Last updated
A bundle of thyme
Food energy
(per 100  g serving)
101  kcal  (423 kJ)
Nutritional value
(per 100  g serving)
Protein 6  g
Fat 1.7  g
Carbohydrate 24  g

Thyme ( /tm/ ) is the herb (dried aerial parts) of some members of the genus Thymus of aromatic perennial evergreen herbs in the mint family Lamiaceae. Thymes are relatives of the oregano genus Origanum , with both plants being mostly indigenous to the Mediterranean region. Thymes have culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses, and the species most commonly cultivated and used for culinary purposes is Thymus vulgaris .



Flowering thyme Flowering thyme.JPG
Flowering thyme

Thyme is indigenous to the Mediterranean region. [1] Wild thyme grows in the Levant, where it might have been first cultivated. Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming. [2] The ancient Greeks used it in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples, believing it was a source of courage. The spread of thyme throughout Europe was thought to be due to the Romans, as they used it to purify their rooms and to "give an aromatic flavour to cheese and liqueurs". [3] In the European Middle Ages, the herb was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares. [4] In this period, women also often gave knights and warriors gifts that included thyme leaves, as it was believed to bring courage to the bearer. Thyme was also used as incense and placed on coffins during funerals, as it was supposed to assure passage into the next life. [5]

The name of the genus of fish Thymallus , first given to the grayling (T. thymallus, described in the 1758 edition of Systema Naturae by Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus), originates from the faint smell of thyme that emanates from the flesh. [6]


Thyme is best cultivated in a hot, sunny location with well-drained soil. It is generally planted in the spring, and thereafter grows as a perennial. It can be propagated by seed, cuttings, or dividing rooted sections of the plant. It tolerates drought well. [7] The plant can take deep freezes and is found growing wild on mountain highlands. It grows well on dry slopes and is propagated by cuttings. It can be pruned after flowering to keep from getting woody. [8]

Aroma components

Gas chromatographic analysis reveals that the most abundant volatile component of thyme leaves is thymol 8.55 mg/g. Other components are carvacrol, linalool, α-terpineol, and 1,8-cineole. Several are also found in basil. Some exhibit antioxidant properties. [9]

Thymol is the principal aromatic component of thyme. Thymol2.svg
Thymol is the principal aromatic component of thyme.

Culinary use

Seombaengnihyang-cha (Ulleungdo thyme tea) Seombaengnihyang-cha.jpg
Seombaengnihyang-cha (Ulleungdo thyme tea)

In some Levantine countries, the condiment za'atar (Arabic for both thyme and marjoram) contains many of the essential oils found in thyme. [10] Thyme is a common component of the bouquet garni , and of herbes de Provence . [11]

Thyme is sold both fresh and dried. While summer-seasonal, fresh greenhouse thyme is often available year-round. The fresh form is more flavourful but also less convenient; storage life is rarely more than a week. However, the fresh form can last many months if carefully frozen. [12]

Fresh thyme is commonly sold in bunches of sprigs. A sprig is a single stem snipped from the plant. [13] It is composed of a woody stem with paired leaf or flower clusters ("leaves") spaced 15 to 25 millimetres (12 to 1 inch) apart. A recipe may measure thyme by the bunch (or fraction thereof), or by the sprig, or by the tablespoon or teaspoon. Dried thyme is widely used in Armenia in tisanes (called urc).

Depending on how it is used in a dish, the whole sprig may be used (e.g., in a bouquet garni), or the leaves removed and the stems discarded. Usually, when a recipe mentions a bunch or sprig, it means the whole form; when it mentions spoons, it means the leaves. It is perfectly acceptable to substitute dried for whole thyme.

Leaves may be removed from stems either by scraping with the back of a knife, or by pulling through the fingers or tines of a fork.

Thyme retains its flavour on drying better than many other herbs. [14]

Antimicrobial properties

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) essential oil ThymeEssentialOil.png
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) essential oil

Oil of thyme, the essential oil of common thyme ( Thymus vulgaris ), contains 20–54% thymol. [15] Thyme essential oil also contains a range of additional compounds, such as p-cymene, myrcene, borneol, and linalool. [16] Thymol, an antiseptic, is an active ingredient in various commercially produced mouthwashes, such as Listerine. [17] Before the advent of modern antibiotics, oil of thyme was used to medicate bandages. [3]

Important species and cultivars

Variegated lemon thyme Variegated Lemon Thyme Thymus citriodorus variegata Leaves 3264px.JPG
Variegated lemon thyme

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bay leaf</span> Aromatic leaf

The bay leaf is an aromatic leaf commonly used as a herb in cooking. It can be used whole, either dried or fresh, in which case it is removed from the dish before consumption, or less commonly used in ground form. The flavor that a bay leaf imparts to a dish has not been universally agreed upon, but most agree it is a subtle addition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Oregano</span> Species of flowering plant

