Thymus vulgaris (thyme) is known worldwide for its culinary benefits; what many people do not know is it has been used for thousands of years for its various medicinal properties. The origin of the word thyme has been debated for centuries, only amounting to speculations. One theory suggests the Thymus comes from the Greek word â€œthyo”, meaning “perfume” or â€œthyman”, meaning to “fumigate” or “to burn a sacrifice”. Perhaps because it was used by the ancient Greeks as a sweet-smelling incense to keep out pests and unwanted spiritual creatures. Others believe it is derived from the Greek word â€œthumus”, meaning “courage and strength” because it was used in baths of warriors before battle to give them courage and strength. Despite its unknown origin, thyme is said to be one of the oldest, most valued healing herbs, specifically praised for its powerful antiseptic, antifungal, and aromatic properties. In fact, Thymus vulgaris is said to be just as powerful of an antiseptic compared to many antibiotics.
Four Common Uses:
Thyme has been used for many years to treat spasmodic conditions, specifically those of respiratory origin. Its powerful antispasmodic effect works particularly well on smooth muscle, with isolated studies showing the greatest effects on the ileum, trachea, and vas deferens. Spasmodic conditions that have shown great response to intervention with thyme, whether it was in the form of an extract, tea, tincture, or added to a children’s syrup are acute bronchitis, asthma, coughs (common cold), respiratory tract disease, flatulence, dyspepsia, bowel/stomaching cramping, and irritable bowel syndrome. Combination thyme-ivy cough syrup formulation was tested in 1234 children and adolescents with acute bronchitis, showing a significant 50% decrease in symptoms after just 4 days of use and near elimination of symptoms after 10 days.
Thyme can be considered a stimulating expectorant (increase the expulsion of mucus), which may be attributed to its affinity for respiratory conditions. One study demonstrated an increase in the amount of expectoration and mucociliary clearance in mouse trachea. While the mechanism of action is not clearly understood, the expectoration action is thought to be due to the ability of thyme to interact with beta-2 receptors.
The antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties of time have been well known for thousands of years. Thyme and thyme oil has shown to kill various strains of bacteria including Salmonella typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureus, Helicobacter pylori, Porphyromonas gingivalis, Selenomonas artemidis, Streptococcus sobrinus, and Streptococcus mutans, and Escherichia coli. Among various plant extracts tested, thyme and cinnamon proved to be the most effective in inhibiting H. pylori, suggesting its therapeutic use to treat peptic ulcers. Thyme oil (thymol) has exhibited direct antiviral effects against herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2. It has distantly shown antiviral activity against acyclovir-resistant clinical isolates of HSV-1. Thymol has also been shown to be effective in destroying various fungi and yeast, including, but not limited to, Aspergillus parasiticus, Aspergillus flavus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Cryptococcus neoformans, and Candida albicans. Due to these broad-spectrum antimicrobial effects, thymol is frequently used in mouthwashes and gargles to promote oral health.
Thyme is considered one of the top antioxidants. A biphenyl compound extracted from thyme has shown to inhibit superoxide anion production and protect red blood cells against oxidative stress. Other antioxidant properties that thyme has exhibited include the ability to scavenge reactive oxygen species, inhibit oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol), reduce nitric oxide, increase blood glutathione, and help maintain the levels of peroxidase and catalase.
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