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Thyme: More Than Just a Spice - A Natural Antioxidant with Many Varieties

When it comes to herbs, there are plenty of use cases and distinct advantages observed throughout history. With the advent of the medical field, herbs were widely used for the development of cures and treatments. 

From a culinary standpoint, great flavours and added benefits were discovered along the way. Thyme stands out among the many choices to this day and offers a host of incredible healing effects.

Let’s go over a few interesting facts about Thyme, including the benefits and popular variations for cooking.

What is Thyme?

Thyme is a traditional herb, also known as fennel or honeysuckle. It is a fragrant shrub that when it blooms in summer, has pink-purple flowers which have a unique smell that attracts bees. 

While the entire plant is plucked for cooking, usually only the leaves are used for seasoning because the stem has bitter compounds that make it unsuitable for food. Sometimes, the full sprig is added to enhance the flavour of soups and stews but is removed before serving.

Thyme has a Rich Culinary History

Thyme has a rich history, with ancient Egyptians using it to preserve their pharaohs’ bodies, while Greeks used it as incense in their temples. To this day, it’s a widely used spice in various cuisines, particularly in Mediterranean cooking, being a key ingredient in sauces like pesto, pairing well with meat, poultry, and fish. 

Health benefits are plentiful

Thyme’s antibacterial and antifungal characteristics are beneficial for health, especially if one suffers from respiratory issues. In essence,  the herb contains a number of phytochemicals with strong antioxidant properties and is used to treat digestive problems, sore throats, or appetite suppression. It can be applied topically as an antiseptic mouthwash for tonsillitis and cough or served as an insect repellant when in oil form.

Studies have shown that thyme can also lower blood pressure, strengthen immunity, enhance mood, heal acne, and even fight against certain cancers!

There are Over 400 Variations!

With over 400 species native to Asia, southern Europe, and the Mediterranean region, thyme stands out for both its appearance—small, elliptical leaves are grey-green on top and silvery white below—and its peculiar flavour, which goes well with a range of foods. One of the most popular herbs for cooking is French thyme, but there are many more options to choose from. Here are just a few!

Studies have shown that thyme can also lower blood pressure, strengthen immunity, enhance mood, heal acne, and even fight against certain cancers!

Popular Variations of Thyme

Lemon Thyme

This thyme has a lemony, citrus scent and is perfect for fish dishes, poultry, creamy sauces, and some desserts. It can be used to enhance the natural flavour profiles of fish and meat dishes in particular. It can also be used in stuffing, stews, soups, salads, marinades, and sauces.

Studies have shown that thyme can also lower blood pressure, strengthen immunity, enhance mood, heal acne, and even fight against certain cancers!

French Thyme

French thyme is milder and sweeter in flavour than common thyme, making it a popular choice for chefs. It’s commonly used in culinary dishes and is highly fragrant.

Golden Lemon Thyme

Similar to lemon thyme, this variety has golden foliage and is suitable for cooking. It also makes an attractive ornamental.

German Thyme

German thyme is frost-friendly and cold-hardy, with a robust flavour. It’s commonly used in culinary dishes and is one of the more widely used varieties, along with English and French thyme

English Thyme

English thyme is just as popular as French thyme and they are very similar in attributes with only a few subtle differences. French thyme has a softer, grey-green foliage and a browner stem than English thyme, which has a reddish stem with mid-green leaves. You’ll also find French thyme is slightly sweeter. 

Considering the vast health benefits and variations of thyme, it’s no wonder that this specific herb is so popular for culinary dishes all around the world. Be sure to add some thyme to your cooking adventures as well!


Source: Julia Lawless, The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils (Updated Edition) (London: Harper Thorsons, 2014), 191-192.

Bulzoni, S. (2013, October 24). Cooking With Spices: Thyme – Dr. Weil’s Healthy Kitchen.

Thyme: A powerful herb for health. (2022, March 18). Vita4you Blog.

Thyme Health Benefits: Fun Facts, Uses and Preparation of Thyme – NOURISH Cooking Co. (2022, May 17). NOURISH Cooking Co.

Thyme: 12 Health Benefits and More. (n.d.). Thyme: 12 Health Benefits and More.

Mathews, B. (2022, October 17). French Thyme vs. English Thyme: What Are The Differences? AZ Animals.

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