Thyme: A Versatile Herb You Can Plant at Home

Thyme is an herb that is a common choice for people who are looking for the perfect addition to their garden. Its distinct aroma and flavor make it the ideal ingredient to many dishes. Its origin is mysterious, although several historical accounts point out that it is from ancient Egypt.

If you want to plant thyme in the garden, this guide will provide you with valuable insights on how to successfully grow this herb. Aside from this, you will also know its historical uses, health benefits, and other applications.


Thyme BackgroundMany historical books mention thyme as one of the superstar herbs since the ancient times. All over the world, it has an abundance of uses, which are mostly for culinary applications and alternative medicine. Today, it has a reputation as a protector and healer of the human body.

Among others, the ancient Egyptians are amongst the first ones to use thyme, primarily for embalming purposes. It has protective properties, making it an excellent way to preserve the human body and for mummification.

Greeks are also known as amongst the first ones to take advantage of the powers of the time. During the ancient times, it was famous for a relaxing bath and massage. In temples, it functions as an incense because of its unique scent. In fact, thyme is from the Greek word thymus, which literally means courage. Greeks inhaled thyme to invoke courage.

For Romans, on the other hand, thyme served as an herb to cure poisons.  It is a favorite amongst emperors for the prevention of poisoning. Its aromatic flavor also made it a popular choice for cheese and liquors in ancient Rome. In preparation for battle, Romans also used to bathe themselves in water with thyme. Pliny the Elder recommends burning thyme to ward off venomous creatures from home.

During the Middle Ages, the European took advantage of the many benefits of using thyme, including improvement of sleep and prevention of nightmares. Soldiers wore thyme during battles not only to make them more courageous but to also help them pass through the next life if in case they die.

In the 1340s, the period of Black Death, many people used thyme for protection from medical problems. In the Victorian era, thyme also gained a reputation as a treatment for infection. Even in the monasteries, nuns added thyme in soups and other dishes not because of its medicinal value, but because of its aroma and flavor.

Different Varieties

Here are the several types of thyme that are available:

Thymus vulgaris is perhaps the most popular variety of thyme for culinary applications. Its flower is lilac pink and has lance-shaped, narrow leaves. It grows during the summer and different sub-types, including Silver Posie, Aureus, Erectus, and Fragrantissimus.Common Thyme
This is a quick-growing thyme with pink flowers and small dark-green foliage. It also grows well in the summer and thrives best if the soil is well-drained. Chopped Caraway Thyme is a common ingredient for baked bread.

With golden foliage and scattered flowers, this variety comes with a great lemon fragrance. It is best to grow these varieties in a pot, and they also enjoy full sun.Lemon Thyme
A native plant in Northern Europe, it is a creeping thyme that is available in two distinct types. One variety has a distinct aroma while the other one is odorless.

It is a creeping and small Thyme that comes with grey-green leaves and pink flowers. It blooms in early summer and usually grows to a height of two inches.

Also called creeping thyme, as the name implies, it forms a mat-like surface on the ground. Depending on the particular cultivar, it grows crimson or white flowers.Creeping Thyme

Uses in Alternative Medicine

Since the ancient times, thyme enjoys the reputation as an excellent medicinal herb, which offers the following benefits, among others:

  • Blood Pressure: People who are suffering from hypertension will benefit from thyme. It is an excellent hypertensive, which is one of the findings in a study involving rats. Thyme contains iron and other beneficial minerals to help regulate blood levels.
  • Cardiovascular Health: With thousands of people dying from heart diseases, thyme is a promising herb. Among its many benefits, it has potassium, manganese and antioxidants to prevent the heart from diseases.
  • Mood: It is also an effective way to improve your mood, especially in the form of essential oil. It contains carvacrol, an active compound that is responsible for the herb’s therapeutic benefits. It helps to increase the production of serotonin and dopamine, two hormones that effectively alters the mood and minimizes stress.
  • Cancer: Thyme also has a reputation for being excellent for its cancer-fighting properties. It helps in the death of cells that causes health cancer, as stated in one study completed by oncologists in Turkey. In Portugal, meanwhile, a research states that thyme is an excellent way to prevent colon cancer.
  • Acne: Acne bacterium is the one responsible for blemishes and other skin problems. Thyme is an effective acne-buster, which is even better than prescription creams that have benzoyl peroxide. It is more effective if you combine it with witch hazel.
  • Vision: Vitamin A in thyme is the one responsible for protecting the eye and preventing macular degeneration. It lessens the likelihood of suffering from eye diseases, especially as you grow older.
  • Bronchitis: For centuries, ancestors are using thyme as a natural cure for bronchitis and coughs. It is effective when used in the form of essential oil and combination with ivy. Drinking thyme tea is also a promising relief from coughing.
  • Immune System: Looking for a natural way to boost the immune system? Thyme contains Vitamin C, which will enhance the defense of the body against common health problems. It also contains manganese, iron, fiber, copper, and Vitamin A.
  • Menstrual Pain: When you suffer from cramps during your period, chances are, you will take ibuprofen. If you are looking for a natural way to relieve pain, thyme is a promising option. A few drops of its essential oil will provide a drug-free treatment that can deliver immediate results.
  • Athlete’s Foot: Thyme is also effective in killing the fungus that causes athlete’s foot. Add thyme in hot water, but make sure it is not boiling. Let it cool down for about 15 minutes and use it as a foot soak. Do this every night until the symptoms disappear.
  • Bone Health: Aging results in weaker and brittle bones, which makes you more susceptible to some health problems, such as osteoporosis. Thyme is an excellent source of Vitamin K, iron, manganese, and calcium. These are all effective in promoting stronger bones.
  • Digestion: Thyme is also a digestive tonic. After eating, drinking thyme tea helps in improving digestion and prevention of bloating or gas. It has volatile oils with antispasmodic properties.

