7 Amazing Thyme Benefits

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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The interesting health benefits of thyme include its ability to relieve stress, reduce respiratory issues, improve heart health, boost the strength of the immune system, protect against chronic diseases, 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. The most common form has the scientific name Thymus vulgaris. This herb is native to the Mediterranean region and certain parts of Africa, and its use dates back to the Egyptian empire.

Health Benefits of Thyme

Let’s take a detailed look at some of the health benefits of this shrub.

Anti-fungal 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. This is according to 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

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 illness.

In fact, a study conducted in Spain showed that thyme extract oils have anti-inflammatory effects. 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, according to a Korea Food Research Institute study.

Free radicals are the dangerous by-products of cellular metabolism that can do major damage to your healthy cells by causing apoptosis or spontaneous mutation. These antioxidants help prevent oxidative stress present in your organs, as well as your neural pathways, heart, eyes, and skin.

Improves Circulation

The high concentration of iron and other essential minerals in thyme make 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 National Nutrient Database, 100 grams of fresh thyme contains 17.45 mg, almost 20% of the recommended daily value of iron.

Nutrition Facts

Thyme, fresh
Serving Size :
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

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 make 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. Vitamin C also plays a crucial part in the production of collagen, which is essential for the creation and repair of cells, muscles, tissues, and blood vessels.

An infographic on health benefits of thyme

Thyme is rich in antioxidants. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Reduces Stress

One of the vitamins in thyme (B6) 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.

Uses of Thyme

In terms of its culinary use, the stems and the leaves are used in various dishes, either in whole or dried form. It is usually added to soups, sauces, meat dishes, and is 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. 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.

Word of Caution: For those with a sensitive stomach, 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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