The Best Guide to Thyme That You’ll Ever See

In this blog we’ll show you the characteristics of thyme, its main types, its properties, history, main exporters and importers, how it is cultivated, and some products made from this plant. Don’t miss it!

What is thyme and what are its characteristics?    

Scientific name Thymus
Common nameThyme
Place of originAzerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Balkan Peninsula, and some Mediterranean countries.
HabitatSubtropical regions, rocky soils, dry with good sunlight.
DistributionSouth America, Asia, and Europe

Characteristics of the thyme plant  

Belonging to the genus Thymus, thyme is both a culinary herb and a medicinal plant at once. From a botanical standpoint, thyme is a long-lasting leafy subshrub that grows between 10 and 40 cm in height and width in general. It branches heavily and takes on a woody texture from the inside out over time.  

The grayish-green leaves of common thyme grow in rows; they are oval, narrow and somewhat hairy on the underside. They are crisscrossed on the shoots. If you rub them between your fingers, it releases their typical scent.  

The bloom period of thyme usually goes from May to October, but the main period takes place in the summer. Its tiny pink to violet-lipped flowers are distributed in 3 or more bunches and attract flocks of bees.

Characteristics of thyme fruit  

After flowering, the seeds form small nuts. The thymus has a tendency to self-seeding: if this is not desired, inflorescences should be cut in time.

Types of thyme  

Broadly speaking there are 14 types or varieties of thyme:

  1. Common thyme or Thymus vulgaris.
  2. Early flowering Thyme (Thymus praecox)
  3. Broad-leaf thyme (Thymus pulegioides)
  4. Lemon Thyme (Thymus x citriodorus)
  5. Wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum)
  6. Thyme Bergamot
  7. Ginger Thyme
  8. Corsican thyme
  9. Orange thyme
  10. Golden thyme
  11. Varicum 3
  12. Compactus 
  13. German winter
  14. Argentus 

Today we focus on the first 5 types since they are the main ones.

Common Thyme or Thymus vulgaris  

Common thyme has long been a popular spice and medicinal herb. Its warm, sour leaves give many Mediterranean dishes their unmistakable flavor. It also contains bacteria-inhibiting and digestive substances. It likes to share its place of growth with other Mediterranean herbs, such as sage or rosemary. Since it does not grow very tall (only about 10 cm high and 40 cm in diameter), it is ideal as a pot plant for the balcony. It is very robust, hardy and requires little care outdoors. As a pot plant, it should be watered regularly in summer, avoiding waterlogging. In spring, the old shoots are cut back by one-third to prevent the thyme from aging and allow it to grow again. From May to October, the herb attracts numerous pollinators with its pink to light purple flowers.  

Early-flowering thyme (Thymus praecox) 

Early-flowering thyme is creeping thyme. This long-lived plant has long, woody, creeping stems. The leaves and stems are hairy all over. It is edible, but not as tasty in flavor as common thyme or other varieties.

Its many red to pink flowers, which bloom from June to July, are a feast to the eyes and attract numerous bees and other pollinators. This thyme is also very easy to care for; in nature, it likes to be located in calcareous, rocky soils or in dry grasslands. It can also be used in walls, for example, natural stone to be planted.

Early flowering thyme
By Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0,

Broadleaf thyme (Thymus pulegioides) 

Broadleaf thyme is a dwarf shrub that can grow up to 25 cm tall. This thyme is a popular culinary and medicinal herb because of its essential oils, which give it a spicy aroma and flavor. Also, unlike common thyme, it is not prone to becoming woody. The dwarf shrub is frost-resistant and uncomplicated and fits both in the garden and in a pot on the balcony. Like all varieties of thyme, this one doesn’t like waterlogging, but it should be watered regularly in dry places. From June to August it shows its delicate purple to red flowers.

By LuckyLion – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

Lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodorus)  

This cross between common and wild thyme has everything you need for your garden. As its name suggests, it gives off a lemony scent. Since it is rich in essential oils like common thyme, it enriches your kitchen as a spice and medicinal plant. Its robust growth makes it a fragrant replacement for grass. It adorns rock gardens and herb beds with its beautiful leaves. Its flowers are long-lasting and light violet from July to August. This thyme is hardy, very easy to handle and doesn’t need to be cut back as it only grows 8 – 10 cm tall. The only thing that matters is that it gets enough sun.

