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  • The Fantastic Spices World

THYME ( Thymus vulgaris (L.) )
Names in Other Languages:

English Garden thyme
French Thym (ordinaire)
German Thymian, Römischer Quendel, Kuttelkraut
Spanish Tomillo
Italian Timo
Turkish Dağ kekiği, Bahçe kekiği, Esas kekik, Karabas
Japanese タイムTaimu

FAMILY: Lamiaceae

ORIGIN:   : Thyme is native to southern Europe and it is commonly cultivated southern and central Europe.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:

Thyme leaves are curled, elliptically shaped and very small, measuring about one-eighth of an inch long and one-sixteenth of an inch wide. The upper leaf is green-grey in color on top, while the underside is a whitish color.

USEFUL PARTS:

Leaves and stems is used.

SENSORY PROPERTIES:

Strongly aromatic.

MAIN CONSTITUENTS:

Thyme contains secondary products, the volatile essential oil and the non-volatile polyphenols. The essential oil is responsible for the typical spicy aroma of thyme.

Dried plant material of thyme contains 1– 2.5% of an essential oil. Most of the volatiles detected in thyme oil belong to the monoterpene group with thymol, a phenolic monoterpene, as the main representative (30– 55%). It causes the typically strong and spicy smell associated with thyme. Thymol is always accompanied by some monoterpenes, which are closely connected by biogenetical processes, namely carvacrol (1– 5%), an isomer terpene phenol, as well as p-cymene (15– 20%) and γ-terpinene (5– 10%). The latter two are precursors in the biogenetic pathway of thymol (and carvacrol). Often the methyl ethers of thymol and carvacrol are present. Further monoterpenes are linalool (1– 5%) and, in smaller percentages (0.5– 1.5%), borneol, camphor, limonene, myrcene, β -pinene, trans-sabinene hydrate, α-terpineol and terpinen-4-ol. Sesquiterpenes are not very important in thyme oils. Only β-caryophyllene (1– 3%) is worth mentioning. [2]

The content of essential oil varies drastically with climate, time of harvest and storage conditions; extreme values are 0.75% and 6.5%. The volatile oil components of thyme are now known to include carvacolo(15%), borneol, geraniol, but most importantly, thymol (40%) Further components in the essential oil are thymol methyl ether (2%), cineol, cymene, α-pinene, borneol and esters of the latter two.

MAIN USES IN FOOD PROCESSING:

Thyme has been used since ancient times for its culinary, aromatic and medicinal properties. Thyme is used with bean, egg and vegetable dishes. Both fresh and dried herb is used in foods.

The thyme herb or processed products can be used in culinary as flavouring or in the composition of compounded seasonings, spice, essential oil, oleoresins or other product blends. It can be used with beverages, cheese, fish, meat, salad dressings, sauces, vegetables, egg dishes, game and poultry, soups and honey. Usually thyme is not suitable for sweet products. The main uses of thyme in culinary and food processing are odour and taste, antioxidant and antimicrobial activities. Also, fresh green thyme leaves can be used in culinary art as a decorative green herb. It is evident that food flavouring remains the main thyme application area, while its antimicrobial and antioxidant properties can be considered as the supplementary benefits of thyme products, which have been added to the foods. Whole dried thyme herb can be used in various of culinary applications.

MEDICINAL PROPERTIES:

Thyme is used to reduce chest and respiratory problems including coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion. [1]

--> Significant Anti-Oxidant Protection of Cellular Membranes

Thymol - named after the herb itself - is the primary volatile oil constituent of thyme, and its health-supporting effects are well documented. Thymol has been found to protect and significantly increase the percentage of healthy fats found in cell membranes and other cell structures. Thyme also contains a variety of flavonoids, including apigenin, naringenin, luteolin, and thymonin. These flavonoids increase thyme's antioxidant capacity, and combined with its status as a very good source of manganese, give thyme a high standing on the list of anti-oxidant foods.

--> Time's Up for Microbes with Thyme

The volatile oil components of thyme have also been shown to have antimicrobial activity against a host of different bacteria and fungi. Staphalococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Shigella sonnei are a few of the species against which thyme has been shown to have antibacterial activity.

--> A Nutrient-Dense Spice

Thyme is as an excellent source of iron and manganese, a very good source of calcium and a food source of dietary fiber.

REFERENCES and SOURCES:

[1]http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?pfriendly=1&tname=foodspice&dbid=77

[2] Peter, K.V. Handbook of Herbs and Spices.

Cambridge, , GBR: Woodhead Publishing, Limited, 2004. p 299.

http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ege/Doc?id=10131806&ppg=313

http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Thym_vul.html