Some 350 species of small, evergreen, aromatic, mostly woody-based perennials and subshrubs belong to this Eurasian genus, which occurs mainly on dry grassland and calcareous soils. Many species are good garden plants, having a neat habit, fragrant foliage, and colorful flowers; their small size is ideally suited to crevices in paving, rock gardens, walls, and containers. Although tiny, the numerous flowers produce copious nectar, making thymes important as bee plants. Thymes hybridize freely in cultivation, making the taxonomy of Thymus complex, with numerous synonyms and invalid names. In common with many pleasant-smelling plants, thyme came to symbolize death, because the souls of the dead were thought to rest in the flowers; the smell of thyme has apparently been detected at several haunted sites. It is also associated with various rituals once carried out by young women to reveal their true love. Thymes vary in aroma but the majority can be used to flavor food. Most widely used are T. vulgaris, T. x citriodorus and their cultivars.. The main medicinal thymes are T. serpyllum and T. vulgaris. Much of the dried thyme and essential oil of thyme in international trade comes from Spain, where there are 37 different species of Thymus, including 24 endemic species. The main species collected are T. praecox and T pulegioides ("tomillos serpoles"), and T. baeticus, T capitatus, T. hyemalis, T. mastichina, T. orospedanus, T. serpilloides subsp. gracilis, and T. zygis subsp. zygis ("tomillos"). There is concern that the harvesting of some rarer thymes-and even the rarer ones that are collected in error-is not sustainable. In addition, the practice of uprooting whole plants causes soil erosion in fragile, arid ecosystems. All thymes are rich in volatile oil, whcih consists mainly of thymol, a powerful antiseptic. The oil varies considerably in composition between species and from plant to plant. Commercial thyme oil is largely derived from T. zygis (Spanish sauce thyme), a white-flowered species found only in Spain and Portugal. Oil from T. serpyllum (sometimes known as serpolet oil) differs from T. vulgaris in being lower in carvacol and higher in linalol and cymol, and thus having a sedative effect. Red and white thyme oil refer to the color of the oil, which turns red when oxidized by contact with metal, but remains clear otherwise. Thymus is the original Greek name, which was used by Theophrastus for both thyme and savory (Satureja, See, Savory).

Variable shrub with linear to elliptic, hairy, gray-green leaves to 8mm (⅜in) long and 2.5mm (1/16th in) wide. White to pale purple flowers, with gray-green, leaf-like bracts, are borne in whorls in summer.

Common Name:
Botanical Name:
Thymus vulgaris
Native Location:
W. Mediterranean to S Italy, United States, Algeria, France, Morocco, Israel, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey.
Well-drained soil in sun. Most thymes prefer neutral to alkaline soil and thrive in stony or rocky situations. Thymes dislike wet winters, and benefit from a layer of gravel to protect the foliage from contact with wet soil. In autumn remove fallen leaves that settle on thyme plants as these may cause rotting. Trim lightly after flowering and remove dead flower heads to encourage bushiness. Remove green shoots of variegated cultivars to maintain variegation. In areas with cold, damp winters, T. camphoratus is best grown in an alpine house. Thymus vulgaris is used in companion planting to control flea beetles, cabbage white butterflies, and other cabbage pests.
By seed sown in spring (species only); by softwood or semi-ripe cuttings in summer; by division in spring.
Whole plants and flowering tops are collected in summer, as flowering begins, and distilled for oil, or dried for elixirs, liquid extracts, and infusions. Sprigs are picked during the growing season and used fresh, or dried for infusions.
Has a strongly upright habit, gray-green, camphor-scented leaves, and white flowers.
Height: 15-23cm (6-9in)
Width: 40cm (16in)
German Winter
Has a compact, spreading habit and is very hardy, with a good flavor.
Width: 20cm (8in)
Has very pale pink flowers.
Silver Posie
Syn. Variegated

