Here, in the aromatic garden, thyme serves as a trusty staple. It thrives under the Portuguese sun and can stand both drought and frost. Despite their small size, the abundance of pink flowers attracts numerous bees and butterflies into the garden. Besides this, the leaves are used for their lovely flavour in many of our meals.
There are different types of thyme, of which the most common garden herb is Thymus Vulgaris. It belongs to the mint family Lamiaceae. Although thyme is most known for its flavour, it has been used for its protective properties. Since the Roman era, the herb has been popular amongst emperors, for it was believed that the use in meals reduces the chance of food poisoning. Thyme also carried a symbolic power, which lasted well into the Middle Ages. It would signify strength and courage, and therefore served as a token of respect when gifted (1).
It is now known that the ideas people carried surrounding the protective properties of thyme were not based on superstition. Three essential oils can be extracted from thyme: borneol, geraniol, and thymol. These oils, when gargled, can effectively treat throat infections. There is also research suggesting that the essential oils can contribute to the increase of DHA, a fat that is associated with the health and functioning of our brain and nervous system (2).
The found antimicrobial properties of thyme create the potential for its essential oils to be applied in natural healing methods (3). After harvesting the stalks and drying the leaves, we collect vast supplies to enrich our meals, our immune system, and, hopefully, our courage too.
- Book: ‘Medicinal Cookery’, Dale Pinnock