Thymus Vulgaris, known simply as Thyme is in the #4 spot in my Top '5' favorite herbs to use during cold and flu season. Thyme is a common culinary herb with a light almost minty flavor often used in seasoning meats, soups and sauces. It also has potent medicinal qualities that make it a staple in my cupboard during cold and flu season.
Thyme is a member of the Lamiaceae or mint family of herbs along with rosemary, basil, oregano and others and is why it has a slight minty flavor. Herbs in this family tend to be quite fragrant due to the high content of volatile oils (meaning, the oils evaporate quickly). It is the volatile oils, primarily Thymol, in the case of Thyme, that are responsible for the actions of Thyme. In particular, Thyme is antimicrobial, an expectorant and antispasmodic. While it has other actions, these are the three actions that make it one of my go-to herbs during cold and flu season. Let's talk about each of these actions a little more in-depth...
Thyme's antimicrobial property means that it will stop the growth of the bugs (bacteria, virus etc.) present. Since both colds and flu are caused by a virus, Thyme can be a useful component of your medicinal regimen. Coughing is common with the colds and can be severe with the flu. This is where Thyme's actions of being antispasmodic and an expectorant come into play. As an antispasmodic, Thyme can calm a (dry) cough, which is especially helpful when the cough interferes with sleep. As you know, sleep is vital when fighting a cold or the flu. Adequate rest is critical in the healing process and sipping on Thyme tea can settle a cough allowing for a more restful nights sleep. With a more productive cough, Thyme's expectorant action is helpful. Herbs that have this action help to make cough more productive. This is accomplished by thinning thick, sticky mucous so that when you do cough, your cough is more effective in bringing up (and out) the mucous in the lungs.
How I use Thyme:
I like to use Thyme in a tea. As I mentioned, it has a light, slightly minty flavor that is soothing and quite tasty. Whenever possible, I use fresh Thyme leaves/flowering tops when making my tea. I pick the leaves from the stem (this is done easily if you hold the stem at one end with one hand and pull down in the opposite direction of the leaves/flowers), gathering at least 1 tablespoon of the leaves. I then cover the leaves in 1 cup of boiling water and let them steep for at least 10 minutes. I use a metal mesh tea-ball or a small french press. Lastly, I sweeten my Thyme tea with a bit of honey and enjoy up to 3 cups per day. In my personal and professional experience I have found that Thyme tea has been quite effective using either fresh or dried forms of the herb.
Note: The use of Thyme, as with all medications and supplements, should be done under the supervision of your physician.
Honey should not be given to children under 12 months in age.
Consult your physician prior to use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Hoffman D. (2003). Medical Herbalism-The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT. Healing Arts Press.
Natural Medicines Database. Last reviewed on May 12, 2017, last updated December 8, 2017. https://naturalmedicines-therapeuticresearch-com.buproxy.bastyr.edu/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=963