Herb Basics: It’s Herbal Thyme

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By Christopher Hobbs

Common names: Thyme, common thyme, garden thyme, French thyme

Latin name: Thymus vulgaris

Family: Lamiaceae

Part used: Leaf

Medicinal uses: Thyme is useful for coughs, helping to ease bronchial spasms; to break up respiratory congestion; and for sore throats.

Forms commonly used: Fresh, dried, tea, tincture and as an ingredient in throat sprays, syrups and lozenges.

Side effects: According to the Botanical Safety Handbook (CRC, 1997), thyme is a Class 1 herb, meaning it is safe when used appropriately. Essential oil of thyme, however, can be toxic — the oil should be avoided during pregnancy, and it can irritate the skin and mucous membranes.

Notes: Thyme is a low-growing, aromatic member of the mint family. According to The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines (Stonesong, 1999), the herb was used to preserve meats in ancient times. To make thyme tea, steep 1 teaspoon of the dried herb (1 tablespoon fresh herb) in 1 cup water for 15 minutes. Strain and drink up to 4 cups daily. An extract of thyme’s volatile oil, thymol, is the main ingredient in Listerine.

Christopher Hobbs’s case studies are gleaned from his 30 years of studying and practicing herbalism. Hobbs, a fourth-generation botanist and herbalist, is the creator of the correspondence course Foundations of Herbalism.

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