Thyme: what is it for and how to use the seasoning in the kitchen

This content is part of the Alternative Medicine category and may contain information that lacks scientific studies and/or medical consensus.

Thyme is a very aromatic culinary herb with a sweet and strong flavor. Scientifically called Thymus vulgaris or by the popular name of thymus, it is rich in an essential oil that has several therapeutic properties.

This little plant, which is no more than 30 centimeters tall, produces a tea that is considered a great natural remedy to fight infections , alleviate the symptoms of respiratory diseases and even end stress .

The best thing is that thyme serves to enhance the natural flavor of foods in various recipes and it is possible to use it fresh or dried without having to give up its incredible benefits.

Attention ! Do not confuse thyme with pennyroyal ( Mentha pulegium ). The first is more like oregano, another aromatic herb, while the second belongs to the same family as mint .

After all, what is thyme for?

It is a natural antiseptic

It doesn’t matter whether you choose to use the dry or fresh version, “thyme is antiseptic because it contains thymol, a substance that treats infections by fungi and other microorganisms”, explained Danilo Ramon, a naturopath specialist in herbal medicine.

According to the professional, thymol is one of the most abundant substances in the essential oil extracted from the herb leaves and is capable of preventing these microorganisms, such as fungi, viruses and bacteria, from being able to fix and multiply in the body.

Plant extracts can inhibit the growth of more than 15 types of bacteria that are harmful to health. At the same time, they also act against the viruses that cause herpes and flu , reducing their length of stay in the body. ( 1 )

Relieves respiratory problems

Another use for this aromatic herb, according to the specialist in herbal medicine, is to alleviate those annoying flu and cold symptoms and this is because it has a powerful expectorant action thanks to its anti-inflammatory potential.

That’s right, the two go together, since the production of phlegm , mucus that is stuck in the airways, is a reaction to the inflammation process.

Thyme is also spasmolytic and antitussive. That is, they relax the muscles and reduce irritation. Thus treating the cough problem . ( 2 )

The extracts from the leaves can even be used as a complementary therapy for bronchitis , an inflammation of the bronchial tubes that causes severe coughing and difficulty breathing. ( 3 )

acne scar

The combination of antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties makes the essential oil of thyme a powerful ally in the treatment of acne.

Applying tea compresses or oil right on top of pimples when they are inflamed will speed healing and even provide pain relief.

A survey carried out by Brazilian researchers in 2015 confirmed this by analyzing that the composition of this compound is mainly rich in thymol, carvacrol, linalool, apigenin, eugenol and rosmarinic acid, which help fight inflammation or prevent the proliferation of bacteria.

Best of all, the treatment with this herb has fewer side effects than conventional ones, which usually use acids that leave the skin sensitive, red and with some irritation. ( 4 )

Protect the body from disease

Want another reason to add thyme to your next shopping list? Well, it is full of antioxidant compounds and so it helps to protect the body against various diseases.

It works by preventing the action of free radicals, as the herbalist explained.

Understand better:

Free radicals are molecules that arise from the degradation (oxidation) of cells. But they are unstable and are “sticking” to healthy parts and causing them to also start to oxidize, creating a vicious circle that can cause tissue death to increase the risk of developing chronic diseases and cancer .

Among the main antioxidant substances found in the herb, it is possible to mention: thymol, humulin, flavonoids, mycerne and several others, present in smaller amounts. ( 1 )

Strengthens the immune system

Are you the type who gets sick easily and can’t take it anymore? So what are you waiting for to start using this aromatic herb in your daily life? That’s right, consuming it helps to strengthen the immune system, which is the body’s defense against disease.

This is because thyme “is rich in vitamin C and because of that it acts by stimulating the production of white blood cells ”, as explained by Danilo Ramon. What happens is that these cells, which are divided into several types and each one has a different function, are a kind of “army” of the organism.

The greater the amount of them, the easier it will be to deal with invading microorganisms and eliminate them even before they manage to fix and start any disease. ( 5 )

Gives a feeling of well-being

Did you know that having a warm cup of thyme tea can help you relieve stress and sleep better ?

That’s right, and this, as Danilo defends, happens because of the presence of the active principle carvacrol, a substance “which is capable of increasing the levels of dopamine and serotonin, thus improving mood ”, he completes.

The compound is a type of molecule that influences and activates the production and release of neurotransmitters, which are chemical substances that carry information throughout the brain and manage to control everything from mood to the intensity of nerve impulses to muscles and organs. ( 6 )

How to use: Thyme recipes

thyme tea

For those who want to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of thyme, the best option is to prepare an infusion with its leaves.

The preparation mode is very simple. Add 1 teaspoon of dried herb, or 1 fresh sprig, to 1 cup of boiling water and let stand for 5 minutes.

Strain and drink up to 3 cups a day. Another option is to dilute 6 ml of the tincture or 4 drops of the essential oil, which are found in herbal stores, for each cup of water. ( 2 )

Roasted cauliflower with thyme


  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried herb
  • 1 large cauliflower
  • ⅓ cup of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation mode

Separate the flowers from the cabbage, discarding the most fibrous parts, and place in a bowl. On top, throw the rest of the ingredients and mix well, using your hands.

Then transfer the cauliflower to a large baking sheet and place in a preheated oven at 200º C for 30 minutes or until all are browned and the edges are browned. Serve immediately.

Herb crusted fish


  • 2 slices of your favorite fish
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 tablespoon of dried thyme or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon of rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • Salt to taste.

Preparation mode

The first step is to prepare the crust, mixing all the dry ingredients and leaving it aside. Then, batter the fish in the mix and let it rest for a few minutes, so that the meat extracts the flavors from the herbs.

Heat the oil over medium heat and place the fish until the side in contact with the pan is golden and crispy. Repeat the process on the other side and the dish will be ready to be served.

Potatoes with thyme and garlic


  • Half a kilo of potato (can be English or asterix)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons or 2 sprigs of thyme
  • Salt to taste.

Preparation mode

Wash the potatoes well as they will be used with the skin. Once this is done, cut into a half moon and place in a deep bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix by hand until all the potatoes are seasoned.

Place over medium heat, preheated, on a large baking sheet for about 30 minutes or until golden. Serve it hot.

A tip is to use thyme in the preparation of seasoned salt. The herb, when mixed with other spices, serves to enhance the flavor of foods and reduce your daily use of sodium.

Herb contraindications and care

Danilo clarifies that for culinary use, thyme has no contraindication, since, in general, an exaggerated amount of the herb is not used.

However, it is necessary to take some precautions with the consumption of tea, to avoid complications and reactions to its active compounds. For example, pregnant women should only use under medical advice, because the thymus has abortifacient effects .

It is also recommended to discontinue use before surgery, as it can disrupt the clotting process and increase the risk of bleeding . Furthermore, avoid consuming more than the recommended amount and never ingest or apply the pure oil on the skin.

The substance can cause irritation and symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and headache, because of the high concentration of thymol. ( 2 )

Ellie Lauderdale

My name is Ellie Lauderdale, MD and I am USA based professional Nutritionist .

I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who is trained in integrative medicine. I have worked with hundreds of clients, from those suffering with chronic disease to professional and olympian athletes. My goal is to help optimize you from the inside so that you can feel, perform, and look your best on the outside.

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