Thyme is an aromatic herb; its leaves and flower stalks contain flavonoids. An essential oil is also extracted from the dried leaves and flower stalks for use in creams and ointments. Dried thyme is used to prepare infusions and powders for capsules and in pharmaceutical products.
Thyme is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). A low-lying evergreen perennial shrub, common thyme grows wild on arid hillsides across the Mediterranean. The rugged plant was a symbol of courage to the ancient Greeks and in medieval Europe. Tiny, greyish green leaves, their edges curling inwards, coat the numerous wiry branches. From May to August, spikes of small, white or pink flowers appear.
In Ancient Egypt, thyme was used for embalming. The Ancient Greeks used it as incense in temples, and they added it to bathwater. The spread of thyme throughout Europe was thought to be due to the Romans as they used it to purify their rooms. The Romans also used thyme as a flavouring for cheese and alcoholic beverages and are believed to have introduced it to the British Isles.