According to Tschirch, the name Thymus derives from the ancient Egyptian tham or thm, which in Egypt designated a species of thyme used, among other things, to wash corpses and for fumigation. This became the Greek thumos and Latinthymus. Vulgaris is Latin for ’common‘.The English word developed from the Teutonic timiâm. The English name developed from the Teutonic timiâm. The names often correspond with those of the closely related wild thyme.
Thyme is referred to as a medication as early as Galen, Aetius, Dioscorides, and Pliny. It is assumed that Benedictine monks brought thyme across the Alps around 1100 AD. There are no references to it in earlier lists of medicinal plants. It was definitely known to Albertus Magnus, St. Hildegard of Bingen and Trotula, who praised it as a medicine especially useful against whooping cough.
With its branching and often woody twigs, thyme forms a dwarf bush 20cm to 40cm high. The small, narrow to elliptical leaves are furry on the underside, often curled up at the edges, (involute) and sit in pairs on short stems bearing small leaflets.
In the upper leaf axles, the small, pink labia form luxuriant whorls. The entire plant smells pleasantly aromatic. The seeds are small round nuts, often carried away by ants and sometimes planted on ant hills, maybe to protect against disease-carrying pathogens.
Thyme flowers from May to July.
Thyme is native to the Mediterranean and Balkan countries and in the Caucasus. Today it is cultivated in many subtropical regions. It is not winter hardy north of the Alps. The varieties adapted to bleaker climates include winter thyme, mountain thyme, and wild thyme. White-flowering Spanish thyme (Thymus zygis), which thrives primarily on the Iberian peninsula, is also medicinally recognized.
A.Vogel uses fresh, flowering, above-ground parts of organically cultivated thyme to produce an alcoholic extract. Harvest is from June to September.
Thyme is very popular as a tea and as a seasoning. The essential oil is also used medicinally.