Health Benefits of Thyme

health-benefits-of-thyme

A delicate looking herb with a penetrating fragrance, thyme is a wonderful addition to bean, egg and vegetable dishes. Both fresh and dried thyme is available in your local supermarket throughout the year.

Thyme leaves are curled, elliptically shaped and very small, measuring about one-eighth of an inch long and one-sixteenth of an inch wide. The upper leaf is green-grey in color on top, while the underside is a whitish color. Along with fresh sprigs of parsley and bay leaves, thyme is included in the French combination of herbs called bouquet garni used to season stock, stews and soups.

Nutrients in
Thyme
2.00 tsp (2.80 grams)
Nutrient%Daily Value


 vitamin K60%


 iron19.2%


 manganese11%


 calcium5.2%


 fiber4.1%


 tryptophan3.1%


Calories (7)0%


This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Thyme provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Thyme can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Thyme, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

  • Health Benefits
  • Description
  • History
  • How to Select and Store
  • Tips for Preparing and Cooking
  • How to Enjoy
  • Individual Concerns
  • Nutritional Profile
  • References

Health Benefits

Thyme has a long history of use in natural medicine in connection with chest and respiratory problems including coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion. Only recently, however, have researchers pinpointed some of the components in thyme that bring about its healing effects. The volatile oil components of thyme are now known to include carvacolo, borneol, geraniol, but most importantly, thymol.

Significant Anti-Oxidant Protection of Cellular Membranes

Thymol—named after the herb itself—is the primary volatile oil constituent of thyme, and its health-supporting effects are well documented. In studies on aging in rats, thymol has been found to protect and significantly increase the percentage of healthy fats found in cell membranes and other cell structures. In particular, the amount of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid) in brain, kidney, and heart cell membranes was increased after dietary supplementation with thyme. In other studies looking more closely at changes in the brains cells themselves, researchers found that the maximum benefits of thyme occurred when the food was introduced very early in the lifecycle of the rats, but was less effective in offsetting the problems in brain cell aging when introduced late in the aging process.

Thyme also contains a variety of flavonoids, including apigenin, naringenin, luteolin, and thymonin. These flavonoids increase thyme’s antioxidant capacity, and combined with its status as a very good source of manganese, give thyme a high standing on the list of anti-oxidant foods.

Time’s Up for Microbes with Thyme

The volatile oil components of thyme have also been shown to have antimicrobial activity against a host of different bacteria and fungi. Staphalococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Shigella sonnei are a few of the species against which thyme has been shown to have antibacterial activity.

For thousands of years, herbs and spices have been used to help preserve foods and protect them from microbial contamination, now research shows that both thyme and basil contain constituents that can both prevent contamination and decontaminate previously contaminated foods. In these studies, published in the February 2004 issue of Food Microbiology, researchers found that thyme essential oil was able to decontaminate lettuce inoculated wth Shigella, an infectious organism that triggers diarrhea and may cause significant intestinal damage. In addition, washing produce in solution containing either basil or thyme essential oil at the very low concentration of just 1% resulted in dropping the number of Shigella bacteria below the point at which they could be detected. While scientists use this research to try to develop natural food preservatives, it makes good sense to include thyme and basil in more of your recipes, particularly for foods that are not cooked such as salads. Adding fresh thyme and/or basil to your next vinaigrette will not only enhance the flavor of your fresh greens, but will help ensure that the fresh produce you consume is safe to eat.(March 25, 2004)

A Nutrient-Dense Spice

The range of other health-supportive nutrients found in thyme is also impressive. This food emerged from our food ranking system as an excellent source of iron and manganese, a very good source of calcium and a food source of dietary fiber.

Description

A delicate looking herb with a penetrating fragrance, thyme is an herb we should all take time to investigate and enjoy. And with about sixty different varieties including French (common) thyme, lemon thyme, orange thyme and silver thyme, this herb is sure to add some spice to your life.

Thyme leaves are curled, elliptically shaped and very small, measuring about one-eighth of an inch long and one-sixteenth of an inch wide. The upper leaf is green-grey in color on top, while the underside is a whitish color.

French thyme is known scientifically as Thymus vulgaris.

History

Thyme has been used since ancient times for its culinary, aromatic and medicinal properties. The ancient Egyptians used it as an embalming agent to preserve their deceased pharaohs.

In ancient Greece, thyme was widely used for its aromatic qualities, being burned as incense in sacred temples. Thyme was also a symbol of courage and admiration with the phrase “the smell of thyme” being a saying that reflected praise unto its subject. Thyme’s association with bravery continued throughout medieval times when it was a ritual for women to give their knights a scarf that had a sprig of thyme placed over an embroidered bee. Since the 16th century, thyme oil has been used for its antiseptic properties, both as mouthwash and a topical application.

Thyme is native to areas such as Asia, southern Europe and the Mediterranean region and is also cultivated in North America.

How to Select and Store

Whenever possible, choose fresh thyme over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor. The leaves of fresh thyme should look fresh and be a vibrant green-gray in color. They should be free from dark spots or yellowing.

Even through dried herbs and spices like thyme are widely available in supermarkets, you may want to explore the local spice stores in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness compared to those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried spices, when purchasing dried thyme, try to select that which is organically grown since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.

Fresh thyme should be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. Dried thyme should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place where it will keep fresh for about six months.

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

Tips for Preparing Thyme

Thyme, either in its fresh or dried form, should be added toward the end of the cooking process since heat can easily cause a loss of its delicate flavor.

How to Enjoy

A Few Quick Serving Ideas
  • Add thyme to your favorite pasta sauce recipe.
  • Fresh thyme adds a wonderful fragrance to omelets and scrambled eggs.
  • Hearty beans such as kidney beans, pinto beans and black beans taste exceptionally good when seasoned with thyme.
  • When poaching fish, place some sprigs of thyme on top of the fish and in the poaching liquid.
  • Season soups and stocks by adding fresh thyme.

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Individual Concerns

Thyme is not a commonly allergenic food and is not known to contain measurable amounts of oxalates or purines.

Nutritional Profile

Thyme is an excellent source of iron, manganese, and vitamin K. It is also a very good source of calcium and a good source of dietary fiber.

For an in-depth nutritional profile click here: Thyme.

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Thyme is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn’t contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food’s in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients – not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good – please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you’ll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food’s nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling.” Read more background information and details of our rating system.

Thyme
2.00 tsp
2.80 grams
7.73 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating
vitamin K 48.01 mcg 60.0 139.7 excellent
iron 3.46 mg 19.2 44.8 excellent
manganese 0.22 mg 11.0 25.6 excellent
calcium 52.92 mg 5.3 12.3 very good
fiber 1.04 g 4.2 9.7 good
tryptophan 0.01 g 3.1 7.3 good
World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%
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