It's About Thyme
Updated: Dec 15, 2018
Across many cultures and eras, people have developed a secret meaning of herbs and plants. Flowers, herbs, and foliage were exchanged as tokens of luck and good wishes. Thyme has held an important place among these cherished herbs, and it has long been associated with courage and bravery.
A Brief History of Thyme Thyme is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Wild Thyme thrives in the dry, rocky soil of North Africa and Southern Europe, and in the mountains of northeastern America. Like lavender, Thyme is a member of the mint family, and as with lavender, the ancient Egyptians used Thyme in their embalming processes.
The Greeks thought very highly of Thyme. It was used in their baths and rituals, and mixed in drinks to enhance intoxication. The Greek phrase "to smell of Thyme" meant that you were stylish, poised, and attractive. Women wore Thyme in their hair to highlight their beauty. Some say Thyme gets its name from the Greek word “Thumus” which means courage, and Greek warriors were massaged with Thyme oil to ensure their bravery. Thyme was also believed to provide a sense of direction for the soul and this is probably another reason why Greek soldiers brought it into battle. Not only did it increase their physical energy, but it was thought to enhance the mental and spiritual understanding they needed to follow their destiny and vision.
The Romans followed the Greeks, using Thyme to add aroma and flavor to their cheeses and wines, believing it to be a remedy for melancholy. In the Roman era, it was thought that eating Thyme before or during a meal would protect you from poison. It was even said that a bath in Thyme-infused water could stop the effects of poison. This made it very popular with emperors and elites. The Roman historian Pliny wrote that it “puts to flight all venemous creatures.” Roman soldiers spread the use of Thyme throughout Europe. They added it to their bath water for courage, strength, and endurance. Its reputation spread to Medieval England and Scotland, where women would give sprigs of the fresh herb to knights headed off to battle. In England, it was part of a recipe to reveal your true love on the eve of St. Luke’s Day, October 18th: “St. Luke, St. Luke, be kind to me, in dreams let me my true love see!”
For more about Romans in Provence, view our full article on the "6 Ancient Ruins of Aqueducts, Temples and Coliseums in Provence, France", CLICK HERE .
Since the Middle Ages, Thyme has been placed in pillows to ward off nightmares and brewed as a tea to strengthen the nervous system. In the days before refrigeration, Thyme helped to protect against spoilage and food-borne illnesses. Monasteries throughout Europe grew Thyme in their kitchen gardens, and added it to many foods like breads, soups, and roasts. In Victorian England, Thyme’s mystical meaning expanded -- a patch of wild Thyme in the woods was seen as a sign that fairies had been dancing there. Since those times, children have camped out near plots of Thyme in the hope of spotting dancing fairies. In France, it was common to plant Thyme in your garden to invite the fairies to visit. Thyme was a key ingredient in the famous Hoodoo recipe “Three Jacks and King Oil” which was widely used by gamblers, and to this day, Thyme is believed to bring good fortune in finance, gambling and love.
Thyme’s Medicinal Uses
It’s no joke that “Thyme heals all wounds!” Thyme was used as early as 3000 BCE by Sumerians as an antiseptic, and it does have impressive antiseptic qualities. Thymol, the active ingredient in oil of Thyme, is a natural antiseptic, and it has been used in mouthwashes, to medicate bandages, as a hand sanitizer, and as a treatment for acne. Infused as a tea, it’s a powerful soother for coughs and bronchitis.
Thyme also has potent anti-microbial properties, possesses a muscle-relaxant effect, and can be useful in relieving congestion. It also prevents infections, and as an antioxidant, Thyme boosts the immune system and reduces systemic stress. These combined effects make Thyme a powerful remedy for colds and flu. Thyme also alleviates the symptoms of indigestion, and is known to ease sciatica, gout, rheumatism, and headaches.
Homeopathic pharmacies in France with their green crosses or green store-front signs offer many Thyme-based remedies, including Thyme oil and Thyme tisanes, infusions, and teas. The tea will even help the effects of a hangover!
Natural Personal Care with Thyme According to herbalists, we can all use more Thyme -- it is considered the oil of releasing and forgiveness, and is believed to empty the soul of negativity, leaving the heart open. Along with these esoteric uses, many cosmetics feature Thyme, sourced from the south of France. In Provence, you can find soaps, sachets, deodorant, toothpaste, creams, and scrubs that feature the healing properties of Thyme.
La Savonnerie offers traditional Provencale soaps, among them a wonderful Thyme blossom soap. The French aromatherapy company Florame (florame.com) makes a wide range of products using all-natural processes and raw materials, and many feature Thyme from Provence. Another natural beauty line, Mademoiselle Provence uses authentic Provencale Thyme in many of its products. And L’Occitane, whose claim to fame is the distillation of Provencale essential oils, features Thyme as one of the “5” herbal ingredients in its Aromachologie line of hair products.
