Smorgasbord Health Column – The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Herbal Medicine – Make Thyme in your life for this versatile herb for health and cooking.

You can find more information on the use of herbal medicine and Dandelion in the first post in the series: The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Dandelion

What is Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine has been part of our ancient and more modern history for thousands of years. Unfortunately there is no money to be made by the pharmaceutical companies when only a plant is processed. Therefore in the last twenty years particularly there has been a focused effort, at a very high level, to downgrade all alternative therapies including herbal remedies to quackery.  We can only now suggest that an alternative therapy MAY help you.

A commonsense warning about herbal medicines.

Herbal medicines should be treated with respect and should only be used if you have read all the contraindications, possible side effects and never with any prescribed medication unless you have cleared with your doctor first.

This is particularly important if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant as taking specific herbal medicines can cause harm.

Go to a qualified herbalist or if you buy over the counter on online read all the instructions beforehand or enclosed in the packet. I always buy the more expensive and professionally prepared tinctures and have stayed with that brand for the last twenty years.

Having established that; I want to introduce you to herbs that can be taken as a prepared tincture but also those that you can include in your diet which may improve and maintain your health. This week the herb Thyme that will be a familiar ingredient in dishes in your kitchen I am sure.

thymeThis versatile herb can be used to flavour many wonderful dishes . As with most of our herbs, thyme has a long and revered history medicinally, and if you had been a prominent Egyptian, the herb would have been used to embalm you. Since the herb has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties it would have helped preserve the bodies beautifully.

The Greeks and Romans used thyme as a purifier, burning it as incense in rooms and in their baths. It was also added to food such as cheese and alcohol – again probably because of its antibacterial properties and it may well be one of the first natural preservatives used in food manufacture.

It became better known in Britain in the 17th century and healers used the herb to relieve the symptoms of whooping cough, breathing difficulties, gout and mild stomach complaints.

The oils has been used externally to help heal abscesses and during the First World War it was used to treat infections and relieve pain, as there were no antibiotics at that time.

Today the herb is cultivated all around the world and apart from cooking and medicine it is used in the manufacture of cosmetics and perfume.

How does thyme help the lungs?

As humans we have a sophisticated defence system to try and get rid of harmful substances before they can damage us. The cough reflex is an automatic response to mucus and infection in the lungs. Thyme helps the body with that job and acts as an expectorant loosening the congestion and generally supporting the respiratory system. It also helps soothe coughs allowing a more effective use of the response, allowing the airways to get rid of more mucous.

It is particularly beneficial for emphysema and chronic bronchitis sufferers. It can also be use in conjunction with other herbs such as cowslip to aid the absorption of thyme but also as an expectorant. You can read more about the lungs and respiratory diseases : Smorgasbord Health Column – Respiratory Diseases

The list of thyme’s medicinal properties is quite lengthy but apart from its antibacterial uses it also is anti-fungal, antiseptic, antiparasitic, antispasmodic, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, immune boosting, sedating or stimulating according to dosage and is a tonic.

As well as upper respiratory infections and lung conditions it has also been used medicinally to treat colic, depression, arthritis, eating disorders, ear infections, gastritis, hay-fever, headaches, heartburn, parasites, shingles , tooth decay and tetanus.

N.B -There is traditional use for bed-wetting in children but as it is also a mild diuretic I would want to see evidence of that. It does however, disinfect the urine which can be helpful for those who suffer frequent bouts of cystitis.

Taken an hour before meals, it may stimulate the appetite, useful for someone who is elderly or recovering from illness.

An oddball treatment is one for alopecia – so if you are going a little thin on top you might want to try a little of the oil in your shampoo and conditioner.

It certainly is very versatile but you do need to take care when using medicinally and consult a herbalist for the correct dosage.

The plant contains some helpful nutrients, the primary being Vitamin K which is why this herb does need to be used with caution. Because it is so important to be aware of the ingredients of any herb that you take, here is a brief description of Vitamin K and its actions on the body.

Vitamin K

There are two forms of the vitamin that the body can utilise. One is K1 (phylloquinone), which is from plant sources and the other is K2 (menaquinone) which is produced by bacteria in our own intestines. This is where many of us get into trouble because we are not eating sufficient raw and unprocessed foods for health and additionally many of us suffer from bacterial imbalances in the gut so do not produce sufficient from that source either.

One of the sources of K2 is from grass fed animals that are included in our diet…. With mass farming on the rise, and feed being grain rather than grass, there is less K2 available to us in our diets.