Oregano is a species of flowering plant in the mint family Lamiaceae. It was native to the Mediterranean region, but widely naturalised elsewhere in the temperate Northern Hemisphere.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Parsley</span> Species of flowering plant in the celery family Apiaceae cultivated as an herb

Parsley, or garden parsley is a species of flowering plant in the family Apiaceae that is native to Greece, Morocco and the former Yugoslavia. It has been introduced and naturalized in Europe and elsewhere in the world with suitable climates, and is widely cultivated as a herb, and a vegetable.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Caraway</span> Type of spice

Caraway, also known as meridian fennel and Persian cumin, is a biennial plant in the family Apiaceae, native to western Asia, Europe, and North Africa.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fennel</span> Flowering plant species in the carrot family

Fennel is a flowering plant species in the carrot family. It is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean but has become widely naturalized in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the sea-coast and on riverbanks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coriander</span> Annual herb

Coriander, also known as cilantro, is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Basil</span> Important culinary herb

Basil, also called great basil, is a culinary herb of the family Lamiaceae (mints). It is a tender plant, and is used in cuisines worldwide. In Western cuisine, the generic term "basil" refers to the variety also known as sweet basil or Genovese basil. Basil is native to tropical regions from Central Africa to Southeast Asia. In temperate climates basil is treated as an annual plant, however, basil can be grown as a short-lived perennial or biennial in warmer horticultural zones with tropical or Mediterranean climates.

<i>Coleus amboinicus</i> Species of plant

Coleus amboinicus, synonym Plectranthus amboinicus, is a semi-succulent perennial plant in the family Lamiaceae with a pungent oregano-like flavor and odor. Coleus amboinicus is considered to be native to parts of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and India, although it is widely cultivated and naturalized elsewhere in the tropics where it is used as a spice and ornamental plant. Common names in English include Indian borage, country borage, French thyme, Indian mint, Mexican mint, Cuban oregano, soup mint, Vicks plant, Spanish thyme. The species epithet, amboinicus refers to Ambon Island, in Indonesia, where it was apparently encountered and described by João de Loureiro (1717–1791).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thymol</span> Chemical compound found in plants including thyme

Thymol, C10H14O, is a natural monoterpenoid phenol derivative of p-Cymene, isomeric with carvacrol, found in oil of thyme, and extracted from Thymus vulgaris, ajwain, and various other plants as a white crystalline substance of a pleasant aromatic odor and strong antiseptic properties. Thymol also provides the distinctive, strong flavor of the culinary herb thyme, also produced from T. vulgaris. Thymol is only slightly soluble in water at neutral pH, but it is extremely soluble in alcohols and other organic solvents. It is also soluble in strongly alkaline aqueous solutions due to deprotonation of the phenol. Its dissociation constant (pKa) is 10.59±0.10. Thymol absorbs maximum UV radiation at 274 nm.

<i>Thymus</i> (plant) Family of shrubs

The genus Thymus contains about 350 species of aromatic perennial herbaceous plants and subshrubs to 40 cm tall in the family Lamiaceae, native to temperate regions in Europe, North Africa and Asia.

<i>Thymus serpyllum</i> Species of plant

Thymus serpyllum, known by the common names of Breckland thyme, Breckland wild thyme, wild thyme, creeping thyme, or elfin thyme, is a species of flowering plant in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to most of Europe and North Africa. It is a low, usually prostrate subshrub growing to 2 cm (1 in) tall with creeping stems up to 10 cm (4 in) long. The oval evergreen leaves are 3–8 mm long. The strongly scented flowers are either lilac, pink-purple, magenta, or a rare white, all 4–6 mm long and produced in clusters. The hardy plant tolerates some pedestrian traffic and produces odors ranging from heavily herbal to lightly lemon, depending on the variety.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Za'atar</span> Levantine herb or herb blend

Za'atar is a culinary herb or family of herbs. It is also the name of a spice mixture that includes the herb along with toasted sesame seeds, dried sumac, often salt, as well as other spices. As a family of related Middle Eastern herbs, it contains plants from the genera Origanum (oregano), Calamintha, Thymus, and Satureja (savory) plants. The name za'atar alone most properly applies to Origanum syriacum, considered in biblical scholarship to be the ezov of the Hebrew Bible, often translated as hyssop but distinct from modern Hyssopus officinalis.

A chemotype is a chemically distinct entity in a plant or microorganism, with differences in the composition of the secondary metabolites. Minor genetic and epigenetic changes with little or no effect on morphology or anatomy may produce large changes in the chemical phenotype. Chemotypes are often defined by the most abundant chemical produced by that individual and the concept has been useful in work done by chemical ecologists and natural product chemists. With respect to plant biology, the term "chemotype" was first coined by Rolf Santesson and his son Johan in 1968, defined as, "...chemically characterized parts of a population of morphologically indistinguishable individuals."

<i>Thymus vulgaris</i> Species of flowering plant

Thymus vulgaris is a species of flowering plant in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to southern Europe from the western Mediterranean to southern Italy. Growing to 15–30 cm (6–12 in) tall by 40 cm (16 in) wide, it is a bushy, woody-based evergreen subshrub with small, highly aromatic, grey-green leaves and clusters of purple or pink flowers in early summer.

