- Creeping Thyme
- Wild Thyme
The wild thyme is native to the larger parts of Europe where the land is dry. The wild thyme is rare compared to the common thymes and is hence farmed extensively. Normally, wild thyme is found growing up to a certain altitude on the Alps, on high plateaus, in valleys, alongside trenches, roads, on rocks and also in infertile and dry soil. Wild thyme may also be found growing in moisture-laden clay soil that is improvised of chalk. Wild thymes can also be found in old rocky, deserted grounds, dried-up grass turfs and also on open lands. Particularly in England, wild thymes grow normally on moorlands and rocky terrains. Wild thyme is frequently cultivated as garden borders, in rock gardens or on the sunlit banks of rivulets and streams.
Wild thyme is an perennial herb. The herb’s sulky wooded stems grow up to a height of one foot and the leaves of the plant are converse, slender and oblong or oval shaped. The leaves of wild thyme are rarely longer than 12 inches and give off a lemon-like scent. Similar to its other thyme family members, wild thyme is full of thymol which is used by most druggists as a powerful antiseptic. It is an active element in all disinfectants, mouthwashes and even gargles. As pharmacists are well aware of wild thyme’s lemony odor, it is also used in toiletry items. In fact, it were the ancient men of Athens who first discovered the lemon scent of wild thymes and massaged a lotion prepared from the herb on their chests after bathing to make them appear graceful. Wherever, the wild thyme grows, it indicates a serene ambiance and in ancient days it was believed that the herb helped to cheer up the mental spirits by disseminating a wonderful lemon-like scent in the air. In fact, the Romans used the wild thyme as an independent medication to heal depressions.
Although wild thymes have less distinct in taste than the cultivated variety, it can always be used as a replacement of its aromatic features in stews, soups, stuffing as well as poultry and mutton preparations. It is said that the meat of sheep that grazes on wild thymes are of exceptional taste.
Wild thyme grows perennially as is thicker than the garden variety of the herb. The herb has a number of varieties depending on the neighborhood where it grows. When it grows in natural conditions like dry and exposed downhill, wild thyme is normally small and found to be lying on the ground. In such conditions, wild thyme is frequently found to be forming cushions. But when it grows along with furze, a prickly plant with yellow flowers that grows on the forests, or other plants that provide it with some kind of refuge, the herb grows up to a foot length giving it a completely unusual look. Wild thyme derives its specific name ‘serpyllum’ from the Greek term that means a creeper. The herb has obtained this name owing to its nature of lying prostate on the ground and as a trailer.
The wild thyme has woody and fibrous roots, while the plant bears many stems that are firm, divided and lying prostate on the ground. The stems of the wild thymes are normally colored reddish-brown. The herb has bright green leaves that get thinner at the bottom into very short foot-stalks that are soft and include many small glands. The leaves of the plant are bordered with hairs at the base and contain major veins on the lower surface. Unlike in the garden thymes, the edges of the leaves of wild thymes are not re-curved, but like all other plans in the Labiatae classification (all thymes belong to this category), wild thymes bear leaves in pairs on the stems. Normally, the plant bears flowers from the end of May to early June and continues till the onset of autumn. Like in the case of garden thymes, the flowers of wild thyme are purple in color and blossom in a circular arrangement of three or more flowers at one node of the stems.
Interestingly wild thymes have numerous attractions and features. While the bees are especially love the thyme flowers for the nectar they can extract from them, in some parts of the world it was traditional for young girls to wear garlands made of thyme leaves, lavender and mint with the aim of attracting their beloved ones. Particularly in Wales, the wild thyme is also related to death. While the thyme flowers were placed on the graves in Wales, till date the Order of Old fellows still carry garlands made of wild thyme to the funerals of their beloved ones and throw them on the graves. Most significantly, there is an ancient adage that says that wild thyme comprised one of the herbs that formed the perfumed bed of the Virgin Mary!
Like most of the other medicinal herbs, wild thyme too has numerous benefits and is useful in healing a number of problems. Wild thyme extracts may be taken in both as syrups and infusion. Normally wild thyme syrup or infusions are used to heal sore throats, flu and colds, whooping cough, coughs, 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.
Habitat and cultivation
Reasonably acidic to neutral soil is best for the wild thyme to grow. In addition, less fertile soil and bright sunlight helps the herb to flourish better. It can also grow on organic soils provided there is a superb drainage system. Though it grows best under full sun, wild thyme can also be cultivated in partial shade and the herb is capable of thriving even in drought conditions. While wild thyme plants grow well in temperate and arid places, development of the herb is sluggish to reasonable in superior conditions. Although snails and slugs (gastropod mollusks without shells) often cause harm to wild thyme plants, they are normally free from other kinds of pest problems. As far as diseases to the plant are concerned, the leaves of wild thyme face disfigurement or stains (leaf blight) appear on them during cold and rainy seasons, particularly during the winters.
Large quantities of wild thyme are required to derive substantial amounts of the herb’s extracts. When 100 kilograms (about 225 pounds) of dehydrated wild thyme is distilled it only produces about 150 (five or six ounces) grams of the herb concentrate. The concentrate is a yellow liquid, also known as serpolet oil that has a less intensive aroma than the oil of thyme derived from T.vulgaris. The distilled concentrate from dried wild thyme has 30 to 70 per cent of phenols, including thymol, carvacrol and others. Blended with the oil extracted from common thyme, wild thyme concentrate is transformed into artificial oil. In the perfumery industry, the oil of serpolet is mainly used in the manufacture of aromatic as well as antiseptic soaps.