The vitamin is fat-soluble and is stored in the liver. Studies indicate that approximately 50% of the stores come from our diet and the balance from bacteria in the intestines. We need healthy bile production for efficient absorption of Vitamin K and our lymphatic system circulates it throughout the body.

Apart from helping reduce excessive bleeding during menstruation it is also used therapeutically for the prevention of internal bleeding and haemorrhages including emergency treatment for overdoses of blood thinners such as Warfarin.

Blood clotting is a critical function in the body that solidifies blood to prevent us from bleeding to death from external or internal injuries. Vitamin K is essential for the production of a protein called prothrombin and other factors involved in the blood-clotting function and is therefore necessary to prevent haemorrhages.

Also interestingly Vitamin K also activates other enzymes that decrease the clotting ability so it assumes the role of regulator within the blood stream. An example of this might be if a clot forms within a blood vessel that could block the flow and needs to be dispersed.

The vitamin has also been the subject of a great deal of research in recent years as scientists discovered that it played a significant role in liver function, energy production in the nervous system and in preventing bone loss as we age by assisting the absorption of calcium.

Vitamin K is needed to activate osteocalcin, the protein that anchors calcium into the bone, building and repairing the structure. A deficiency in the vitamin can therefore lead to brittle bones and osteoporosis.

As the vitamin works within the body it changes from function to function according to the various interactions with enzymes and at one stage it acts as an antioxidant preventing oxidative damage to cells. There may also be a role for the vitamin in cancer prevention as it is believed it may stimulate rogue cells to self destruct.

WARNING – When you should not take Thyme.

Because of the high Vitamin K content that slows blood clotting you need to stop taking at least three weeks before having surgery.

If you are also on medication that has this effect then you should not take the herb.

For example, many people from middle age onwards are now being prescribed low dose aspirin to thin the blood so you should not take Thyme in a herbal form. Warfarin is a high dose anticoagulant and it would be dangerous to combine the two.

If in any doubt consult your doctor and always before taking any herbal remedy or check with a qualified advisor. If you feel that the person you have asked, in a health food shop for example does not appear to be informed, then there should be a herbal reference guide in all dispensaries that gives the action and precautions of every remedy they sell. If they do not have a guide for you to read then buy somewhere else.

I have worked with A. Vogel herbal remedies for over 22 years. A Vogel Herbal Remedies is one you might try.

You can buy thyme in capsule form and it often comes with another herb called fenugreek which is another expectorant and herb used in the treatment of lung disorders. The oil is used externally and is very warming when rubbed on the chest during bronchitis or pneumonia.

Read the instructions for dosage on the bottle which is dependent on age and health.

Thyme as part of your diet.

The nutrients in Thyme that make it a useful component in your diet are; iron, manganese, calcium, and tryptophan.

Adding Thyme to your food in cooking is not dangerous unless you put tablespoons into the recipe.Thyme is a versatile herb and it is wonderful with meat dishes. It is quite pungent so take care when using fresh thyme and only use a little at time.

You can added to your baking and here is a great site with some recipes including one for cornbread.

oh3915p249-thyme-corn-bread-mPhoto credit: Cooking Light

If you have a cold I suggest making a tea with a small amount of leaves, seep for five minutes and then add fresh lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey. You will find it not only refreshing but it may also help prevent your infection reaching the next level.

©Sally Cronin – Just Food for Health – 1998 – 2020

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020

Your feedback is always welcome and if you do find that following any of the programmes that I have shared are beneficial then it would be great to hear about it.. you can email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com.

26 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Herbal Medicine – Make Thyme in your life for this versatile herb for health and cooking.

  1. Another informative post. I have recently be advised to add Thyme and Parsley to all my meals as the Iron content is superb. Not quite as good as nettle, yellow dock or dandelion but tastes less like dirt and easier on the pallet at least for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another excellent informative article Sal. I take combo – thyme and oregano tincture for colds and flus.It’s nature’s natural antibiotic/antiviral. Also, thanks for the warnings of clotting issues. ❤ xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for another great advice, Sally! Thyme was not new to me, but the last years far away. 😉 With more and more convenience food i lost all these wonderful herbs.But with many thanks to you, i will become a great lover of herbs too. Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fantastic to know that Thyme does so much to help us. When I ate fish I used to put thyme inside, especially trout when cooking. It’s a delicious flavour. I’m going to get some and keep it on the windowsill. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great article, Sally. I have a huge supply of thyme growing on my patio, so this post came at a particularly good “thyme.” I have been adding it to savory dishes and I had heard somewhere that it should not be overused. Thanks to your article, now I understand why. I do love the taste of it and I had no idea it was so useful in so many parts of the body.

    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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