Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is one of my all time favourite herbs! It is one of the herbs that started me on my path towards becoming an herbalist. After having suffered from recurrent bronchitis I found that thyme tea and garlic were very helpful. It remains one of the first remedies I think of for respiratory infections.
Thyme is a powerful antiseptic having an action against bacteria, viruses and fungi. This herb is used to treat skin infections such as ringworm, digestive infections such as gastroenteritis, and respiratory infections such as tonsillitis and coughs. The antispasmodic action of thyme is particularly useful in treating coughs, helping to relieve spasmodic coughing and pain. Thyme also acts as an expectorant stimulating the tiny 'hairs' or cilia that line the lung sweeping infected mucous along to be removed (via coughing). Thyme is suitable for all types of cough from spasmodic painful dry cough to deeply congested chesty coughs.
Thyme can be easily made into a tea by steeping one teaspoon of dried herb with a cup of boiling water in a teapot. Always replace the lid of the teapot immediately, in order to ensure that the volatile oils, which are essential constituents, are not lost through evaporation. The tea or tisane is ready after 10 minutes or so and can be strained and drunk once sufficiently cooled.
For self use I would recommend that thyme is only used in the short-term for minor self-limiting illnesses. Thyme can cause contact allergy and so it is best to patch test before using on the skin. I do not recommend using the essential oil. Thyme oil is toxic and must never be taken internally.
McIntyre, A. (2005) 'Herbal Treatment of Children: Western and Ayurvedic Perspectives' Elsevier: Edinburgh
Mills, S. & Bone, K. (2005) 'The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety' Elsevier: Edinburgh
Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 'Antimicrobial Activities of Clove and Thyme Extracts'' 2006 June; 6(1): 33–39. See link
If symptoms are severe or persist then you should consult a GP, Medical Herbalist or another health professional. As with all herbal remedies you should consult your GP, Medical Herbalist, Pharmacist or other health professional if you are taking any prescribed drugs, have a medical condition, or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Always ensure that you buy from trusted sources to be certain that you are buying the correct species of plant.
Sarah Flower MNIMH BSc (Hons) Herbal Medicine
I am a Medical Herbalist based in Brighton, East Sussex. I am passionate about herbal medicine. Plants have been used throughout the ages for food, medicine, pleasure and more. Learning about the medicinal qualities of plants allows us to reconnect with nature and our heritage.