouthwash containing thymol can interfere with thyroid function.

Culinary use

This wonderful Mediterranean herb is widely used in Italian and French cooking. It is an essential ingredient of the bouquet garni and herbes de Provence. It is great when used fresh or in cooked dishes.
Thyme pairs well with peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, roasted potatoes, beans, pasta, grilled and oven roasted fish and meats. Make a marinade with thyme, rosemary, sage, some pepper and good quality olive oil and marinate the meat a few hours before grilling. Flavor stocks and stews with thyme. Add a sprig of thyme to a pot of rice. Stuff a whole fish or chicken with fresh thyme. Add it to egg dishes such as quiche and scrambled eggs. Thyme is a perfect ingredient to add flavor to zucchini fritters.



Learn how to grow a gorgeous medicinal and culinary garden with Giovanna Becker

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