Cat Thyme

Teucrium marum

Herbs gallery - Cat Thyme

Common names

  • Cat Thyme
  • Marum

Notwithstanding its name being cat thyme (botanical name Teucrium marum), this herb is not a thyme and is closely associated with germander. However, the small, oval-shaped leaves of this herb make its appearance akin to that of thyme. The plant has a musty or mouldy smell which is somewhat dissimilar to that of the subtle scent of thyme.

Cat thyme is a mounding, tender perennially growing plant. The herb bears greyish-green, oval-shaped leaves that are wider at the base. The lower surface of cat thyme is downy having uncut borders. The herb bears leaves throughout the year. The pink hued blooms of cat thyme appear atop the flowers during the summer. The flowers appear in one-sided spikes between July and September. The corollas have a crimson hue.

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When the fresh leaves and the tender branches of cat thyme are rubbed, they exude a volatile, pungent, heady and scented smell, which triggers sneezing. The leaves and fresh branches of the herb, however, have a rather bitter flavour, which comes with a heat sensation.

Indigenous to the Western Mediterranean, especially Spain, cat thyme thrives throughout the winter, especially when grown in an open area and in arid soil, provided there is no severe frosting and the conditions are suitable. However, when the winters are harsh, the plants often get killed if they are not protected by any covering like mats.

Although it is called cat thyme, some cats do not have a preference for it compared to catnip. Usually, cats are delighted when they find catnip and will twist themselves into it.

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The herbs blossom very passionately and when the flowering season is over, they usually require some trimming. Similar to several members belonging to the Teucrium genus, cat thyme is an excellent plant for hedging or growing as an edge along a border's frontage.

Parts used

Leaves, root-bark, whole herb.

Uses

It is believed that cat thyme possesses extremely active properties and the herb has been recommended for treating many health disorders that require a medication possessing tonic, aromatic as well as de-obstruent (a medication that clears obstructions) attributes. Compared to the thymes, cat thyme is more closely associated with wood sage and germanders.

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This herb is believed to be excellent for treating nearly all problems related to the nervous system. People suffering from such conditions take the powdered cat thyme leaves blended in wine. When the powdered cat thyme leaves are taken individually or along with compatible ingredients in the form of a snuff as an amalgamated powder called Assarabacca, it works excellently for treating problems related to the head. However, currently, this compound powder containing cat thyme is being replaced by lavender flowers.

Traditionally, cat's thyme has been employed in the form of a snuff to facilitate treating disorders related to the head, such as runny nose, neuralgia, nervous insomnia, problems in swallowing and sore throat.

The bark of cat thyme's root is said to possess significant astringent properties and it has traditionally been employed to control hemorrhages. The whole cat thyme plant is used to prepare a homeopathic tincture, which is believed to be effective in treating tiny thread-worms, especially in children.

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The entire cat thyme plant is aromatic and possesses diuretic, stimulant, deobstruent, tonic, nervine and stomachic properties. Herbalists consider this herb to have potent active powers and have recommended its use for treating several health disorders. It is especially effective for curing problems related to the nervous system. Therapeutic preparations using cat thyme are widely employed to treat stomach and gallbladder problems.

Owing to its astringent and antiseptic properties, cat thyme is used in an infusion form for treating sores, external cuts and skin problems. The leaves of the herb are dried out, powdered and used in the form of a snuff for clearing the head. In addition, the leaves of cat thyme are also used to stuff cat toys.

Nevertheless, it is believed that some cats do not like the smell of cat thyme. In fact, some of them loathe it. Rubbing or crushing fresh cat thyme leaves emits a potent scent that can trigger sneezing. This may be one reason why many cats stay away from this plant.

Habitat and cultivation

Cat thyme is a therapeutic herb, which is found growing naturally in rocky areas in the Balearic Islands, Iberian Peninsula. Over the years, this plant has spread and naturalized in various places across the globe. This is a somewhat small species that grows up to a height of anything between 20 cm and 25 cm. The plants have numerous erect, whitish branches. The leaves of Teucrium Marum are petite and oval.

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Preferably, this herb should always be cultivated in a soil having good drainage system. Cat thyme is a perfect plant for growing along the border, while its attractive color contrast makes it an excellent plant for growing in rock gardens, where its small grey-blue foliage appears striking.

Cat thyme thrives in almost all reasonably fertile soils. This plant has a preference for an arid soil and a sunny position. It especially grows well in arid places in a rockery.

In Britain, the plants are not very resilient and may die during harsh winters, particularly if the weather conditions are humid. The crushed leaves of cat thyme exude a strong pungent scent. As cats are generally drawn to this plant and may even rip it into pieces, it is commonly known as cat thyme, though it does not have much similarity with the thymes.

Cat thyme is generally propagated by its seeds that are sown in a cold frame in spring only covering the seeds with soil. When the seedlings have grown large enough to be handled, prick them out individually and plant them in separate pots. You may plant the young plants outdoors during summer, provided they have grown sufficiently large. If the plants are still small, continue growing them in the cold frame throughout the winter and plant them outdoors in the subsequent spring.

Cat thyme may also be propagated by root division. Undertake the division in early spring. You can directly plant the larger divisions into their permanent places outdoors. In fact, the smaller divisions should ideally be potted into small containers and grown in a cold frame, greenhouse, or partial shade till they start growing well. You may plant them into their permanent positions outdoors during summer or in the next spring. This species can also be propagated from wood cuttings. Cut semi-mature wood of the plant in July or August and sow them in a frame. Plant them outdoors when they have grown sufficiently in height.

Research

Double-blind studies undertaken in 1999 have shown that cat thyme possess the aptitude to control snoring. While there are several causes for snoring and these need to be studied, clinically, the most widespread cause of this condition is an inflamed nasal passage, which is cured following the use of cat thyme.

Usual dosage

Cat thyme is generally taken in the form of an infusion or used as a tincture.

Infusion: To prepare an infusion, add about 30 grams of the herb branches along with flowers to a quart of boiling water. Filter the solution and drink one cup of steaming infusion following every meal. Cat thyme infusion works as a digestive as well as tonic.

Tincture: Usually, cat thyme is sold in the form of a tincture and initially it is generally taken orally once or twice every day. Subsequently, it is only taken once daily in the form of a maintenance dosage, when the results are obvious. You can take this herbal formulation for a prolonged period, as there are no reported side effects of using cat thyme tincture. You can give the herb even to a two-year-old child. The standard dosage is one drop of the cat thyme tincture per stone of body weight.

Side effects and cautions

Use of cat thyme is generally safe for most people as it does not cause any adverse effects. You can take this herb for a prolonged period without having to worry about any health hazards. Nevertheless, pregnant women and nursing mothers should keep away from this herb, unless a qualified herbalist has recommended them to use it. In fact, cat thyme does not have any identified side effects, contra-indications or drug interactions.

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