Thyme is a popular herb that can be found in hot, sunny locations as well as in cold climates and grows as a perennial, meaning that it grow throughout the year and will reappear every year. It can be propagated by seed, cuttings and even by dividing the root sections. It is a very resilient plant and is often found in the wild from mountain sides to sea level. The strong aroma can be smelled for miles on a remote Greek mountain.
Thyme has been used throughout the centuries by the Romans and Greeks for things such as embalming, assuring a safe passage into the next life and the Greeks were famous for using Thyme in their baths and burning it as incense in their temples. The Romans used Thyme to purify their rooms and for centuries it has been put under pillows to help those with insomnia and/or nightmares. The Roman ladies would give some Thyme to the knights and warriors hoping it would give them courage during their long battles.
Liked many popular herbs, Thyme can be bought either fresh or dried. Obviously fresh Thyme is more flavoursome, but the dried herb is popular because of its long shelf life. If bought fresh, Thyme is usually sold by the bunch or sprig which might be used whole in a recipe, but usually removed before serving. Thyme has a woody stem which is usually discarded and it is the leaves that are used in cooking. It is one of the ingredients of bouquet garni, the mixture of herbs used in French cooking. One use in British cooking is with Parsley and Thyme stuffing, served with roast pork or chicken. Add sprigs of Thyme to marinades for meat, fish or vegetables or tuck a few sprigs with half a lemon and an onion inside a chicken before roasting.
Oil of Thyme contains 20-54% Thymol which is a natural antiseptic and is often used in mouth washes and natural, alcohol-free hand sanitizers. Thymol can be found in treatments for fungal infections especially those affecting the toe nails. It also contains many other compounds such as myrcene and linalool. A tea made by infusing Thyme in hot water can help relieve symptoms such as bronchitis and chest infections.
There are various types of Thyme, including lemon, orange and lime Thyme. As the names suggest, there is a strong scent of citrus from these varieties. These citrus herbs prefer the full sun and well drained soil and they bloom in mid to late summer. They have pink or lavender flowers which attract butterflies and bees and are often cultivated as ornamental plants. Again the leaves are used as flavouring in cooking and can be used fresh in salads. The Citrus Thyme can be used in much the same medicinal way as the ordinary herb.