In Western and Middle Eastern cuisine, thyme finds its way into the greater proportion of traditional dishes. This is because thyme's distinct savory pungency brings an agreeable depth of flavor to soups, stews and casseroles an almost any dish containing meat. Thyme is traditional in bouquet garni (along with Marjoram, Parsley and Bay Leaf.)
One legend has it that thyme was included among the hay used to make a bed for the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child.
The name thyme derives from the Greek thymon meaning 'to fumigate', although various interpretations have been made from similar words that mean courage and sacrifice, other attributes that thyme was traditionally associated with.
Among the Greeks, the phrase 'to smell of thyme' was a sincere complement inferring gracefulness.
Thymus was Greek for "courage" as might he considered appropriate for an herb that is invigorating to the senses. But the name may also derive from the Greek term "to fumigate" and again this would he fitting, as the herb was burned to chase stinging insects from the house. A bed of thyme was thought to he a home to fairies, and gardeners once set aside a patch of the herb for them, much as we provide birdhouses.
To prevent thyme from being burned in the summer sun, dissolve one tablespoon 20 Mule Team Borax in one gallon water and use this solution to water the thyme once in the spring.
Thyme as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
The medicinal parts are the oil extracted from the fresh, flowering herb: the dried leaves; the striped and dried leaves; and the fresh aerial part of the flowering plant. The odor is aromatic and the taste tangy, somewhat bitter and camphor-like.
The plant's medicinal reputation grew over the centuries. Thyme pillows were thought to relieve both epilepsy and melancholy. From the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries, thyme was used to combat the plagues that swept over Europe, and as recently as World War I, the essential oil served as a battlefield antiseptic.
Thyme sailed to the New World with the first European settlers, and today it grows wild in a few areas of North America.
Thyme is a powerful antiseptic. It is used in cases of anemia, bronchial ailments, and intestinal problems. It is used as an antiseptic against tooth decay, and destroys fungal infections as in athlete's foot and skin parasites such as crabs and lice. It is good for colic, flatulence, sore throats, and colds. The vapor is used to treat respiratory infection.
Thyme is approved by Commission E for cough and bronchitis.
Folk medicine: The herb is used internally for catarrh of the upper respiratory tract, dyspeptic complaints, asthma, laryngitis, chronic gastritis and whooping cough. Externally, it is used as a mouthwash and gargle for inflammations of the mouth and throat, pruritus, and dermatoses. It is also used externally for tonsillitis and poorly healing wounds.
Infusion: 1 ounce herb to 1 quart water just off the boil and infused for 5 to 10 minutes (3 to 4 cups taken daily)
Ease a cough with thyme. Just soak the herb in hot water for a few minutes, remove thyme, and sip.
To prepare a tea: Use 1.5 to 2 gm drug with boiling water, steep for 10 minutes, then strain. (1 teaspoonful is equivalent to 1.4 gm drug.) The tea can be taken several times a day as needed.
Another Thyme Tea: One sprig for a large cup. You can take 3 to 4 cups a day between meals or on an empty stomach sweetened with a little honey. This concoction soothes stubborn intestinal infections, colds, the flu and engina as well. The raw leaves used exteriorly is an effective disinfectant. Rub some leaves on venomous spider or snake bites, and clean the area with the infused concoction. Toss a large number of sprigs in bath water to treat skin infections or irritations. Aromatic thyme baths are effective for alleviating rheumatism, arthritis and is a stimulant for convalescents or lethargic children. For added rheumatism relief spread a cataplasm (plaster) of chopped and heated thyme leaves directly on the painful area.
For a bath, add a minimum of 0.004 gm thyme oil to 1 liter of water, filter, then add to bath water. Baths should be taken for 10 to 20 minutes.
Old Remedy for Mouth Sores
For recurring mouth and throat sores (cankers) make a "toothpaste" of disinfecting thyme by marinating the whole sprigs (100 gr) for a few days in 1/2 liter (just over 1/2 quart) of Eau de Vie (Alcohol). Dip toothbrush in the solution and brush the whole mouth frequently.
Culinary Uses of Thyme
Thyme tastes delicately green with a faint clove aftertaste, It ranks as one of the fines herbes of French cuisine. Leaves and sprigs are used in salads as garnishes and most famously in clam chowder, bouquets garnis, and French, Creole, and Cajun cuisines.
Thyme works well with veal, lamb, beef, poultry, fish, poultry stuffing, pates, sausages, stews, soups, stocks, bread, herbed butters, herbed mayonnaise, flavored vinegars, mustard, and bean and lentil casseroles. Use it with tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, carrots, eggplant, parsnips, leeks, mushrooms, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, sweet peppers, potatoes, spinach, corn, peas, cheese, eggs, and rice. its flavor blends well with those of lemon, garlic, and basil.
For a different taste, try flavored varieties such as lemon thyme. Different varieties of thyme smell like coconut, caraway, lemon and nutmeg.
The herb was thought to have a psychological effect on people. A soup of beer and thyme was an antidote to shyness; a range of nervous disorders, including nightmares, was said to respond to thyme tea.
Thyme was burned as incense or worn to attract good health. A sprig placed beneath your pillow was said to ensure dream-free sleep.
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