Thyme: Nutrition, Benefits & Uses

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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It’s about ‘thyme’ we start talking about Thymus vulgaris, a pungent Mediterranean herb, belonging to the mint family. Known for its pungent taste, thyme is used to flavor a diverse range of foods, including poultry, meats, stuffings, sauces, fish, eggs, soups, vegetables, cheeses, and pasta. Additionally, its flowers, leaves, & oil are known for their medicinal properties and health benefits that include its ability to relieve stress, reduce respiratory issues, improve heart health, boost the strength of the immune system, stimulate blood flow, and prevent fungal infections.

What is Thyme?

Thyme is an evergreen shrub that has been used in medicinal and culinary applications for thousands of years. It is known to have over 400 sub-species. This herb is native to the Mediterranean region and certain parts of Africa, and its use dates back to the Egyptian empire where it was used in embalming practices. The Greeks, on the other hand, used thyme as incense. The different forms of thyme include fresh and dried herbs and essential oil. You can either grow fresh thyme in your garden or buy it at the farmer’s market. You can get dried thyme and its essential oil at departmental stores, herbal medical markets, and e-commerce platforms like Amazon respectively.

This article looks at the nutrition of thyme, its health benefits, and its different uses.

Thyme Nutrition

As per the USDA data, fresh thyme is rich in water, energy, fiber, sugar (a very low profile), and protein. It is also a good source of iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. It holds some important vitamins such as vitamin C, niacin, folate, vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin K, and low quantities of thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin B-6 too.

Carbs in fresh thyme: A 100 gm serving of fresh thyme contains around 24.45 gm of carbs.

Nutrition Facts

Thyme, fresh
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]65.11
Energy [kcal]101
Energy [kJ]423
Protein [g]5.56
Total lipid (fat) [g]1.68
Ash [g]3.2
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]24.45
Fiber, total dietary [g]14
Calcium, Ca [mg]405
Iron, Fe [mg]17.45
Magnesium, Mg [mg]160
Phosphorus, P [mg]106
Potassium, K [mg]609
Sodium, Na [mg]9
Zinc, Zn [mg]1.81
Copper, Cu [mg]0.56
Manganese, Mn [mg]1.72
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]160.1
Thiamin [mg]0.05
Riboflavin [mg]0.47
Niacin [mg]1.82
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.41
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.35
Folate, total [µg]45
Folate, food [µg]45
Folate, DFE [µg]45
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]238
Carotene, beta [µg]2851
Vitamin A, IU [IU]4751
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.47
8:0 [g]0.04
10:0 [g]0.02
12:0 [g]0.04
14:0 [g]0.03
16:0 [g]0.29
18:0 [g]0.05
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.08
18:1 [g]0.08
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.53
18:2 [g]0.09
18:3 [g]0.45
Tryptophan [g]0.11
Threonine [g]0.15
Isoleucine [g]0.29
Leucine [g]0.26
Lysine [g]0.13
Valine [g]0.31
Sources include : USDA

Health Benefits of Thyme

Thyme is known for its numerous health benefits. Let’s take a detailed look at some of the prominent ones below.

Antifungal & Antibacterial Ability

The most active ingredient found in thyme is thymol. This organic compound has a wide range of effects on the body, including its ability to prevent fungal and viral infections, thereby reducing strain on the immune system, says a 2007 report published in the Journal of Food Safety.

A bunch of fresh thyme herb on a black background

Thyme boasts of culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Improves Skin Health

Traditional herbal treatments are common as far as maintaining and improving skin health is concerned. A study conducted in Ethiopia showed that a combination of a 3% thyme essential oil antifungal cream and a 10% chamomile extract cream helped clear eczema-like lesions on the skin. However, additional scientific research is required.

Reduces the Risk of Respiratory Ailments

One of the most well-known and long-standing uses of thyme in traditional medicine is as a respiratory agent. If you are suffering from bronchitis, chronic asthma, congestion, colds, flu, blocked sinuses, or seasonal allergies, thyme acts as an expectorant and an anti-inflammatory substance. It eliminates phlegm and mucus from the respiratory tracts, eases inflammation to help breathe, and prevents microbial development that can lead to serious respiratory illness. That’s why brewing thyme into a powerful tea is one of the best ways to achieve relief from respiratory ailments.