Thymus citriodorus 
By Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0,

Wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum)  

Wild thyme grows bushy and very low, only 5 to 8 cm, so it is well suited as a replacement for grass that may remain in dry places. Since it doesn’t have to be mowed, it is also ideal for green roofs, where it grows as a mat. However, this plant can also thrive well among stones as it also has low nutrient and humus requirements. Unlike other varieties of thyme, it tends to avoid soils with calcium. In addition, wild thyme, also known as field thyme, is very resistant to low temperatures. From June to August it forms a pink-to-purple flower sea, making it a popular pasture for bees. This thyme is also used as a cooking herb.

Thymus serpyllum
De Przykuta – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Properties and benefits of thyme  

Thyme nutritional profile  

CompositionQuantity (gr)CDR(%)
MinerlsQuantity (mg)CDR(%)
VitaminsQuantity (mg)CDR(%)
Vitamin A0.3842.2%
Vitamin B10.5142.5%
Vitamin B20.430.8%
Vitamin B34.940%
Vitamin B1200%
Vitamin C00%

Take a look at the nutritional table of thyme per 100g, taken from Vegaffinity.

5 properties of thyme that you have to take advantage of

It fights coughs  

Thyme has an antispasmodic and expectorant effect on the upper respiratory tract and is therefore a suitable home remedy for coughs caused by bronchitis and for prolonged whooping cough. In addition to thyme medicines, you can use a tea made from the herb for coughs, but also as an additive for inhalation. Thyme has been proven to be effective against bacteria and viruses in respiratory infections.

Natural anti-inflammatory

Thyme also is popular as a remedy for mouth and throat inflammation. Thymol and other essential thyme oils can prevent bacteria from multiplying and have an anti-inflammatory effect at the same time. Also, the medicinal herb is said to relieve pain and disinfect the afflicted areas.

Useful for gastrointestinal problems  

This herb can also relieve gastrointestinal problems. It stimulates the production of saliva and gastric juice and, therefore, helps with appetite loss and gives a pleasant feeling of satiety. Thyme can also help with flatulence, heartburn, and bad breath.

Aids digestion  

The effect of thyme on digestion has always been known. It stimulates digestion and ensures that fatty and particularly hard-to-digest foods are better dissolved. This can also be helpful if the hepatic function is impaired. Thyme is easy to add to many dishes and retains its potency when cooked. However, with daily and/or intensive use, a thyme extract is usually the best choice.

Protects intestinal flora  

The intestine can be supported with a variety of beneficial microbiotics. And microbiotics, in turn, can be supplemented with prebiotics such as inulin and FOS. But microbiotics can also be supported in other ways, for example using thyme. Thyme creates an environment in the gut where beneficial microbiotics can thrive. Thyme has a positive effect on the intestinal mucosa, where part of the immune system (Common Mucosal Immune System, CMIS) is located. The antibacterial effect of thyme helps fight harmful bacteria that compete with beneficial bacteria for space in the intestine. Finally, thyme also has a spasmolytic effect, which means that it relaxes the smooth muscle cells of the intestine.

History and origin of thyme  

The birthplace of thyme is found on rocky shores and in the macchie (weeds) in the countries surrounding the Mediterranean. The description and use of thyme goes back a long way as it was also used in religious rituals. Thyme herb was burned as incense to worship the deities and cleanse all evil from the surroundings. When the expensive imported incense (olibanum) ran out, thyme bushes could be smoked without offending the gods.  

In Mesopotamian medicine, Sumerians produced aqueous and oily preparations of thyme more than 4000 years ago. In the ancient writings of the Materia Medica from Mesopotamia, thyme was mentioned and described as well as garlic, horse’s claw, figs, and henbane. In ancient Egypt, various types of thyme were used in embalming because of its strong aromatic odor, and it is believed that thyme was being used for medicinal purposes as early as that time. The Greeks used thyme to gain courage and strength (thymos = Greek “spirit, courage”). Pliny, Dioscorides, and Theophrastus also described the good healing effects of thyme.

