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A Brief History of Thyme
Member Name: steerpyke
Date: 07/12/04, updated on 27/12/04 (3903 review reads)
Advantages: low maintainance, lots of uses
Thyme is an aromatic, perennial, many branched ground shrub that will grow to about 12" It has small almost stalkless leaves and in mid-summer it will develop very attractive lilac or pink flowers. Once established in in a well drained garden it requires very little care, an so is suitable for people (like me) how are not the most attentive to the needs of the plants in their care. Established plants will become woody after a number of years, but this can be avoided by dividing the roots from time to time. The plant is hardy enough to survive light frosts, but will die off if the temperature drops below 10 degrees F. Thyme is easily propagated either via seeds, cuttings or by root divisions. Thyme is not only therefore a very easy plant to grow in your garden, it also has many uses.
The Romans always knew a good thing when they saw it and it was grown by them for use as a cough remedy, as a digestive aid and for intestinal worms. For the same reason Charlemagne ordered the plant to be grown in his imperial palaces, but also recognised its uses in cooking chiefly for its meat preserving qualities. By medieval times it was widely known for its anticeptic qualities and by the 17th centuary thyme oil, under the name of Oil of Origanum, was freely available from apothecary shops. In the medieval period it was also associated with courage and knights would embroider it on their clothes as an emblem. Scottish highlanders would make a drink using Thyme to instill the courageous virtue in them and Wild Thyme is the emblem of the Drummond Clan.
Its use today by those who have an interest in nature remedies lies in four main areas.
1. Antiseptic. Freshly picked thyme is a fantastic natural antiseptic for those garden cuts and scrapes and as an oil is proven to fight disease causing fungus and bacteria. Dried Thyme is never quite as effective as an oil tincture or infusion. Thyme is a major ingrediant in many mouth washes, including Listerine.
2. Digestive Aid. Thymol and Carvacol, found within the plant are shown to relax the muscle tissue of the gastrointestinal tract. This acts as an anti-spasmodic backing up Thymes traditional use as a digestion aid.
3. Womens Health. Not only do the Anti-spasmodic characteristics aid digestion, they also help relieve menstual cramps. A word of warning however, Thyme should be avoided in large doses whilst pregnant, a rule of thum that should be applied to most natural medical practices. In this instance it should be taken as a light culninary spice, the stronger oil preperation should be avoided.
4.Cough Remedy. "thyme is to the Trachea (windpipe) and the bronchi what peppermint is to the stomach and intestines" so wrote Rudolph Weiss. This is to say that as a soothing remedy for cough disorders, this plant is second to none.
The main warning is regarding the use of Thyme in its oil prepared form. In this form it is fairly powerful and should be used sparingly, and probably only after consulting a doctor or practicioner. The fresh or dried herb, however will cause no problems in its use and is best gathered whilst in flower.
On to the more mystical elements associated with the plant. Folk Lore suggests:
Wear a sprig or throw onto a fire to attract good health.
Place a sprig beneath the pilow to keep away night mares.
Women should wear it in their hair to become irresistable.
Thyme will attract fairies.
Wear Thyme to ward off negativity.
The preparations for Thyme are very simple, but do heed the warnings above. Tea is made by infusing 1oz of dried herb in boiling water for ten minutes. The oil is made by filling a jar with dried Thyme and topping up with Sunflower Oil, leave in a sunny place for two weeks and strain into a clean jar.
For those interested in natural remedies and herblore, Thyme is a good place to start, as it is easy to prepare, has a range of uses and is a very low maintainace garden plant.