Antioxidant Capacity

With one of the highest antioxidant concentrations in any herb, thyme has been praised for thousands of years as an overall health booster. The phenolic antioxidants found in thyme, including lutein, zeaxanthin, and thymonin contribute to neutralizing and eliminating free radicals throughout the body, further inhibiting oxidative stress, according to a Korea Food Research Institute study.

Improves Circulation

The high concentration of iron and other essential minerals in thyme makes it ideal for stimulating the production of red blood cells, thereby boosting blood circulation and oxygenation to the essential organ systems of the body. According to the USDA,100 grams of fresh thyme contains 17.45 mg, almost 20% of the recommended daily value of iron.

Lowers Blood Pressure

There is a species of thyme known as Thymus Linearis Benth, predominantly found in Pakistan and Afghanistan, that is said to have the potential to lower blood pressure. According to a study published in Acta Poloniae Pharmaceutica Journal, the extract from this herb was able to considerably lower the blood pressure in rats, along with their cholesterol. Most people like to lower their intake of salt by substituting it with more of this herb in certain dishes. However, more scientific studies are required to ascertain the benefit of thyme on blood pressure.

Protects Heart

The rich blend of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins in thyme have many small effects on the heart, but potassium and manganese are particularly important. Potassium is a vasodilator, meaning that it can reduce the stress on the cardiovascular system by relaxing blood vessels and lowering blood pressure.

A study in the UK found that laboratory rats whose diets were supplemented with thyme oil showed a stronger activity level and higher antioxidant levels during their lifespan. This can extend your life by preventing atherosclerosis and avoiding strokes, heart attacks, and coronary heart diseases.

Eye Care

The concentration of carotenoids and vitamin A found in thyme makes it an effective antioxidant agent for your vision health. Carotenoids can neutralize the free radicals in your ocular system and slow the onset of macular degeneration and prevent cataracts.

Boosts Immunity

The high levels of vitamin C found in this herb make it a natural immune system booster. Vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells, which are the first line of defense in the body’s immune system. According to a 2018 report published in the Phytotherapy Research thymol is an essential component in the thyme essential oil that is known as an immunomodulator.

An infographic on health benefits of thyme

Thyme is rich in antioxidants. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Reduces Stress

One of the vitamins in thyme (B6) or pyridoxine has a powerful effect on certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are directly linked to stress hormones. Regular inclusion of thyme in your diet can help to boost your mood and ease your mind when stressful thoughts come calling.

Anticancer Potential

Some studies have also indicated that thyme may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancers.A 2012 study published by a team of Portuguese researchers discovered that extracts of mastic thyme may have the potential to help people suffering from colon cancer. Meanwhile, another study conducted by a team of Turkish researchers studied the effect of wild thyme on breast cancer activity and found that it caused cell death in breast cancer cells. However, more studies are required to corroborate this benefit.

Uses of Thyme

Thyme is known for its culinary uses, courtesy its distinctive flavor that is used to enhance the overall taste and gastronomical experience of the dish it is added to. Moreover, it is also known for its medicinal properties.

Culinary use:  The stems and leaves of thyme are used in various dishes, either in whole or dried form. It is usually added to soups, sauces, meat dishes, or used as a flavorful garnish. The leaves can be removed from the stems and ground into a fine spice, or the entire sprig can be added to flavor a larger dish or stew.

Some of the recipes that have used thyme are:

In case you don’t have the herb at home and need to use it urgently for a recipe, here are 6 Amazing Substitutes For Thyme that will come to your rescue.

Medicinal properties: They can also be brewed into a tea and a decoction can be made with carrier oils or creams to apply topically to the body to improve skin health and blood flow among other things.

Word of Caution: For those with a sensitive stomach, a high intake of thyme can cause gastrointestinal distress. Having said that, this herb is not known as an allergenic substance and can be consumed regularly in your diet.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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