Thyme is a small aromatic plant that has always been used for the treatment of colds and in case of digestive problems and which has a peculiar nutritional composition, which makes it one of the richest foods in iron and calcium.
Thyme is an aromatic plant often used in cooking to flavor meat or fish recipes. Thyme, however, is also known as a remedy for sore throats, coughs and respiratory discomfort associated with the winter season.
Thymus vulgaris, from the scientific name of this plant, is part of the Lamiaceae family and is typical of the Mediterranean basin where it grows spontaneously in sunny areas, as well as being cultivated without particular difficulties.
This evergreen shrub is characterized by numerous thin and branched stems, which tend to lignify after 4-5 years of life, and by numerous small green-gray leaves. In spring, flowers also appear, white or pink, which can be used, together with the leaves, for the preparation of aromatic herbal teas.
The uses of thyme are many, both in the kitchen for dishes, herbal teas and for the preparation of the famous thyme honey, and as a herbal remedy with properties that we will deepen below.
Thyme: properties and nutritional values
From the point of view of the characteristics and nutritional values, which we will describe shortly, a brief but necessary premise is necessary: we must always take into account that the quantities of aromatic herbs we use in our dishes are almost negligible. In addition, dried thyme is richer in minerals and poor in some vitamins (especially folic acid) than the fresh plant.
Thyme, in particular, is one of the most caloric aromatic herbs with more than 100 calories per 100 grams of food. Compared to other plants such as basil, oregano and parsley it also contains a higher amount of carbohydrates. Taking into account the above, this should not scare us: we will certainly not consume 100 grams of thyme at every meal!
Compared to the other plants already mentioned, thyme also contains a greater quantity of fiber and the glycemic index is always to be considered low: it can therefore also be used in the presence of obesity or dysmetabolism.
The properties of thyme are partly due to its nutritional characteristics and its mineral composition, although it is good to remember that the amount of aromatic herbs consumed daily is reduced. However, it is important to underline that of all the foods in the Italian database we consulted, thyme (dry) is the most iron-rich food ever and one of the top three richest in calcium.
In fact, dry thyme contains 123.6 mgr of iron per 100 g of product and our guidelines recommend a daily intake of iron equal to 10 mgr (or 18 for the fertile woman). It is evident, therefore, that even taking into account reduced intakes of thyme, its contribution is not negligible! The same goes for calcium too: 100 grams of thyme (dry) contain 1890 mg of calcium, almost double the amount of calcium recommended daily for an adult man!
Other minerals well represented in the thymus are phosphorus, also useful for the formation of the skeleton, potassium, the deficiency of which can lead to arterial hypertension and zinc, essential for maintaining correct immune functions and for fertility.
As for vitamins, the most represented are those of group B such as riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and folic acid, but above all thiamine (or vitamin B1), necessary for the production of energy starting from simple and complex carbohydrates. We would like to point out, however, that the largest quantities of minerals are found in the dry plant. We see below the table with the nutritional values of fresh thyme.
Nutritional values per 100g of fresh thyme:
- Kcalories: 112 kcal
- Waterfall: 88 g
- Proteins: 3 gr
- Fat: 2.5 gr
- Carbohydrates: 15.1 gr
- Of which soluble carbohydrates: 15.1 gr
- Fiber: 12.3 gr
- Glycemic index: 5
- Thiamine: 0.16 mgr
- Riboflavin: 0.22 mgr
- Vitamin B6: 0.31 mgr
- Niacin: 1.6 mgr
- Folate: 40 ugr
- Soccer: 630 mgr
- Phosphorus: 67 mgr
- Sodium: 18 mgr
- Potassium: 270 mgr
- Iron: 41.2 mgr
- Zinc: 2.1 mgr
Thyme: health benefits
The properties of thyme have been known since time immemorial and, in fact, it was also used in ancient times for the treatment of colds and intestinal disorders. In more recent times the use of thyme has not been abandoned, but it was used as an antispasmodic, carminative, deodorant, disinfectant, expectorant, sedative and tonic. Below we would like to introduce you to some researched and proven benefits of thyme.
✓ Antifungal properties
There are many studies that confirm this virtue of thyme and its extracts. In particular, the ability of thyme essential oil to kill fungi such as Candida albicans, Aspergillus niger and Cryptococcus neoformas has been ascertained. It is important to underline that the species of thyme existing in nature are very many and that not all essential oils have shown the same effectiveness.
✓ Antioxidant property
The presence of thymol gives the thymus antioxidant properties, able to counteract the lipid peroxidation process and fight oxidative stress. In particular , it is believed that the most useful species of thyme in this sense is wild thyme, which is very widespread on the European continent.
✓ Antitumor activity
This beneficial property of thymus is related to the presence, in the essential oil, of carvacrol, a substance that has shown cytotoxic activity against cancer cells in vitro.
✓ Hepatoprotective activity
Despite the fact that the thymus has been used for some time also in case of hypercholesterolemia, there are few confirmations to this effect in the literature. A recent study that we present to you, however, has shown the hepatoprotective activity of the thyme extract in case of alcohol intake. In this study, the simultaneous administration of alcohol and thymus confirmed that the thymus improved liver function and decreased oxidative stress in the liver.
✓ Thyme in phytotherapy
In addition to what we have already told you in reference to the properties of thyme, we want to conclude by recalling its use in phytotherapy. In particular, the thymus can be used for external use for the dressing of wounds or infected sores and as a mouthwash for infections of the oral cavity.
It also confirms its usefulness, when taken as an herbal tea, against colds or indigestion, even when accompanied by abdominal swelling.
Finally, it is considered a mild diuretic and an emmenagogue remedy, capable of stimulating the flow of blood to the pelvic area and in some cases favoring menstruation. However, this last property allows us to understand the contraindications of the thymus, which we will talk about in the last paragraph
Thyme: some usage tips
As we all know, thyme can be used both fresh and dry. The leaves and flowers of this plant, in particular, can be used for the preparation of herbal teas and infusions, with the properties previously mentioned.
Dried and ground thyme, on the other hand, can be used to flavor dishes and it is also believed that adding thyme to legumes during cooking not only makes the dish tastier, but also reduces abdominal swelling often associated with their consumption.
Thyme: contraindications and potential negative effects
As for the contraindications of the thymus, given its emmenagogic activity, it is not recommended during pregnancy. There are no other contraindications and drug interactions known, however, before taking extracts in conjunction with the use of drugs, it is advisable to seek the advice of your doctor.
Thyme is a plant that can be easily grown in pots as it does not require too much care and attention. In this way we will always have the fresh and just harvested plant available, still rich in all the nutrients useful for our health.
The first important thing to do to grow thyme at home is to choose a pot of the appropriate size, generally a pot of at least 30 cm in diameter and deep enough is recommended. The soil must be light and draining, possibly with a slightly alkaline pH.
Thyme grows well in sunny and well-ventilated areas, so you can safely store it on your windowsill, even if exposed to direct sun for a few hours a day. Watering will be abundant only in the initial period of growth of the plant and, subsequently, can be reduced only to times when the soil is particularly arid and dry. Thyme does not fear much even the cold: in spring it will be enough to prune the sprigs of thyme most damaged by the winter weather.
To collect the thyme we can prune the small twigs, the plant tolerates cuts well and will not suffer damage from this practice. A curiosity: keeping the thyme in a very sunny area will also improve its aroma and flavor.
In the Middle Ages, thyme was generally given by women to knights and fighters along with other gifts as it was thought to give courage during battle.