Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Time for Thyme

One of the old standbys of herbalists is thyme. It has long been known to help heal ailments of the upper respiratory tract, and a cup of thyme tea will bring relief for coughs, colds and flu.

In fact, its principal ingredient, thymol, is used as an active ingredient in well known commercial preparations such as Listerine, Pertussin, and Vick's VapoRub. It helps to loosen phlegm and relax the lungs. At the very least, the success of these products testifies to the wisdom and power of the use of thyme in healing. As an antifungal and antibacterial, an infusion of thyme can be used as a wash help get rid of athlete's foot. Before the advent of modern antibiotics, it was used to medicate bandages. Also makes a great ingredient for an aromatic, healing bath. It is also known to help fight intestinal parasites. Plus, it contains a lot of iron.

Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans made good use of this versatile and pungent herb. They burned it as an incense for purification, used it to flavor cheeses and liquors, and has long been used in cooking meats, soups, stews, and goes well with lamb, eggs and tomatoes. It keeps its flavor and stores better than many other dried herbs, yet in cooking you might say it plays well with others, adding to the flavor mix without overpowering. It is a component in the mix known as Herbs of Provence and bouquet garni and adds its touch to the cooking of people of the Mediterranean, both the European and Middle Eastern, and when some of those people settled in the Caribbean, thyme was one of the herbs that made its way into their cooking too.

In Medieval times, people made sachets of thyme to put under their pillows to protect them from bad dreams, and ladies gave them to their knights for courage. Try some thyme in a bath for strength and healing.

This is a good time to harvest thyme and dry some for the winter. From now until fall you can gather it, then the plants withdraw their energy into the roots for the winter before coming back next spring.

Personally, I only use the varieties thyme, English thyme, Summer thyme or Mother of thyme. Today you can find garden shops carrying lavender thyme, lemon thyme, orange thyme, caraway thyme and other varieties, but I feel that they dilute the experience and potency of true thyme flavor.

As a hardy wild plant that can take root and flourish between crevices in rocks, it is also an important source of nectar for honeybees.

If you only had a few herbs around the house to be used for cooking, healing and spiritual strength, thyme is an excellent choice for your short list.

Take time to appreciate thyme. You will be glad that you did.

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