Has white-variegated leaves and pale, mauve-pink flowers.
15-30cm (6-12in)
40cm (16in)
Common thyme and wild thyme—often used interchangeably and referred to simply as "thyme"—have been celebrated in medicine and myth for over 2,000 years. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans used thyme to treat indigestion, hangovers, insect bites, and "melancholy". The ancients also burned thyme as a sacred offering to their gods, and as an insect repellent. In fact, many scholars believe thyme's genus name is originally from the ancient Greek word for "fumigate". However, thyme was also strongly associated with courage and strength—Roman soldiers commonly bathed in a thyme herbal bath before going out to battle—and the herb's Latin name is most likely from the Greek thumos, for "bravery". Thyme's symbolic association with bravery carried through to the Middle Ages. Medieval ladies at court traditionally embroidered special scarves with a sprig of thyme and then gave the scarves to their knights before the men left for war. The ancient Egyptians used thyme in their embalming fluids, and since then thyme has been additionally linked to death and spirits. In Britain, thyme was the major ingredient in a magical potion that allowed the user to see elves and fairies. Another strongly held folk belief was that thyme "inhabited" the souls of those who had been murdered or who had met a violent death; many people claimed you could smell the scent of thyme wherever those poor souls had met their demise. Some people still believe that growing thyme indoors invites illness or death into the family.
Parts Used:
Whole plant, leaves, flowering tops, oil, berries/fruits, leaves
Steam Distillation
Color and Odor:
The essential oil is pale yellow in color with a warm, spicy-herbaceous and powerful aroma.
Common and wild thyme are available as dried herb and in capsules, oils, teas, and tinctures. To make a tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried herb and steep for 10 minutes. Strain, and drink up to 2 cups a day. For tension headaches, allow tea to cool completely.
Long known to the early Greeks and Romans for its antiseptic properties. Thyme is much used in cooking for its flavor and is popularly grown in the warmer parts of the Mediterranean region.
An essential oil of wild thyme which is distilled from Thymus serpyllum has similar properties to the essential oil of Thymus vulgaris.
Chemical Constituents:
  • Gum
  • Tannins
  • Thyme Oil
  • Properties:
    An aromatic, warming, astringent herb that is expectorant, improves digestion, relaxes spasms, and controls coughing. It is strongly antiseptic and anti-fungal.
    Digestive, stimulant, antiseptic, diuretic, and expectorant.
    Known Effects:
  • Inhibits growth and development of germs
  • Stimulates gastrointestinal tract
  • Decreases thickness of bronchial secretions
  • Possible Additional Effects:
  • May reduce flatulence
  • May treat coughs
  • May treat bronchitis
  • May treat bacterial infections
  • May reduce menstrual cramps
  • May help treat asthma
  • Under study for cancer preventative properties
  • Uses:
    • Digestive Sytem—Helps with sluggish digestion, its antiseptic properties are valuable in gastric and intestinal infections. Stimulates the appetite, especially during convalescence.
    • Urinary System—Thyme is a diuretic and is useful for all infections of the bladder and urinary tract.
    • Circulatory Sytem—Stimulates circulation and raises low blood pressure.
    • Respiratory System—Useful for all respiratory infections including mouth and throat infections. Excellent for removing mucus in cases of both chronic and acute bronchitis.
    • Skin—Helpful with wounds, sores, boils, and carbuncles. Thyme is a tonic for the scalp.
    • Emotions—Cheers the heart, lifts the spirits and promotes courage. The scent prevents nightmares or negative dreams. Very useful for people who tend to indulge in fantasies or daydreams, helping them to focus intellectually.
    Medicinal Uses:
    Internally for dry coughs, whooping cough, bronchitis, bronchial mucus, asthma, laryngitis, indigestion, gastritis, and diarrhea and enuresis in children. Contra-indicated during pregnancy. Externally for tonsilitis, gum disease, rheumatism, arthritis, and fungal infections. Combined with Lobelia inflata (See, Indian Tobacco) and Ephedra species (See, Joint Fir) for asthma; and with Marrubium vulgare (See, Horehound) for whooping cough. Oil is used in aromatherapy for aches and pains, exhaustion, depression, upper respiratory tract infections, and skin and scalp complaints.
    Common and wild thyme have antiseptic, antispasmodic, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, warming, stomach-soothing, and sweat-promoting properties. Common thyme also has antidepressant and antifungal actions, and wild thyme is taken internally for asthma, bronchitis, coughs, colic, gastritis, headaches (especially tension headaches), indigestion, laryngitis, muscle pain and spasms, and whooping cough. Common thyme is also taken internally to treat depression, diarrhea, and enuresis (bed-wetting); wild thyme is used internally for alcohol or drug withdrawal, anxiety, hangovers, insomnia, painful menstrual periods, and stress. Both common and wild thyme may be used externally—in creams, gargles, or oils—to treat arthritic and rheumatic pain and swelling, bruises, gingivitis (gum disease), minor skin infections and wounds, muscle aches and strains, and sore throats. The oil extracted from common thyme may also be used externally to remove warts.
    Thyme 5 Thyme 5 Thyme 5
    Bergamot 5 Celery 4 Black Pepper 3
    Chamomile (R) 2 Juniper 3 Rosemary 2

