A bundle of thyme
Food energy
(per 100 g serving)
101 kcal (423 kJ)
Nutritional value
(per 100 g serving)
Fat1.7 g
Carbohydrate24 g

Thyme (/tm/) is a culinary herb consisting of the dried aerial parts of some members of the genus Thymus of flowering plants in the mint family Lamiaceae. Thymes are native to Eurasia and north Africa. Thymes have culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. The species most commonly cultivated and used for culinary purposes is Thymus vulgaris, native to SE Europe.


Flowering thyme

Thyme[clarification needed] is indigenous to the Mediterranean region.[1] Wild thyme[clarification needed] grows in the Levant, where it might have been first cultivated. Ancient Egyptians used thyme[clarification needed] for embalming.[2] The ancient Greeks used it in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples, believing it was a source of courage. The spread of thyme throughout Europe was thought to be due to the Romans, as they used it to purify their rooms and to "give an aromatic flavour to cheese and liqueurs".[3] In the European Middle Ages, the herb was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares.[4] In this period, women also often gave knights and warriors gifts that included thyme leaves, as it was believed to bring courage to the bearer. Thyme was also used as incense and placed on coffins during funerals, as it was supposed to assure passage into the next life.[5]

The name of the genus of fish Thymallus, first given to the grayling (T. thymallus, described in the 1758 edition of Systema Naturae by Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus), originates from the faint smell of thyme that emanates from the flesh.[6]


Thyme[clarification needed] is best cultivated in a hot, sunny location with well-drained soil. It is generally planted in the spring, and thereafter grows as a perennial. It can be propagated by seed, cuttings, or dividing rooted sections of the plant. It tolerates drought well.[7] The plant can take deep freezes and is found growing wild on mountain highlands.[clarification needed] It grows well on dry slopes. It can be pruned after flowering to keep from getting woody.[8]

Aroma components

Thymol is the principal aromatic component of thyme.

Gas chromatographic analysis reveals that the most abundant volatile component of thyme leaves is thymol 8.55 mg/g. Other components are carvacrol, linalool, α-terpineol, and 1,8-cineole. Several are also found in basil. Some exhibit antioxidant properties.[9]

Culinary use

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Seombaengnihyang-cha (Ulleungdo thyme tea)

In some Levantine countries, the condiment za'atar (Arabic for both thyme and marjoram) contains many of the essential oils found in thyme.[10] Thyme is a common component of the bouquet garni, and of herbes de Provence.[11]

Thyme is sold both fresh and dried. While summer-seasonal, fresh greenhouse thyme is often available year-round. The fresh form is more flavourful but also less convenient; storage life is rarely more than a week. However, the fresh form can last many months if carefully frozen.[12]

Fresh thyme is commonly sold in bunches of sprigs. A sprig is a single stem snipped from the plant.[13] It is composed of a woody stem with paired leaf or flower clusters ("leaves") spaced 15 to 25 millimetres (12 to 1 inch) apart. A recipe may measure thyme by the bunch (or fraction thereof), or by the sprig, or by the tablespoon or teaspoon. Dried thyme is widely used in Armenia in tisanes (called urc).

Depending on how it is used in a dish, the whole sprig may be used (e.g., in a bouquet garni), or the leaves removed and the stems discarded. Usually, when a recipe mentions a bunch or sprig, it means the whole form; when it mentions spoons, it means the leaves. It is perfectly acceptable to substitute dried for whole thyme.

Leaves may be removed from stems either by scraping with the back of a knife, or by pulling through the fingers or tines of a fork.

Thyme retains its flavour on drying better than many other herbs.[14]

In Moroccan tradition, dried figs[15] are elevated with the infusion of minty leaves. After softening in a couscous pot, the figs are rested with additional minty leaves before being sprinkled with thyme for a delightful flavor enhancement and preservation in sealed containers.