Thyme in Cooking Thyme is a major component of many classic seasoning blends, like Za’atar from the Mideast. In fact, the arabic word “za’atar” means “Thyme.”
Of course, it’s also a big player in perhaps the most famous blend of all, Herbes de Provence. But whether it’s part of a bouquet garni or just used on its own, Thyme is essential to French cooking. There’s probably not a stew, soup, or ragout that wouldn’t benefit from a pinch or two of fresh Thyme. Some classics that highlight the herb are ratatouille, lentils, herb butters, veal, and vinaigrette. You’ll find it in Provencale pickles and olives too. When cooking with Thyme, you can use it fresh or dried. In French cooking, fresh Thyme is preferred. Isn’t it nice that you’ll have some growing in your personal garden at Provence Paradise!
For more ideas on Provencal cuisine and recipes, view our full article on the iconic foods of southern France, CLICK HERE . Thyme adds a marvelous rich flavor to meat dishes and stews, and it’s known to improve the digestibility of these rich dishes. It adds flavor to fish, beans, and veggies too and is especially good on potatoes. Really, you can put Thyme on just about anything. Try it on grilled cheese sandwiches or scrambled eggs. And as the song says, it combines well with parsley, sage and rosemary. Thyme is a sturdy herb, and should be added early in cooking, as the flavor is slowly released by heat. Some recipes call for a whole sprig, or you can strip the small leaves off the stalk and add them directly to your dish. The woody stems can be laid over charcoal when roasting meats, poultry, and vegetables to flavor the smoke.The flowers are edible as well as the leaves, and make a lovely garnish. And don’t forget honey! Thyme’s pretty pink or purple blossoms are a favorite of honey bees, and the resulting Thyme honey is justifiably famous for its delicious aroma and flavor. Thyme Honey One wonderful Provencale chocolate maker, Joel Durand features local herbs, including Thyme, in his confections. For over 20 years, Joel has been making unique and delicious chocolates by hand in his workshop in St. Remy de Provence.
Thyme grows wild in the Maquis of Provence, and is cultivated throughout the region. Although other countries produce it as well, southern France produces the most famous and prized oil of Thyme. In the neighborhood of Nimes, Thyme is distilled at two times of year, in early summer and early autumn. You can also find the famous Provencale Thyme honey here. Stay at Provence Paradise in St. Remy de Provence and conveniently explore the local sites and enjoy its culinary specialties.
Thyme at Provence Paradise Next time you visit Provence in Southern France, consider staying in an authentic townhouse rather than a hotel. Here at Provence Paradise each of our townhouses has its own herb garden and we are very proud of our fragrant Thyme plants.
"Within easy day trips are a full range of beautiful perched villages and hill towns to satisfy every age and desire for history, incredible restaurants, a full array of market days across the assortment of villages and the variety of experiences which make every day a new and satisfying event."
— Savvan Family Thyme grows straight through winter here, so you can enjoy it fresh year-round. There are actually hundreds of varieties of Thyme, and we’ve chosen some special ones for our gardens. Some of the more interesting varieties are lemon, pine, and caraway Thyme. See if you can identify the subtle fragrance differences between them. While you’re here, take advantage of the fresh Thyme in your dedicated garden! Here are a few ideas:
Use Thyme in a facial steam. It opens pores and brightens your complexion by increasing circulation.
Thyme tea with honey is good for coughs, colds and sore throats. Or use the tea alone as a gargle and mouthwash.
A strong infusion of Thyme makes a great hair rinse for dark hair.
Burn the herb in a magic spell! Some believe it will attract a lover, and it’s often used to attract riches.
Take a bath with an infusion of Thyme blossoms and/or leaves to cleanse you of your past and clear space for the new! Just wrap the herb in cheesecloth and run under the faucet while you are filling your tub.
Sachets of Thyme hung in your closet or placed in drawers will freshen your clothing.
Place Thyme beneath your pillow for a restful sleep and happy dreams and to prevent nightmares.
DIY facial! If your skin is dry, apply a mixture of a tablespoon of honey mixed with fresh Thyme and the meat of half an avocado. If you have oily skin, mix honey and Thyme with one tablespoon lemon juice and leave for 15 minutes.
For a more elaborate facial, try this Banana Thyme Mask, created by Jasmina Aganovic, who developed the anti-aging Stages Of Beauty skincare line: Combine a medium ripe banana, 3 tablespoons of chopped Thyme, ¼ cup of yogurt, and 2 tablespoons of honey. Let the mixture rest on your face for 15 minutes and rinse with tepid water.
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