Culinary Applications and Other Uses

Aside from its health benefits, thyme has other applications, including the following:

  • Cooking: Many recipes use Thyme as the main ingredient because of its distinct aroma and flavor. You can use it for roast pork loin, stuffed chicken, minestrone soup, and poached white fish. It is also an excellent alternative for a meat rub, adding more flavor to beef or lamb.
  • Baking: A simple bread can be more flavorful if you bake it with thyme. Rub the top part with butter and sprinkle thyme before baking. More than just for a break, it is also a good ingredient for baking salmon.
  • Beverages: If you are looking for a clever way to make tea more enjoyable, consider adding thyme. It has a fragrant and pungent and fragrant flavor for a more aromatic hot beverage. This is also effective for weight loss. Thyme is also a popular ingredient in cocktails, especially as an add-on for gin. This makes the drink more refreshing with a tangy kick.
  • Preservative: This is effective for prolonging the shelf life of culinary oils. It contains an antioxidant that is effective for the prevention of lipid oxidation. The latter is the culprit for losing the stability of cooking oils, especially sunflower oil.
  • Disinfectant: Thyme will also make an excellent ingredient for a home-made disinfectant. Thymol, the active compound in thyme, has fungicidal components. This is effective in the prevention of low mold concentration.
  • Skincare Products: Many skincare products that are commercially-available use thyme as the main ingredient. It does not only help in acne and blemishes, but it also has a unique fragrance.

How to Effectively Grow Thyme

Do you want to learn how to plant thyme in the garden? In this section, we will discuss how to do it right. From the right position of the plant to how to take care of it, you will learn how to add thyme in your family of garden herbs.

How to Plant

There are different ways of planting thyme, such as through cutting, seeds, or root divisions. The easiest is to grow it from a seedling. It takes about four weeks for the plant to achieve full growth. Transfer the seedling in the garden. The right choice of soil is critical to improving growth.

The best time to plant is just after frost or in the first few days of spring. For the soil, the best temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If planting several seedlings, see to it that there is at least 8-inch space.

Planting Thyme

Thyme Grows Best in a Place that Receives Full Sun

It is also important to plant thyme in a soil with proper drainage. Like other herbs, it needs water for nourishment, but this does not mean that you should soak it. Stagnant water encourages infestation. It results to root rot.

Regarding position, thyme grows best in a place that receives full sun.

Thyme is a spreading plant. This plant is not only excellent for its health benefits but is also effective in making the garden more appealing. It makes an excellent choice for a groundcover. Plant thyme in walkways since it releases a distinct fragrance as the plant matures.

How to Harvest

According to gardening experts, the best time to harvest Thyme is June or July, which leads to the highest concentration of flavor. Cut the sprigs early in the morning and leave the woody stalks. Take out the leaves from the stems before using them for any application, especially for culinary purposes.

Do not cut the plant completely, especially if you want it to grow continuously. It is best to cut only up to five inches off the sprigs to give room to the rest of the plant to survive. Regular trimming is also necessary to maintain the right shape of the plant.

Harvesting Thyme

Do Not Cut the Plant Completely

Aside from the leaves, flowers are also edible. Snip the flower from the top and use it as desired.

After harvesting, proper storage is necessary to preserve thyme in their peak condition. Leave it in a dry area with proper ventilation. Keep it in a container with an airtight style to keep its flavor and aroma. Better yet, use the leaves while they are still fresh. For long-term storage, freezing is a good idea.

How to Maintain

Thyme is an excellent garden herb because it requires minimal maintenance. One important thing is pruning, usually after the first year of the plant or once you notice it is already invading territories, it must not reach. Prune just after the last frost, which will prevent brittleness.

During the dry season, spider mites may appear. Fungal diseases and root rot are also common because of humidity. To eliminate the risk of diseases, provide excellent drainage and circulation.

Regular watering is also necessary to retain the peak condition of the plant. Avoid overwatering as this will make the soil moist and encourage root rot.

This plant crawls on the ground. Some people find it to be invasive. To avoid invasion of the garden, regular trimming is necessary. It is best to trim during summer and spring.


Planting thyme in the garden is an excellent idea. The best thing is that growing this plant does not require too much of an effort. It has an abundance of applications. From meat rubs to soups, from cocktails to tea, it has several uses in the kitchen. When it comes to alternative medicine, it helps in the treatment of indigestion, bronchitis, athlete’s foot and acne, among others.

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