In 2012, Pope Benedict bestowed her the title Doctor of the Church. Now that title has to do with her contribution to doctrine and theology, but back when she was alive nearly one thousand years ago, Saint Hildegard of Bingen was also involved in medicine and botany.
That’s why she’s often credited as being Germany’s founder of scientific natural history.
In her writings about medicinal plants, she spoke very highly of this evergreen herb. Based on her descriptions, it’s possible she might have valued thyme tea for fibromyalgia, MS, arthritis, lupus and/or other degenerative diseases with similar symptoms, because she said things like this:
“…if someone is worn out with palsy or with a stitch or by that disease that so wears out his or her members as if they were corroded or eaten, take sage, twice as much tithymal, three times as much thyme as tithymal, and cook these in water.”
Now that particular recipe was for turning the tea into a topical ointment, by combining it with goat tallow. She also said it “kills lice on a person, if the person rubs himself or herself with it.” You can read about this in Hildegard’s Healing Plants.
Benefits of thyme tea
Today many purport this warm beverage helps with cough and nasal congestion. Drinking the tea is said to act as an expectorant and loosen mucus in the lungs from bronchitis and upper respiratory tract infections. It is true that the plant’s main constituent – thymol – has demonstrated antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal activity in lab experiments. However there is too little clinical research to know whether or not these same benefits occur in the human body when consumed as a food or drink. It has never been tested in humans with colds or the flu. (1) (2) (3)
What can be said with certainty is that tea made with thyme offers a satisfying savory flavor, unmatched by the common varieties of herbal teas.
Some say it’s good for weight loss – which is also unproven – but being that it’s a zero calorie beverage, you really can’t go wrong with it while dieting! And being that there’s no sugar, it’s perfect for type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Impressive antioxidant potential
Which tea has the most antioxidants? Most people assume it must be green tea. Some get more specific and say it’s the Japanese matcha form which is best for anti-aging.
What is matcha? It’s the youngest leaves of the Camellia sinensis tea plant, grown partly in shade which produces that bright vivid green.
How much antioxidants does it have? An ORAC value of 168,500 is the highest we’ve ever come across for it. Keep in mind that’s a very expensive ceremonial grade which is stone ground by hand. It’s quite different than the powder you will find for sale at Whole Foods!
The ORAC value of cheap dried thyme is almost the same as the highest quality, most expensive matcha in the world.
With a value of 157,380 for dried thyme, it’s basically on par with the best matcha in the world. When you compare it to the quality of matcha you’re more likely to encounter at a health food store or tea shop, then thyme is probably even higher!
Now keep in mind these two ORAC values are not for brewed beverages.
They’re based off of 100 grams of dry matcha powder and the same amount for the dry spice. Since you only use about 2 grams per brewed cup, it means a standard serving of matcha tea will be around 1/50th of that ORAC value… that’s around 3,000 (168,500 dividend by 50). If you were to make thyme tea with the same 2 gram amount, then its ORAC could be comparable. But only if you do it the right way…
How to make thyme tea
There are two ways of making it.
The most common is to steep or boil the fresh and raw plant material in hot water and then filter it prior to drinking.
The second way involves no filtering, because you make it using a finely ground powder which you drink.
Both green tea and matcha tea come from the exact same plant, Camellia sinensis. So why does the latter have almost double the antioxidant content per cup?
Part of the reason is because you are ingesting the ground leaves, not just steeping them. Only so much of the phytonutrients will come out from them while they soak in hot water.
Now to be clear, that’s not the only reason. Matcha also uses leaves which have more chlorophyll. But if you were to brew them whole like you do regular green, the ORAC value would not be as impressive.
To maximize the benefits of thyme tea for health and nutrient content, you should make it the same way as matcha – using the ground powder and drinking it unfiltered.
Using dried vs. fresh thyme?
Here are the ORAC values for 100 grams of each:
- Fresh = 27,426
- Dried = 157,380
The dried spice has almost 500% more antioxidants!
Why? Unlike fresh blueberries which after just 3 days, will have their vitamin C and anthocyanin content plummet by 67% and 80%, respectively, the beneficial compounds in the Thymus vulgaris plant remain largely intact, even after processing. Its rosmarinic acid – a major antioxidant – holds up well in the dried spice. (4)
It’s not that the dried has more than the fresh, but rather that its water content has been removed, and hence, the well-preserved phytonutrients are very concentrated in the spice.
That’s the first advantage of using powder versus fresh thyme for your tea. The other benefit is that you can drink it like you do matcha. Accomplishing the same with the fresh herb is practically impossible, as you would not be able to chop or blend it into such tiny pieces.
The tough part? Finding it for sale in this finely ground form.
At Whole Foods in Redondo Beach, CA they only sold this tiny container – merely 3/10th of an ounce – for $2.99. So expensive, your homemade drink may be comparable to the cost of a Starbucks latte!
All of their normal-sized bottles of thyme were for the bigger leaf pieces, which are not suitable for tea.
On Amazon, a bag of powder that’s 48x larger (1 lb) can be purchased from Starwest Botanicals for an excellent value. That’s the smarter way to do it.
Once you have your finely ground powder, you are ready to make your drink…
Thyme Tea Recipe
How to make it doesn’t get any easier than this! In just 3 minutes, your throat will be soothed by a hot cup. 0 calories and 0 grams of fat.
- ½ to 1 teaspoon of finely ground thyme powder
- 1 cup filtered water
- Measure powder into tea cup. Use more for a stronger flavor
- Pour hot water into cup.
- Stir and enjoy!
What does it taste like? The fact that it’s savory – and not trying to be sweet like most herbal teas – works quite well for thyme. It’s like drinking a good savory soup. Salty like celery, yet there’s no sodium added.
There may not be medical data of it helping for weight loss, but what can be said is that after drinking a warm cup of this, it feels like you just ate something savory and satisfying. Might that help curb your appetite?
What is it good for?
You may have heard about people using thyme tea for cough and asthma. There are a few pieces of lab research which suggest there might be mechanisms to explain why that is:
- In a study with mice, the thymol component was found to reduce allergic airway inflammation and help block the NF-KB pathway. (5)
- In a study with rats, thyme extract was found to help with the side effect of hyper-sensitivity of the endothelin cells in their trachea. The scientists compared that symptom to that which is also present in asthma and COPD. (6)
- In Switzerland, a trial was conducted with 62 participants to test an herbal cough syrup made with ivy and thyme. Based on symptom scoring and safety, they claimed the formula “seems to alleviate cough in consequence of common cold, bronchitis or respiratory tract diseases with formation of mucus.” (7)
- Asthma and allergies can be triggered by chitins, which are particles produced by fungi, insects, and other organisms. The same pro-inflammatory cytokines activated by these chitins were found to be counteracted by thymol in the cultured cells tested, as shown below. (8)
Above you see charts for the inflammatory signaling pathways miR-155 and miR-146a. They are increased with the chitins and two other known triggers (the positive controls). However when thymol was added to the cells, there appears to be less expression of these “bad” pathways associated with allergies and asthma.
While there is this preliminary evidence about the potential for lung benefits, there is too little research to claim any of these effects are proven. For arthritis joint pain, multiple sclerosis, lupus, fibromyalgia, Candida infections and other things you may read about on home remedy blogs, there is little to no related research about them.
Therefore, this tea should not be used as a treatment for any disease or illness. Instead, just enjoy it as the healthy and tasty beverage it naturally is!
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.