Antimicrobial properties

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) essential oil

Oil of thyme, the essential oil of common thyme (Thymus vulgaris), contains 20–54% thymol.[16] Thyme essential oil also contains a range of additional compounds, such as p-cymene, myrcene, borneol, and linalool.[17] Thymol, an antiseptic, is an active ingredient in various commercially produced mouthwashes, such as Listerine.[18] Before the advent of modern antibiotics, oil of thyme was used to medicate bandages.[3]

Important species and cultivars

For a longer list of species, see Thymus (plant).

Variegated lemon thyme


  1. ^ Stahl-Biskup, E; Venskutonis, RP (2012). "27 - Thyme". In Peter, K V (ed.). Handbook of Herbs and Spices. Woodhead Publishing Series in Food Science, Technology and Nutrition. Vol. 1. of 2 volumes (2nd ed.). University of Hamburg, Germany & Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania: Woodhead Publishing. pp. 499–525. doi:10.1533/9780857095671.499. ISBN 9780857090393. Retrieved 17 June 2021 – via Microsoft Bing, Science Direct.
  2. ^ "A Brief History of Thyme - Hungry History". Archived from the original on 2016-06-13. Retrieved 2016-06-09.
  3. ^ a b Grieve, Mrs. Maud. "Thyme. A Modern Herbal". (Hypertext version of the 1931 ed.). Archived from the original on February 23, 2011. Retrieved February 9, 2008.
  4. ^ Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan.
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  6. ^ Ingram, A.; Ibbotson, A.; Gallagher, M. "The Ecology and Management of the European Grayling Thymallus thymallus (Linnaeus)" (PDF). East Stoke, Wareham, U.K.: Institute of Freshwater Ecology. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-28. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
  7. ^ "Herb File. Global Garden". Archived from the original on 2007-10-12.
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  10. ^ "Explaining Zaatar!". Dima Al Sharif. 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  11. ^ Walker, Paul (2 September 2021). "What Is a Bouquet Garni? Easy Homemade Bouquet Garni Recipe, Plus Tips for Cooking With Bouquet Garni - 2022 - MasterClass". Masterclass. Retrieved 23 March 2022.
  12. ^ "Food Storage - How Long Can You Keep Thyme". Archived from the original on 2015-08-09. Retrieved 2015-08-18.
  13. ^ "Thyme". Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  14. ^ "7 Herbs That Taste Good When Dried". The Spruce. Retrieved 2022-03-23.
  15. ^ Noramine, Khalil (September 16, 2023). Medicinal and Edible Plants of Morocco. Independently published. pp. 31–32. ISBN 979-8860829343.((cite book)): CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  16. ^ Thymus Vulgaris. PDR for Herbal Medicine. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company. p. 1184.
  17. ^ Borugă, O.; Jianu, C.; Mişcă, C.; Goleţ, I.; Gruia, A.; Horhat, F. (2014). "Thymus vulgaris essential oil: chemical composition and antimicrobial activity". Journal of Medicine and Life. 7 (Spec. Iss. 3): 56–60. PMC 4391421. PMID 25870697.
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  19. ^ Corticchiato, Marc; Tomi, Félix; François Bernardini, Antoine; Casanova, Joseph (1998-12-01). "Composition and infraspecific variability of essential oil from Thymus herba barona Lois". Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. 26 (8): 915–932. Bibcode:1998BioSE..26..915C. doi:10.1016/S0305-1978(98)00041-6. ISSN 0305-1978.
  20. ^ "Thymus herba-barona - Plant Finder". Retrieved 2024-03-02.
  21. ^ "Caterpillar food" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-09-29. Retrieved 2015-09-28.
  22. ^ "French Thyme, Thymus vulgaris". Sand Mountain Herbs. Archived from the original on 2014-05-27. Retrieved 2014-05-27.
  23. ^ "English thyme". Sara's Superb Herbs. Archived from the original on 2012-02-09.

Further reading