Thyme, the stimulant

To me, thyme is much more than the soup herb from the garden. The Real thyme or Thymus vulgaris is the house and kitchen plant that does not occur in nature in Belgium, but can easily be grown provided it can grow in a well-drained, calcareous soil in a sunny spot. This is also its habitat in the South from Drôme to Provençe, where it occurs naturally with its friends Lavender, Rosemary and Savory.


Warm, dry and fragrant magic words for thyme and rosemary.
Dream landscapes as light as air, ethereal as their oil. From Drôme to Provence I walk in wonder. Who walks with me?

The Real thyme is botanically one species, but can look quite different in the garden and in nature. The flowers can be light blue, pink to white, the leaves from the darkest green to whitish gray and the stems short and strongly lignified to hanging long and limp. That is why we talk about the German winter thyme and the French summer thyme, where the winter thyme has short wood, remains more compact and is more winter hardy, while the summer thyme grows more wildly, can be easily sown but also freezes faster.
The great variation in the species Thymus vulgaris is also noticeable in the composition of the essential oil, for example there are varieties (chemotypes) with more geraniol, linalol, carvacrol or thymol. These variations arise in nature under the influence of climate and soil type and they all smell different. We recognize thymol and carvacrol as the real thyme scent, while the other types have a less sharp, perfumed and lemony scent.
Our native thyme species, such as Thymus pulegioides and Thymus praecox, the Greater Thyme and the Creeping Thyme respectively, are low-growing, creeping plants that are frequently found in the Ardennes on calcareous Tiennes (rock plateaus) and on the warm side in sunken roads. They are good to use in a natural rock garden together with Wild marjoram, Brush wreath and Bergsteen thyme. In our herbaceous ornamental garden, the Real thyme is logically at the front of the border, grouped together they form the fragrant and evergreen front.
In a tighter, classic knot garden, the thyme can also be used as a hedge or as a shape, just like the Palm Tree or the Saint’s Flower. Filling the figures is best done with low-growing plants, such as Rosary or some Artemisia species. I am more of a wild gardener myself, but in contrast, a tight thyme garden can confuse visitors, provoke reactions and therefore make a garden more than just something beautiful.

The many scents of thyme

In addition to the classic thymol thyme, there are a large number of species and varieties with other scents, such as the Thymus caespititius Brotero with pine scent, the Thymus herba-barona Loisel. with caraway aroma, the Thymus citriodorus our lemon thyme and a fruity Thymus vulgaris cv. fragantissimus. I once had a thyme in the garden that smelled like eucalyptus, all very fascinating for scented gardens, but also a bit decadent. It is pleasant to lie down in such a fragrant thyme bed or to roll like a cat in catnip. Well, be careful the neighbors don’t see it.

Thyme syrup and other medicinal uses

Thyme is the first herb for cough syrup. When sweetened, it not only tastes nice and spicy, but due to its expectorant, disinfectant and antispasmodic effect, it is, as it were, made to breathe air into children’s throats full of mucus. Together with anise seed and licorice root, it is a perfect cough tea for colds, bronchial diseases and flu, especially for runny noses with little resistance.
Thyme is certainly also a stimulating plant that can be used for fatigue, after illness and even during exercise. Especially in serious French phytotherapy with Dr. Thyme is often recommended to Valnet and Dr. Belaiche, Messegué is even said to have helped Thévenet to a victory in the Tour with a herbal remedy in which thyme, savory and rosemary were the main ingredients. I personally remember a young cyclist who suffered a lot from mucus during the race. He started drinking thyme syrup, apparently with success because after a few months he bought whole boxes of syrup from me. Which of course I found strange. When I asked about it, he claimed not only that he no longer suffered from mucus but also that he was performing better. Beautiful stories that you should certainly not just believe. Still worth a try, but preferably don’t drink 12 bottles of thyme syrup in a row.

Soup and other thyme

No matter how common, a sprig of thyme remains an irreplaceable ingredient in many soups. Bean soup in particular gains a lot in aroma and digestibility through its use. I also regard soup as a kind of savory herbal tea, the ideal method to consume many herbs in a tasty way. A medicinal soup? Why not? In the Middle Ages, people made a hearty soup against shyness with thyme and beer. Thyme and rosemary steeped in olive oil or vinegar are fragrant additions to a southern salad.
Burning thyme has a very long tradition, the name thymus is said to come from the Greek thumos, wood with a pleasant smell when it burns, and from the verb thuô to give the gods an offering. Contemporary barbecue is perhaps still a pale reflection of those rituals. Burning herbs can still be done very well on or in the wood stove, in the fireplace or even on the central heating as a replacement for the many aerosols. Not only for the scent but also as a disinfectant of our living space. Burning herbs has a much deeper meaning, both symbolic, magical and religious. Just think of the incense in the church. Or the witches’ rituals around a campfire, where henbane and datura were burned to achieve ecstasy.
Thyme also has some insect repellent properties and used to be sprinkled on the ground to keep pests out. Like camphor or lavender, it was placed in the greenhouse to repel moths. Many of these customs had almost disappeared. It is good to rediscover them and find out in a down-to-earth way what their value can be for our time.

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