Thyme tea, brewed from the fresh or dried leaves of the thyme plant, when consumed in amounts used for cooking, is considered generally safe. Although not yet scientifically proven, thyme is perceived to have health benefits including anti-hypertensive, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Thyme is a perennial shrub with greenish-gray aromatic leaves that originated in countries bordering the Mediterranean Ocean and Southern Europe. There are many varieties of thyme that range from the common thyme — closest to the wild thyme Thymus serpyllum L. — used widely in culinary preparations to orange, lemon and caraway thyme, each with their own unique flavor. Thyme is used fresh or dried in cooking.
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Thyme has been used culinarily and medicinally for centuries, reports an article in the January/February 2016 issue of the journal Nutrition Today. Common thyme typically contains 0.4 to 3.4 percent volatile oil and is commercially prepared by distillation of its leaves. Thyme essential oil is used commercially in soaps, cosmetics, mouthwash and toothpaste, chewing gum, candy and ice cream. Thymol and carvacrol, principal constituents of this oil, are used in perfumes, food flavorings, mouthwashes, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products.
There is some claim that thyme essential oil contains antioxidant and antimicrobial activity, although this has not yet been scientifically proven. It is important to keep in mind that, as a July 2015 article in the journal _Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine _notes, the chemical composition and yield of thyme essential oil are considered to be affected by geographic region, the development stage of the plant, the harvest season, habitat and climatic conditions.
Thyme Tea Benefits
Thyme and its essential oil have been or are associated with the treatments of Lyme disease, inflammation, hypertension and respiratory issues. In traditional medicine, thyme has been used for high blood pressure, toothache, headache, cold, fever, and skin, eye and liver diseases.
A 2014 study performed in Lahore, Pakistan, concluded that certain biologically active compounds present in the plant extract had an anti-hypertensive effect. Although the study was conducted on rats, it is worth mentioning because it makes the case that thyme and thyme essential oil should be further examined as to its medicinal qualities.
The USDA shows that thyme is high in vitamin C and is also a good source of vitamin A, copper, fiber, iron and manganese. If you wish to make your own thyme tea, boil 1 1/2 cups of water. Place four (or more) fresh thyme sprigs in the water and steep for up to 20 minutes. Tea made from dried thyme leaves is also available in stores.
Thyme Side Effects
When used in amounts found in foods, thyme and thyme oil are generally considered safe for their intended uses. However, when taken orally in undiluted form, thyme oil can be unsafe.
Thyme when used medicinally is considered what the Mayo Clinic calls complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). These treatments use ingredients found in nature; some examples of herbs include ginseng, ginkgo and echinacea. Herbs and supplements can be taken as teas, oils, syrups, powders, tablets or capsules.
As the Clinic cautions, there is a lack of research in alternative treatments mainly because large, carefully controlled medical studies are costly. Fewer resources are available to support trials of CAM therapies.
Conventional doctors may not wish to make recommendations regarding CAM treatments if they do not have training in this area. Still, you should always speak with your doctor before taking any new supplements or herbs, particularly if you are currently taking medication or are pregnant.
- Nutrition Today: "Thyme History, Applications, and Overview of Potential Health Benefits"
- Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: "Essential Oils From Garlic and Other Herbs and Spices Kill "Persister" Lyme Disease Bacteria"
- Acta Poloniae Pharmaceutica: "Pharmacological Evaluation of Antihypertensive Effect of Aerial Parts of Thymus Linearis Benth"
- USDA: "Basic Report: 02049, Thyme, Fresh"
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Review of Ethnobotanical, Phytochemical, and Pharmacological Study of Thymus serpyllum L."
- Mayo Clinic: "Integrative Medicine: Alternative Becomes Mainstream"
- University of Illinois Extension: "Thyme"