Properties and Benefits of Thyme: Both a culinary spice and a medicinal herb, thyme (Thymus vulgaris) has a rather impressive nutritional content, providing great health benefits to consumers. Thyme is a rich source of vitamins A and C, two major antioxidant-vitamins with exceptional anti-inflammatory activity.
Moreover, it boasts a great mineral content, being especially rich in iron, manganese, calcium and magnesium. Thyme essential oil is a particularly efficient antiseptic agent and a natural compound extracted from it is a common active ingredient in basic care products such as toothpaste, mouthwash, hand antiseptic and some acne products or natural cremes promoting wound healing.
Thyme originally grew on Mediterranean land but its natural resilience and adaptability have lead to its spread in many regions of the world. It makes a great ornamental plant as well as a low maintenance garden herb. Thyme is one of the most popular culinary herbs throughout the world. It pairs well with cheese plates, baked potatoes, roast chicken breast or pork steak, grilled zucchini or carrots and basically any soup, stew or simmered dish. You can also add it to vinaigrette or use it to flavor olive oil.
Fresh thyme is usually sold in small branches called thyme sprigs. When spicing up your food, it is best to tie thyme sprigs together for easy removal later on. Thyme preserves most of its flavor when dried, but fresh sprigs are far more aromatic. The trouble with fresh thyme is that is has a short life span of about a week (in the fridge).
There are several popular thyme varieties, including a lemony variety and one that has a stronger, almost oregano-like aroma. However, the most common thyme variety is Thymus vulgaris or garden thyme. Other names include common thyme, summer thyme or English thyme.
Being an aromatic herb, thyme is full of natural, flavor-giving compounds of great medicinal value. Thymol is an important phenol found in thyme and thyme essential oil, responsible for the unique flavor of the herb. According to research, thymol was shown to have strong antiseptic and antifungal properties, making thyme consumption highly beneficial for human health.
The strong antibacterial properties of thymol have been put to use and the compound is a major active ingredient in products such as toothpaste, mouthwash, general disinfectants, hand sanitizing solutions and so on. Famous products containing thymol extracted from thyme are Vicks Vapor Rub, CVS Antiseptic Mouth Rinse and Listerine.
Apparently, thymol is also a great nail fungus treatment. Other essential oils in thyme are linalool, borneol, p-cymene and geraniol. But thyme is a rich source of natural antioxidant compounds as well. Lutein, zeaxanthin (carotenoids), apigenin, naringenin, luteolin (flavonoids) are all strong antioxidants which greatly contribute to the benefits of thyme consumption.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two potent antioxidants and vitamin A precursors found in thyme which protect the retina against free radicals from blue light and ensure good vision even at old age. As you can see from the nutrition table above, thyme is an exceptional source of vitamin A, providing 4751 IU (or 158%) of the RDA. This means eating even small amounts of thyme helps maintain healthy mucous membranes at the level of the nose, mouth, throat, lungs and digestive tract and ensures good night vision.
Thyme is a great culinary spice because it has an incredibly high content of vitamin C: 266% of the RDA. Vitamin C not only protects against free radical damage to cells, but it also helps in the reduction of inflammation levels and in the prevention of chronic disease such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Increasing your vitamin C intake is probably the best thing you can do for your heath! Vitamin C-rich foods also help prevent wrinkles.
Thyme is a good source of manganese, a potent antioxidant-mineral. In addition to this, it contains good amounts of B vitamins, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. With a high iron content (218%) thyme helps prevent fatigue, irritability, headaches and anemia as a result of a deficiency.
As with all things, moderation is crucial so it is best to add no more than one tablespoon of thyme to an entire pot of steaming stew or ram one, two thyme sprigs in your to-be-roasted chicken. For more information on vitamins and minerals and the best food sources for each of these essential nutrients, please refer to the Vitamins and minerals page in the menu above.