Thyme History & Uses
Thyme’s properties as a sacred and medicinal herb were revered long before its culinary abilities in ancient civilizations. The ancient Egyptians used thyme as part of their embalming rituals for pharaohs.
The ancient Greeks continued to revere this herb and burnt it at sacred temples to release its pleasing scent for the gods. During the Middle Ages, ladies would place springs of thyme in handkerchiefs before giving them to knights as a sign of good luck and protection.
This practice eventually transformed into placing fresh springs of thyme under pillows to ensure a good night’s sleep, protected from nightmares. Eventually, the belief surrounding thyme transferred to its medicinal and culinary properties.
Records indicate that during the 1500s, thyme oil was revered for its antiseptic properties and was included in mouthwash not only to freshen breath but retard bacteria. Thyme salves were also used to sooth and protect cuts.
Thyme Nutrition Facts
Today, thyme is grown both on a personal and commercial scale for its medicinal and kitchen benefits. Wild thyme has evolved over the centuries to include several delicious varieties including lemon thyme, orange balsam thyme, Italian thyme, and silver thyme among others.
One ounce of fresh thyme offers 28 calories. Of these calories, 4 can be attributed to naturally occurring fats. This serving also offers 2 grams of protein, 3 mg of sodium, and 7 grams of total carbohydrates.
These total carbohydrates may be further broken down into 4 grams of dietary fiber, or 16% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Thyme exists as a cholesterol and sugar-free food
Health Benefits: Vitamins Found in Thyme
This tiny-leaf plant offers a staggering 75% of the RDA for vitamin C, making it an excellent addition to the menu during cold and flu season. Vitamin C plays a key role in supporting the immune system. It also works as an antioxidant in the body, seeking out and destroying free radicals.
Left unchecked, free radicals can contribute to a host of health issues including chronic diseases and certain forms of cancer. Vitamin A is present at 27% of the RDA, followed by riboflavin at 8%.
Other vitamins present at 5% or less include vitamin B6, folate, niacin, thiamin, and pantothenic acid. Although many of the B-complex vitamins are present in small amounts, no amount is too small for this family; the B vitamins all play an important role in energy production and metabolism throughout the body.
Health Benefits: Minerals Found in Thyme
Thyme offers a strong mineral profile. Iron is available at the highest RDA percentage clocking in at 27% of the body’s needs. This mineral plays an important role in transporting oxygen throughout the body.
Manganese follows at 24%. Manganese plays a key role in supporting healthy bones; it is also a crucial component for creating collagen, which is essential for healthy skin. Several studies also support manganese’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels within the body.
Calcium and magnesium tie next at 11%. Copper trails behind at 8%. The following minerals are present at 5% or less: potassium, zinc, and phosphorus.
Health Benefits: Other Compounds Found in Thyme
This serving size offers a small amount of both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3s are present at 125 mg per serving. Studies show that this compound can increase heart health and can lower the risk of heart disease.
Omega-6s, on the other hand, support brain health. This serving size offers 23.8 grams of Omega-6s. 18.2 grams of water is also available. The volatile oils within thyme, such as carvacrol, Geraniol, and thymol, have long been used to address respiratory issues including coughs and bronchitis.
Thyme is also rich in a number of flavonoid compounds that work within the body as powerful antioxidants, destroying free radicals.
Thyme Herb Selection
Fresh thyme offers more nutritional benefits than dried thyme. When selecting fresh sprigs, look for leaves with a vibrant color and strong stems. Wilted or withered leaves should be avoided, as should any leaves with yellow or brown spots.
Like all fresh herbs, thyme should be stored in the fridge either in a glass with a bit of water at the bottom to prolong the herb’s freshness, or wrapped in a damp paper towel in a ziplock bag. Fresh herbs will last about a week in the refrigerator.
Wash and chop directly prior to use. Fresh thyme should be added at the end of the cooking time to maintain its flavor; overexposure to heat can destroy its flavor and create bitterness. Dried thyme may be added at the beginning of the cooking process to rehydrate and release any essential oils.
Thyme herb Serving Suggestions
Thyme offers a complementary flavor to a variety of foods including eggs, beans, fish, and stews. For breakfast dishes, considering adding thyme leaves to omelets or quiches.
Both cold and warm bean and rice side dishes can benefit from thyme. Preparing fish as an entrée? Whether you’re poaching, baking, or grilling it, add several fresh sprigs of thyme during the cooking process to enhance the fish’s natural flavor.
Five Fun Thyme Facts
1 – Today, there are over 100 varieties of thyme.
2 – Both the Romans and Celtic druids used thyme to treat depression.
3 – Thyme has always been held in a slightly mystical regard; King Oberon in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream confides that the fairy queen sleeps on a bed of thyme.
4 – Hymettus honey, a favorite honey in Greece, is made from wild thyme pollen.
5 – Listerine mouthwash uses thymol, a volatile oil produced from thyme, as an active ingredient.