Thyme—Double as Spices and Medicines

Based on the research of Angiogenesis Foundation[1]thyme is known to be rich in antiangiogenic phenol content, including:
  • Apigenin
  • Luteolin
  • Eriodictyol
  • Rosmarinic acid 
  • Quercetin


Thyme is traditionally bundled together with parsley and bay leaf to form the French bouquet garni and dropped into soups, stews, and other savory dishes while they simmer.

The aromatic compounds, also called essential or volatile oils, are the important part of thyme leaves and flowers.  Rubbing the leaves releases a pungent lemony scent, the fragrance that we know as thyme.  

There are several volatile oils in thyme, including:

  • Carvacrol
  • Thymol

which accounts for its aroma.  Carvacrol and thymol are also account for its inhibition of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.  Many bacteria and viruses shown in lab tests to be inhibited by thyme oil are the same ones that cause upper respiratory infections or colds.

Thyme has been used medicinally since at least the first century A.D.:

  • The Greeks considered it a remedy for nervous conditions
  • The Romains used it to treat melancholy and to revive those who had fainted or suffered an epileptic attack
  • The Etruscans and Egyptians used thyme oil in embalming their dead
  • Used to cure everything from digestive upsets to rheumatism and menstrual complaints in medieval Europe and England
    • Thyme has a relaxing effect on the smooth muscles of the stomach and intestines
  • Recommended for coughs, colds, flu, bronchitis, and asthma 
    • The volatile oils in thyme help to relieve coughs, probably in two different ways:
      • Calms coughs
      • Helps clear bronchial mucus
  • As a battblefield antiseptic until World War I
  • As an effective treatment for digestive problems and lung infections in recent centuries


Luteolin is the primary phenolic compound in thyme that confers anti-angiogenic and anti-cancer properties.

In an epidemiological study including over 66,000 women, women in the highest quintile of luteolin consumption were found to have a 34% decrease in ovarian cancer incidence compared to those in the lowest quintile. 

In laboratory studies, luteolin inhibited human ovarian cancer cell proliferation and decreased the expression of the angiogenic growth factor, VEGF. Other studies suggest this VEGF-inhibiting activity is dependent on the particular aromatic ring structure of luteolin and other similar phenolic compounds. In both skin cancer cells and mouse models, luteolin inhibited ultraviolet radiation-induced skin cancers.

Thyme Tea

You can drink a cup of the thyme tea several times daily for coughs by the following steps:

  • Steep 1 teaspoon of dried thyme leaf in a cup of hot water
  • Cover the cup with a saucer so that the important volatile oils do not evaporate
  • Strain and add honey to taste

Thyme is safe, especially when consumed as infusion—made by steeping thyme in hot water.  However, if you consume thyme essential oil, it should be avoided in high doses or for long periods of time.


  1. Eat to Defeat Cancer
  2. National Geograpic Guide to Medicinal Herbs
  3. Drink a Cup of Thyme Tea Instead of Coffee and Promote Good Health