Common Herbs-Uncommon Uses a mutual-aid series created by Lynn Quire, (member owner, volunteer, herbal tea maker, herbalism student, gardener and blogger) to empower you to support your own health, naturally, with common herbs you may already have or are easy to obtain. Lynn will share information about an herb’s history and how you can make use of their benefits. She, like Louisville Community Grocery, believes that all people have a right to accessible, high-quality health care and we want all people to have the tools to care for themselves as well.
Herbs, like food, are best when they are chemical free, or organic. As we go through this series, using what you already have is okay. It is recommended as you are able to add new herbs to your pantry, to try to look for and invest in, organic versions. You will pay a little extra, but you will be able to build a great chemical-free spice cabinet.
Thyme (thymus vulgaris) is quite the superstar of the herb garden and your spice cabinet. It works well with a variety of foods and is often used in Bouquet Garni (a bundle of aromatic herbs used in stocks, soups and sauces) as well as spice blends like za’atar and Herbs de Provence. When you use herbs in cooking, add them liberally, like you mean it. But did you know herbs were originally used for their benefits, not flavoring your favorite dishes. Thyme’s use as medicine goes back thousands of years. In the Roman era it was thought to protect you from poison, which made it a favorite of the emperors. When the Black Death struck in the late 1340’s, millions of people turned to thyme for relief and protection. And in Victorian times nurses were bathing bandages in a dilution of thyme water well before the mechanics of infection were fully understood.
Thyme wields a lot of power. It contains thymol, a compound with strong anti microbial and anti fungal properties. Topically, you can easily create an infused oil or salve and use it for insect bites, stings and minor joint pains. (You could also easily just chew up some and use instantly for bee stings and insect bites.) Drinking it as a tea (2-3 teaspoons in 8-12 ounces of boiling water, steeped for 5-10 minutes) can help a urinary tract infection, chest infection and irritable bowel. I’ll include the how to’s for oils, salves and more in future installments.
My favorite, and the easiest way, to use thyme, aside from cooking with it, is as a good old fashion steam. With thyme’s antiseptic properties it is great for clearing mucus, lung congestion with infections and chronic conditions with inflammation. It even helps reduce asthma symptoms. Not only is it great for colds, the steam can also help clear out all the nasty environmental gunk and besides, who wouldn’t love a a great facial steam too? If you work in a public facing job, making this a part of your daily self-care ritual after work will be one way to help keep yourself healthy.
To create a thyme steam:
Boil a pot of water on the stove. While the water is heating, prepare a comfortable place where you will be able to hold your head over the pot. You will need a blanket or towel and tissues, because your nose may run. Once the water is boiling take it to your spot, put the towel over your head to make a tent to hold as much steam in as possible. Toss in a handful of fresh or dried thyme. Breathe slowly and deeply for 10-15 minutes. Once finished, you can use the cooled water for your plants, inside or out. Repeat often throughout the day for colds and respiratory ailments.
You can find recipes including a cookie recipe that includes thyme plus more educational information on my blog at http://www.witchybeeherbs.com. Be on the lookout for the next installment when I talk about sage.
Disclosure: I am not a doctor and all information found here is for educational purposes only. All bodies are different and these suggestions may not work for all. It is up to you to work with your healthcare professional to find the right options for you.