    Thyme 5 Thyme 3 Thyme 4
    Myrrh 3 Tea Tree 2 Grapefruit 4
    Sage 2 Lime 2 Cedarwood 3
    Culinary Uses:
    Fresh or dried leaves and flowering tops are used to flavor soups, fish, meat, sausages, marinades (especially for olives), vinegar, stuffings, and baked or sauteéd vegetables (especially mushrooms and zucchini); retains its flavor well in slowly cooked dishes. Thyme is an essential ingredient of bouquet qarni, herbes de Provence, and many classic French dishes.
    Economic Uses:
    Dried leaves are added to potpourris and moth-repellent sachets. Source of commercial dried thyme and essential oil of thyme. Thymol, from thyme oil, is an important ingredient of toothpastes, mouthwashes, and topical anti-rheumatic preparations.
    Warnings and Precautions:
    Contraindicated during pregnancy.
    Oil may cause irritation to skin and mucous membranes and allergic reactions.

    This oil is best used in lower concentrations as it may cause irritation in sensitive people.
    Do not take common or wild thyme medicinally if you are pregnant or trying to conceive. Use thyme oil with caution. It can irritate the skin and mucous membranes and may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

    Don't take if you:
    Are pregnant, think you may be pregnant, or plan pregnancy in the near future.
    Consult your doctor if you:
  • Take this herb for any medical problem that doesn't improve in 2 weeks (There may be safer, more effective treatments.)
  • Take any medicinal drugs or herbs including aspirin, laxatives, cold and cough remedies, antacids, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, supplements, other prescription or non-prescription drugs
  • Have high blood pressure

  • Pregnancy:
    Don't use unless prescribed by your doctor.
    Don't use unless prescribed by your doctor.
    Infants and Children:
    Treating infants and children under 2 with any herbal preparation is hazardous.
    None are expected if you are beyond childhood, under 45, not pregnant, basically healthy, take it only for a short time and do not exceed manufacturer's recommended dose.
  • Store in cool, dry area away from direct light, but don't freeze.
  • Store safely out of reach of children.
  • Don't store in bathroom medicine cabinet. Heat and moisture may change the action of the herb.

  • Safe Dosage:
    Consult your doctor for the appropriate dose for your condition.
    Rated relatively safe when taken in appropriate quantities for short periods of time.
    Adverse Reactions, Side Effects, or Overdose Symptoms:
    Signs and Symptoms What to Do

    Diarrhea Discontinue. Call doctor immediately.
    Nausea or Vomiting Discontinue. Call doctor immediately.
    The Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Bown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pg 387, 389-390
    Aromatherapy Blends and Remedies by Franzesca Watson Copyright ©: 1995 Thorsons, Harper Collins Publishers, Inc. pp.174-175
    The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp. 127-128
    Vitamins, Herbs, Minerals, & Supplements The Complete Guide by H. Winter Griffith, MD Copyright©:1998 Fisher Books. pp. 451-452