Thyme falls under any one of 350 species of herbs and subshrubs that make up the genus Thymus (thyme plants) within the Laminaceae (Labiatae) family. The most common species of thyme to be grown and consumed is Thymus vulgaris, also known as garden thyme, common thyme or merely thyme. They are well-known for their aroma and culinary use besides the immense health benefits and medicinal values that are associated with them.
Although they originated from Asia and Europe, now they can be found worldwide. This is mainly because of the ease with which thyme can be grown. In fact, even regular people often cultivate thyme on their own if they have their own gardens. In fact, some even grow them indoors in containers. These plants are mostly perennial and can grow up to 30 centimeters of height. The leaves and stems are harvested for the purpose of using as a cooking ingredient or for medicinal use. They provide essential oils that can be collected through steam distillation from their flowers and leaves.
Essential oils make up 2%-5% of the plant. Essential oils found in thyme can be classified into three main categories:
1. Thyme oil: This is primarily thymol, a natural compound and contains 40%-60% phenols. Phenol is an organic compound, aromatic in nature and also known as carbolic acid. It is a white colored volatile crystalline solid and a bit acidic. It is also highly soluble in water.
2. Origanum oil: This is primarily carvacrol and contains 60%-75% phenols. Carvacrol is often used in food to prevent bacterial contamination.
3. Lemon thyme oil: This mainly constitutes of citral, also known as lemonal. It has a strong lemon odor. It also possesses strong antimicrobial features.
Thyme oil is made up of several chemical compounds including p-cymene, -pinene, -terpinene, mycrene, camphene, d-linalool, thymol, carvacrol and so on. Most of these compounds feature, up to some extent, a strong odor and antimicrobial properties.
Relevance in Herbal Medicine:
Thyme has the following qualities:
1. Anti-microbial: this means it is good at killing micro-organisms and can restrict their growth.
2. Anti-septic: this refers to an anti-microbial matter that can be applied to the bare skin or living tissue to prevent or reduce the likelihood of an infection. It can also be used to disinfect a non-living object.
3. Antispasmodic: this is a feature that represses muscle spasms.
4. Anthlmintic: this means it has the ability to help get rid of parasitic worms from within the body. It may either be done by directly killing them, or by paralyzing them, which will prevent them from feeding, and eventually, starve them.
5. Astringent: this is a chemical compound that contracts body tissues. This makes it useful to treat, up to a certain extent, diarrhea, sore throat, peptic ulcers, and even hemorrhages.
6. Carminative: this helps to stop formation of gas in or expulsion of gas out of the gastrointestinal tract.
7. Emmenagogue: this means it can increase the flow of blood in the uterus and the pelvic area. It can also be helpful during menstruation.
8. Resolvent: this helps in limiting or stopping irregular and excessive growths, for example, normal swelling, tumor and so on.
9. Rubefaciant: this helps to get the skin reddened, blood vessels dilated and consequently stimulate blood supply locally.
10. Sedative: this is a substance that reduces excitement and/or irritability, thus inducing sedation.
11. Stimulant: this temporarily excites and increases a person’s physical and/or mental functions.
12. Tonic: in this case, it is a herbal tonic. It improves the general health of a human being. It may be done by strengthening and/or restoring systems inside the body.
13. Expectorant: this tries to slacken obstruction in the lungs by lessening the mucous thickness and making it easier to cough effectively.
Thyme has been used in treatments of many diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, coughs, congestion, diarrhea, rheumatism, whopping cough, lever diseases and so on. It helps in digestion, can be used externally to treat wounds, as well as internally for respiratory and/or digestive infections.
In fact, it is one of the few herbs that can be consumed internally and also applied externally. The health and medicinal benefits of thyme are irrefutable. Besides, it also has splendid culinary value as it adds to the flavor and fragrance of countess cuisines.
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