Thyme is a common herb found in most UK kitchens. It’s strong tasting and strong smelling, and it’s also been responsible for countless annoying puns (we tried really hard not to make any of these ourselves). We don’t use this herb as much as we should here in the United Kingdom, but in this guide we’ll show you just why you should stop neglecting it.
The Benefits of Thyme
Thyme is an evergreen shrub closely related to mint and oregano, two herbs used abundantly in Greek cuisine. Thyme also has a long history of use by Greeks, who ate it, bathed it, and burnt it (see “Burning Sage” to make more sense of this practice) because they believed it gave them courage.
Ancient Greek doctors got a lot of things right, including their belief in the power of Greek mountain tea, but this time they missed the mark a little. However, there are a number of genuine health benefits to thyme, and these can be derived through the consumption of thyme tea.
1. It is Nutrient Dense
A lot of outrageous claims are made about pretty standard substances based on their nutrient composition. You’ll see claims that “Substance X” can support the immune system because it contains vitamin C, or that “Substance Y” can boost energy because it contains B vitamins, only to discover that these nutrients are found in trace amounts.
The truth is, the average herbal tea, while rich in antioxidants, doesn’t contain much in the way of vitamins and minerals. It’s a different story with thyme, though, and even a single strong cup of thyme tea can provide you with many essential nutrients.
A single tablespoon of ground thyme contains small amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in addition to a host of vitamins and minerals. It also provides you with more than 90% of your RDA of vitamin K, 17% of manganese, and around a third of your daily allowance of iron.
2. It is a Potent Antiseptic
Thyme oil has a long history of use as an antiseptic and was once added to bandages to cleanse wounds and promote healing. This is all because of a substance known as thymol, which is extracted from thyme oil (which, in turn, is extracted from the thyme herb).
Thymol is the compound responsible for imparting the strong, distinctive flavour this herb has, but it is also a natural antiseptic that is incredibly effective at killing bacteria. In fact, thymol is added to a popular brand of mouthwash and it has also proved effective at killing mould in damp-ridden homes. (1)
This compound is also used in natural pesticides, and research suggests it can repel everything from mosquitos to rodents. Of course, this doesn’t mean much to the average consumer of thyme tea, as these studies were conducted with potent extracts of thymol. But, even in its natural form, thyme is still a potent antiseptic.
3. It Could Reduce Blood Pressure
Thyme has a long history of use in treating blood disorders and heart conditions, long before practitioners even knew the causes of those conditions or the way in which thyme helped treat them. A 2014 study on a specific type of thyme backed some of these claims, suggesting that thyme really could help in the treatment of hypertension.(2)
It was far from an extensive study, and it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but it opens the door for further research, and it adds weight to claims that have been made for hundreds of years.
A number of other herbs are said to reduce blood pressure, and we have covered several of them in the Shelgo Tea blog. Check out our guides to gentian root and hibiscus tea to read these for yourself.
Other Benefits of Thyme Tea
Some evidence suggests that extracts of thyme herb can be used to treat coughs in adults. One study compared the effects of this herb to placebo and found that the thyme group reported a significant reduction in severity of symptoms, as well as a more rapid cessation when compared to the placebo group. (3)
There are also claims that thyme can be used to fight off colds and flu, but very little research backs up these claims. They seem to stem from its nutrient composition in addition to its proven uses as an antiseptic. But unless you’re deficient in key nutrients, then the former wouldn’t apply, and if the latter made any sense then a quick chug of Listerine would be enough to cure the common cold.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.
Side Effects of Thyme Tea
Thyme is very well tolerated, and if you have ever consumed the herb in food, then you should be able to consume it as a tea without any ill effects. It is possible to be allergic to it, though, and we would recommend avoiding extracts and being very cautious when using essential oils. These can be dangerous and can turn a relatively healthy and side-effect-free substance into one that can lead to a number of issues.
If you are allergic to plants in the same family (mint, oregano), then give this one a wide berth. You should also consult a doctor if you are using any medication or have a preexisting health condition, especially if you plan on using large doses. This is especially important in the case of bleeding disorders, blood pressure issues, hormone-sensitive conditions, and when waiting for surgery.
How to Consume Thyme Tea
Thyme tea may not sound like the most appetising of beverages, but you would be surprised. In fact, many common herbs and spices make for great teas. Sage tea, which is made from common garden sage, the same stuff you have in your spice cupboard, is a great example of this, but the same applies to saffron tea.
The same principles that apply to sage tea apply to thyme tea: just because it’s the same herb that you use to flavour your roast spuds doesn’t mean you should make the tea from whatever dried thyme you have in your spice cupboard. This just doesn’t make for a tasty tea, and you’re also missing out on a lot of the health benefits because that thyme could have been sitting there for months or even years.
To make thyme tea, get a bunch of the fresh herb and use that, or use a dried bunch that you know was grown without the use of pesticides (this is very important with herbal tea, as discussed in our guide to organic versus non-organic). Typically, if it comes in a bundle of springs and flowers and not ground to a dust and sieved into a jar, then you’re good to go.
As far as doses go, it’s all down to taste. We recommend starting with a few sprigs, the equivalent of 1 to 2 teaspoons of finely chopped thyme, and leaving that to steep for up to 10 minutes. If you feel that you could stomach something a little stronger, go for it—this is a well-tolerated herb that can work wonders for your health, so the more the better.
Do You Sell it?
We do not currently sell thyme tea in the Shelgo Tea store. We have tried it, though, and it was actually one of the herbs we contemplated for our initial range. As regular readers will know, if a tea tastes great, can be sourced organically, is safe, and provides a number of health benefits, then it passes muster. Thyme was able to do all of that, but we’re not yet sure if there is enough demand for it.