This frost-sensitive plant only reached the Alps in the 11th century and was mainly cultivated in monastery gardens. Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) describes it in her writings: “Thyme is warm and dry (…)” and recommended it “for respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases”. Theophrastus mentions it and says that beekeepers assume a good honey harvest from a rich thyme flower. In Hieronymus Bock’s “Kreuter’s Book”, thymus boiled in wine was recommended for whooping cough and shortness of breath “… expels mucus and phlegm”. In 1563, PA Matthiolus tells us that thyme is good for those with difficulty breathing and a lot of phlegm in the chest. … taken with honey it cleanses the chest and helps with breathing difficulties.  

Global Thyme Industry  

Meet the top exporters and importers of thyme in the world.    

Top exporters of thyme in the world in 2020

In the following chart, you can see the top 10 countries that exported thyme in 2020 according to FAO. It also provides, on the other hand, information on the monetary volume of exports in these countries, specifically in U.S. dollars in 2020. Let’s see what they are:

Top importers of thyme in the world in 2020

The top importers of thyme according to FAO for the year 2020 were the ones you will see in the following chart. On the other hand, it also provides information on the monetary volume of imports from these countries, specifically in U.S. dollars in the year 2020. Let’s see what they are:

How is thyme cultivated? 

There are a number of requirements that must be met in order to grow this plant. Below, we show you what they are:   


In nature, thyme is found on rocks, dry walls and pastures. For planting thyme, the soil has to be nutrient-poor, moderately dry, very permeable, and ideally with calcium. Thyme can also be grown well in pots, but even then, you must have a sandy and well-drained substrate. They are able to withstand pH values of 5 to 8.


The plant needs plenty of sun and prefers warm, moderately dry climates, mild winters, and sunny summers. It thrives where average spring/early summer temperatures of 20-30°C are common.

Thyme planting method 


Thyme can be purchased in spring as young plants in pots and then planted. Apart from occasional composting, these undemanding herbs don’t require any fertilizing.

Care tips 

Thyme is easy to care for and, as a Mediterranean plant, requires little water. Thymus vulgaris also withstands longer periods of drought without any problems. In very hot and dry summers, or when the herb in the garden is in the pot, you need to water it from time to time. The correct pruning of thyme depends on the species, in the case of sub-shrubs such as, for example, common thyme, the evergreen branches are cut back by a third in spring. The plants sprout vigorously, remain compact and do not age. In addition, the shoot tips are cut after flowering.

Winter protection 

Common thyme is hardy. Covering it with sheep’s wool in winter prevents the leaves from falling off, although it is not absolutely necessary. Caution: Not all varieties of thyme are frost-resistant! The most frost-sensitive species do need to be protected from cold and dampness as well.

Use in the garden 

Thymus vulgaris is very suitable for growing in herb spirals together with other aromatic herbs such as lavender, rosemary, savory or other types of thyme. Since it needs relatively dry soil, it should be placed as high as possible in the herb spiral. Contrary to popular belief, thyme doesn’t get along well with marjoram, but it does with all other Mediterranean herbs. Its distinctive aroma and ethereal effect are even said to ward off ants, aphids and other unwanted house companions.

Propagation of thyme 

Many species of thyme are self-seeding and they can also grow from seed fairly easily. The best way to do this is by sowing the seeds in the last part of the crop in pots with the sandiest potting soil possible from April onwards. They should only be lightly covered with soil and will germinate after about ten days. In May, you can separate the seedlings at a distance of 20 by 20 cm. Thyme can also be sown directly in the open air, in that case, it is done with a distance between rows of 20 cm.


Thyme can also be propagated by taking top cuttings or by dividing the plant. To propagate cuttings, cut the woody side shoots about ten centimeters long in early summer and remove the shoot tips. Place the cuttings in a substrate rich in sand and humus and cover the pots with clear aluminum foil or a clear plastic cover. Before planting them in their final location, acclimate the young plants slowly to the sun. Herbaceous species can also be divided every 3 years. The plants should then be dug up, the soil at the roots divided with a shovel and the sections replanted.

