Wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum L.)
Family: Lamiaceae


Wild thyme is a short, usually prostrate subshrub growing to 2 cm (1 in) tall with creeping stems up to 10 cm (4 in) long. The oval evergreen leaves are 3–8 mm long, opposite, almost stalkless. The strongly scented flowers are either lilac, pink-purple, magenta, or a rare white, all 4–6 mm long and produced in clusters. Flowering time: July–August.

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History. It is known as “mother thyme” because of its traditional use for women’s health.

Wild thyme received its botanical name from the plant’s serpent-like appearance. Pliny recommended it as an antidote for snakebites and other poisonous creatures and for headaches. The Romans burned the plant in a belief that the fumes would repel scorpions.

Scottish highlanders drank tea made from wild thyme for strength and courage and to prevent nightmares.

Based on Aztec lore, a plant identified as thyme was included in an elaborate remedy for nursing mothers to improve the supply of milk.

In the late 19th century, thyme was used as a disinfectant and to speed-up the recovery of patients.

Geographical Distribution. Wild thyme is native to Europe, western Asia and northern Africa. It is naturalized in North America. 

Habitat. It is a plant of thin soils and can be found growing on sandy-soiled heaths, rocky outcrops, hills, banks, roadsides and riverside sand banks.

Chemical composition. Wild thyme contains up to 0.1-0.6% essential oil of which the main components are thymol - up to 30%, and carvacrol. Also it contains tannins, bitters, minerals, resins, organic pigments, triterpenoids: ursolic and oleanolic acid. In small quantities it contains terpenes.

•    Antiseptic [an agent for destroying or inhibiting pathogenic or putrefactive bacteria]
•    Antispasmodic [an agent that relieves or checks spasms or cramps]
•    Aromatic [a substance having an agreeable odor and stimulating qualities]
•    Carminative [an agent for expelling gas from the intestines]
•    Diuretic [an agent that increases the excretion and expulsion of urine]
•    Emmenagogue [an agent that promotes menstrual flow]
•    Stimulant [an agent that excites or quickens the activity of physiological processes]
•    Tonic [an agent that strengthens or invigorates organs or the entire organism]

Medicinal uses. Like most of the other medicinal herbs, wild thyme has numerous benefits and is useful in healing a number of problems. Wild thyme extracts may be taken as both  syrups and infusions. Normally wild thyme syrup or infusions are used to heal sore throats and coughs, flus and colds, whooping cough,  bronchitis, and chest infections. As wild thyme contains decongestant properties, it is very useful in shrinking swollen nasal tissues, sinusitis, and clogging of the ear as well as all other associated problems. Many herbal practitioners use wild thyme to throw out roundworms and threadworms from the children's body and in infants it is also used to heal gas and colic. Wild thyme is antispasmodic and helps in relieving pains occurring from cramps and spasms. A paste prepared from wild thyme may be applied externally as a poultice or soft, moist mass on the skin to provide heat and moisture. This is largely beneficial in healing mastitis, a swelling of the breast, while an infusion prepared from the wild thyme is applied as a wash to treat wounds, cuts, and ulcers. It may be noted here that wild thyme also finds extensive use in pillows and herbal baths.

Folk healers, or herbal medicinal practitioners who pass on their knowledge to their assistants often recommended wild thyme as tranquilizers, antiseptics against bacteria, diuretics to increase urine flow, expectorants to increase bronchial secretions and also carminatives to prevent formation of intestinal gas as well as relieve the body of it. Pharmacologists have already authenticated the use of wild thyme as antiseptics, expectorants, antispasmodic and carminative. In medical science, wild thyme also known as serpolet has the same qualities as the common thyme, but is of lower grade than the common variety of the herb. In brief, wild thyme is useful as an aromatic, antiseptic, and refreshment tonic, antispasmodic, diuretic as well as emmenagogue that promotes and regulates menstruation.

Wild thyme is also useful to cure chest ailments and for those suffering from weak digestion. In both cases, herbal practitioners recommend use of an infusion prepared from the wild thyme. In addition, the wild thyme infusion is also a useful medicine to cure flatulence or excessive gas formation in stomach or intestine. When administered to people suffering from convulsive coughs, wild thyme extracts are known to have shown excellent results. Normally, an infusion made by adding one ounce of dried out wild thyme in one pint of boiling water is beneficial to heal the above mentioned disorders. The infusion is normally sweetened by mixing sugar or honey and smoothened or made demulcent by adding acacia or linseed to it. The dosage is simple. For effective action, it is taken one or more tablespoonfuls several times in a day.

The concoction prepared with wild thyme is also extremely beneficial for treating cases of drunkenness or alcoholism and, according to herbalist Culpepper, the herb is also an effective medicine in healing complaints of nightmares. He has said that when a preparation of wild thyme vinegar made on the lines of rose vinegar and applied on the head, it immediately relieves people of all pains. The infusion of the herb is also recommended for healing both state of violent mental agitation as well as lethargy or stupor. Similarly, tea prepared with wild thyme is also a useful medication for headache and any kind of nervous problems. The wild thyme tea may be taken directly or mixed with other herb extracts like rosemary and others.