Thyme is a member of the mint family. It is generally a low growing perennial, winter hardy to zone five. Leaves are generally dark, gray-green in color and the labiate flowers are tiny and generally pink. Blooms in early to midsummer. There are many tiny oval-shaped leaves on each slender, woody stem.
Thyme in History and Folklore
The word Thyme comes from the Greek meaning to “fumigate”. This indicates that it may have been burned in sacred rites. The Greeks thought very highly of Thyme. It was mixed in drinks to enhance intoxicating effects and induce bravery and warriors were massaged with thyme oil to ensure their courage. Women wore thyme in their hair to enhance their attractiveness. The phrase “to smell of thyme” meant that one was stylish, well-groomed, poised, and otherwise attractive.
Thyme is a Mediterranean native spread throughout Europe by the Romans. Their soldiers added it to their bathwater to increase bravery, strength, and vigor. It enjoyed a long association with bravery. In Medieval England, ladies embroidered sprigs of thyme into their knights’ scarves to increase their bravery. In Scotland, highlanders brewed tea to increase courage and keep away nightmares.
Thyme was used as early as 3000 BCE by Sumerians as an antiseptic. It does indeed have impressive antiseptic qualities.
It was used as an embalming herb in ancient Egypt and was burned in other places as offerings to celebrate Rites of Passing. It was placed in coffins throughout Europe to ensure passage into the next world.
Thyme in the Garden
Thyme grows well in zones 4-9. It prefers full sun to part shade and loose, fast-draining soil, preferably sandy. The roots should never be allowed to stay wet. Thyme is winter hardy, but a light mulch will protect it when the ground freezes. It does not need fertilizers. Thyme does best if it is pruned in the spring or summer after its first year.
With the exception of Common Thyme, which is light germinated, so seeds should be scattered on the surface, the seeds are small and slow to germinate, and many varieties are sterile cultivars, so it is best to propagate by division or cuttings or buy a plant at your local nursery.
Thyme and lavender grow well together, perhaps mainly because they enjoy the same conditions. You can also grow thyme amongst cabbages to protect them from cabbage worms, flies, beetles and aphids.
Thyme attracts bees and faeries and makes a good ground cover in sunny areas.
Harvesting and Storing Thyme
Leaves can be harvested as needed throughout the year. Give the plant a year to get established before doing any heavy harvesting. The best flavor is right before flowering.
Thyme dries very well. It should be dried like any other herb on the stem and the leaves stripped off later.
Magical Attributes of Thyme
Thyme can be used in magick spells to increase strength and courage.
When working hard to achieve a goal that seems un-achievable, thyme can be used in spells to help you keep a positive attitude.
Fumigate your home or make a floor wash with thyme to dispel melancholy, hopelessness and other mellow but negative vibrations, especially after a family tragedy or during a long sickness. Add marjoram to the mix to help draw joy back in while you’re at it.
Place thyme beneath your pillow for a restful sleep and happy dreams and to prevent nightmares.
Faeries love thyme. Its addition to your garden will attract them and it can be used in spells to communicate with faeries.
Thyme is excellent in ritual baths and fumigation for early spring festivals when we seek to leave the old behind and begin anew.
Thyme Around the House
The tiny flowers will attract bees to your garden. Honey made from these flowers is highly prized.
Sachets of thyme hung in your closet or folded in with your stored clothes will keep moths out, and smells nicer than mothballs.
A strong infusion of thyme makes a great hair rinse for dark hair and repels head lice. You can add rosemary as well if you have problems with dandruff.
Oil of thyme can be used as a household cleaning agent as it is a good germ killer and drives away pests. Just put a few drops in a spray bottle with 4 parts water to 1 part vinegar.
Thyme for Healing
Thyme has been used as a cough remedy and digestive aid as well as a treatment for internal parasites.
The active constituent, Thymol, has strong antibacterial and anti-fungal properties and a strong scent that helps loosen phlegm and soothes the respiratory system. It is used in many over the counter cold remedies.
It is also used for athlete’s foot and hemorrhoids.
For internal use, steep two teaspoons of fresh herb or one teaspoon of dried herb in one cup of boiling water. Drink no more than twice a day, in the morning and evening, to relieve lung problems and dispel parasites.
A stronger infusion can be used as a mouthwash to treat sore gums, as a foot soak to get rid of athlete’s foot, a body or hair rinse for lice or dip a rag in it and use it as a compress for skin inflammations.
Thyme can also be added to massage oils and bath oils for the treatment of rheumatism and general aches and pains. These oils can also be used for colds and lung complaints.
Use oil of thyme by dropping into an infuser, or into a pan of boiling water and inhaling the fumes up to four times daily to relieve congestion. Never take essential oils internally.
Thyme has a long association with cooking and is part of French Bouquet Garni and Herbes de Provence. The most common type of thyme used in cooking is Common Thyme or English Thyme, but there are many varieties that can be used, all bring their own personality to the table.
It adds a marvelous rich flavor to meat dishes and stews. Adds flavor to veggies too and is especially good on potatoes. Actually, you can put thyme on just about anything. Try it on grilled cheese sandwiches or in scrambled eggs. It combines well with parsley, sage, and rosemary, as the song says.
Thyme is a tough herb and should be added early in cooking as the flavor is slowly released by heat.
The flowers are edible as well as the leaves and make a lovely garnish.
The woody stems can be laid over charcoal when barbecuing to flavor the smoke.