<i>Thymus citriodorus</i> Species of flowering plant

Thymus citriodorus, the lemon thyme or citrus thyme, is a lemon-scented evergreen mat-forming perennial plant in the family Lamiaceae. There has been a great amount of confusion over the plant's correct name and origin. Recent DNA analysis suggests that it is not a hybrid or cross, but a distinct species as it was first described in 1811., yet an analysis in a different study clustered Thymus citriodorus together with Thymus vulgaris, which is considered as one of its parent species.

<i>Thymus pannonicus</i> Species of flowering plant

Thymus pannonicus, known by its common name Hungarian thyme or Eurasian thyme, is a perennial herbaceous plant, distributed in central and eastern Europe and Russia. It grows over open dry meadows, grasslands, and rocks.

Artemisia pallens, dhavanam from the Sanskrit name दमनक (damanaka),(Tamil: மரிக்கொழுந்து, தவணம், Marathi: दवणा, Kannada: ದವನ), is an aromatic herb, In genus of small herbs or shrubs, xerophytic In nature. The flowers are racemose panicles, bear numerous small yellow flower heads or capitula, but the silvery white silky covering of down gives the foliage a grey or white appearance.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to herbs and spices:

<i>Thymus zygis</i> Species of flowering plant

Thymus zygis is a type of flowering plant in the family Lamiaceae native to the Iberian Peninsula and northern Morocco.

<i>Lagoecia</i> Genus of Apiaceae plants

Lagoecia, wild cumin, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Apiaceae. It has only one species, Lagoecia cuminoides, native to the Mediterranean region and as far east as Iran. Its essential oil contains 72.83–94.76% thymol, quite a bit more than thyme itself.


  1. Stahl-Biskup, E; Venskutonis, RP (2012). "27 - Thyme". In Peter, K V (ed.). Handbook of Herbs and Spices. Woodhead Publishing Series in Food Science, Technology and Nutrition. Vol. 1. of 2 volumes (2nd ed.). University of Hamburg, Germany & Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania: Woodhead Publishing. pp. 499–525. doi:10.1533/9780857095671.499. ISBN   9780857090393 . Retrieved 17 June 2021 via Microsoft Bing, Science Direct.
  2. "A Brief History of Thyme - Hungry History". Archived from the original on 2016-06-13. Retrieved 2016-06-09.
  3. 1 2 Grieve, Mrs. Maud. "Thyme. A Modern Herbal". (Hypertext version of the 1931 ed.). Archived from the original on February 23, 2011. Retrieved February 9, 2008.
  4. Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan.
  5. "Thyme (thymus)". The English Cottage Garden Nursery. Archived from the original on 2006-09-27.
  6. Ingram, A.; Ibbotson, A.; Gallagher, M. "The Ecology and Management of the European Grayling Thymallus thymallus (Linnaeus)" (PDF). East Stoke, Wareham, U.K.: Institute of Freshwater Ecology. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-28. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
  7. "Herb File. Global Garden". Archived from the original on 2007-10-12.
  8. Peter, K.V. (2012). Handbook of herbs and spices Volume 2.
  9. Lee, Seung-Joo; Umano, Katumi; Shibamoto, Takayuki; Lee, Kwang-Geun (2005). "Identification of Volatile Components in Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) and Thyme Leaves (Thymus vulgaris L.) and Their Antioxidant Properties". Food Chemistry. 91: 131–137. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2004.05.056.
  10. "Explaining Zaatar!". Dima Al Sharif. 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  11. Walker, Paul (2 September 2021). "What Is a Bouquet Garni? Easy Homemade Bouquet Garni Recipe, Plus Tips for Cooking With Bouquet Garni - 2022 - MasterClass". Masterclass. Retrieved 23 March 2022.
  12. "Food Storage - How Long Can You Keep Thyme". Archived from the original on 2015-08-09. Retrieved 2015-08-18.
  13. "Thyme". Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  14. "7 Herbs That Taste Good When Dried". The Spruce. Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  15. Thymus Vulgaris. PDR for Herbal Medicine. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company. p. 1184.
  16. Borugă, O.; Jianu, C.; Mişcă, C.; Goleţ, I.; Gruia, A.; Horhat, F. (2014). "Thymus vulgaris essential oil: chemical composition and antimicrobial activity". Journal of Medicine and Life. 7 (Spec Iss 3): 56–60. PMC   4391421 . PMID   25870697.
  17. Pierce, Andrea. 1999. American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. New York: Stonesong Press. P. 338–340.
  18. "Caterpillar food" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-09-29. Retrieved 2015-09-28.
  19. "French Thyme, Thymus vulgaris". Sand Mountain Herbs. Archived from the original on 2014-05-27. Retrieved 2014-05-27.
  20. "English thyme". Sara's Superb Herbs. Archived from the original on 2012-02-09.

Further reading