pierre laszlo

Thymus vulgaris (Lamiaceae)

Everyone, inclusive of Oberon in A Midsummer’s Night Dream (‟I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,‟) is familiar with this small shrub of the Mediterranean, that gained an ancillary role as an herb in the kitchen. It owes it to being a small drug-manufacturing factory. 
It is native to southern Europe from the western Mediterranean to southern Italy. Numerous, somewhat woody stems grow into a foliage mound 6-12" tall. Stems clothe themselves with distinctively revolute (leaf margins are rolled under) tiny, linear-to-elliptic, pointed, gray-green leaves. These are highly aromatic, due to the biologically active molecules produced, by the chemical family of phenols, various thymols in particular. 
Whorls of tiny, tubular, lilac flowers appear on the stem ends in late spring to early summer. Flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies. 
The essential oil has bactericidal action with a wide spectrum. It has insecticidal properties as well, against mosquitoes in particular, that has made it an anti-malarial in the entire area of its growth, spontaneous or domesticated. 
Its biological properties have been used since Greek Antiquity, when it was renowned originally as a cure for hiccups and snakebite. As a tea, it helps upper respiratory problems such as bronchitis, asthma, flu and colds. It also assists digestion, helps with intestinal problems and promotes iron uptake. It helps fight anemia and fatigue. 
In the kitchen, it has been an ingredient in many dishes— usually as a bouquet garni — and sauces, especially since Apicius (c 25 BCE-37 CE) provided many such recipes. In the English-speaking world, only with Julia Child and Elizabeth David did it gain its legitimate pride of place during the Sixties. 
A lingering question is the origin of the name ‟thyme,‟ quite a few hypotheses were formulated, but none has become overwhelming.