Diseases and pests 

Thymes are very hardy and are rarely attacked by diseases. A dose of horsetail broth may help if powdery mildew occurs in the herb. Pests are also rare on this plant, as its essential oils usually keep them at bay. Only cicadas and aphids occasionally appear on this crop. The latter can be removed with a strong spray of water.

Harvesting thyme 

Fresh shoots can be cut continuously as a spice for cooking. To dry thyme it is best to cut the dried branches at midday and just before flowering. In addition, thyme is used as a medicinal plant for the preparation of tea, inhalants or additives when taking a bath. The essential ingredients of the leaves have an expectorant and antispasmodic effect and help against coughs and hoarseness, among other things.

To dry, the thyme stems are hung upside down. It can be used in teas or tinctures, as well as in herbal sachets.

Fresh shoots can be harvested throughout the year. The leaves are most aromatic just before flowering, between May and October, depending on the variety.

The best time to harvest is late morning on warm, sunny days, or early afternoon on cloudy, dry days. Whole shoots are cut rather than individual leaves, but only when the grass is dry. You can then, for example, dry or freeze the thyme.

Post-harvesting thyme 

After harvesting, thyme can be easily preserved by drying it. Small bundles of the sprigs are tied together and hung upside down in an airy, shady place to dry. Attics, arbors or carports are suitable for this. Also, sieve boxes in which the harvested thyme is distributed without tying are suitable for drying. The branches must be turned over for a few days. On average, drying takes 2 to 4 weeks in summer. It is faster with a few hours in the oven at 40 °C. Dried thyme is packed in ceramic cups or jars and stored in a place protected from light. Thyme can also be frozen, but this type of preservation is unusual for the Mediterranean herb.

Uses and products made from thyme 

Thyme is widely used as a seasoning for cooking, so people usually consume it in this form, however, there are other types of industrial products made from this plant, so it can be said that it is used fresh or processed. Some products made from thyme have also been launched in the market, such as the ones we’ll show you below.

Industrial products made from thyme 


A natural and effective cough syrup it already became available shortly after the end of World War II. Since then, Bronchicum has used the proven effects of well-known medicinal plants such as thyme and primrose. Today, Bronchicum is one of the absolute classics, and medicine cabinets would be unimaginable without it.


It is a facial gel for all skin types that ensures its suppleness and supports cell regeneration.

With this gel, irritated or dry skin is also cared for and moisturized. Natural thyme essential oil soothes, while malic acid provides suppleness and a beautiful appearance.

Cleansing oil 

It is a natural lotion for cleansing the face, body, and hair. It is for all skin and hair types, has a clarifying effect, and is a vegan product. The tea tree oil in this product has been known for its unique cleansing properties since ancient times. This also makes this vegan product from Fitocose so special, as it is ideal for deep skin and hair hygiene.

Ratanhia: Anti-Dandruff Hair Detergent Oil 

As the name says, it is a natural hair-cleansing oil and anti-dandruff lotion. It can be used on dry and sensitive hair types with dandruff, has a clarifying effect, and is vegan. This hair cleansing oil contains ratanhia root extracts with clarifying and antimicrobial properties. It is ideal for dry, sensitive hair with dandruff and has an astringent and cleansing effect.

Foot cleanser 

This product can be used to give your feet a bath for a moment of relaxation in your daily life. This product is ideal for tired feet, for excessive sweating in this part of the body and is also vegan.

Especially at the end of a hard day, it can be good to give your feet a relaxing and fragrant foot bath. Tired feet are refreshed with this vegan bath additive, while excessive sweating is prevented.

Below, you’ll find a list of other products that are also thyme-based:

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Seasonings
  • Essential oils
  • Household cleaning products
  • Body creams


Thyme is a very important plant because it is widely consumed for its many benefits, including the fact that it is a natural seasoning and for the variety of uses it has. We hope that with this blog you have learned more about thyme and that you don’t hesitate to consume it in all its presentations so that you can enjoy its benefits firsthand.