It’s Time for Thyme!

Nutrition

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

Cooking healthy meals at home is a great way to be proactive about your overall health. But with time limitations and hectic schedules, you may feel limited in what you cook and feel like you are preparing the ‘same old’ bland food all the time.

I have a solution to this. I like to call it “simplifying and seasoning.” One of the ways you can simplify is by going meatless on Monday. Remember if you go meatless every Monday for a year (52 days total), you may reduce your risk for certain diseases, including cancer, heart disease and more.

And as it relates to seasoning, just as there are many fruits and vegetables we can choose from there are also many herbs and spices we can use to add some powerful flavor to very simple meals. One of these herbs is thyme.

Thyme is an evergreen shrub that has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. It is reportedly native to the Mediterranean region and certain parts of Africa and dates back to the Egyptian Empire.

You can buy fresh or dried thyme in the grocery store. It is great for seasoning eggs and vegetables and is often used to flavor soups and stews. Many people also use thyme oil for its health benefits.

I have been meaning to add this fragrant herb to the collection of plants in my garden at home but have not gotten around to it. But after discovering the information I outlined below, I have a renewed sense of urgency to visit my local nursery. Let’s discover together why we all may want to add thyme into our garden and/or diet.

Thyme may help relieve stress.

You have likely heard of people using aromatherapy and essential oils to relax and relieve stress. Lavender oil is often used to help aid relaxation and sleep, and several reports also say thyme oil may help reduce stress.

Thyme may help fight cancer.

In a 2012 study, researchers found that oil extracted from thyme caused apoptosis (cell death) in breast cancer cells. Another study conducted by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) found some evidence that thyme kills colon cancer cells. This all may have to do with thyme being rich in phytochemicals, chemicals produced by plants. For example, thyme is rich in a phytochemical called ursolic acid, which reportedly has anti-cancer benefits.

Thyme may help with rheumatoid arthritis and degenerative diseases.

Thyme is a powerful antioxidant and, therefore, has anti-inflammatory capabilities. Inflammation is a contributor to a plethora of diseases, including cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer’s.  

Thyme may help with respiratory issues.

Have you ever noticed that some cough drops maybe contain thyme? Well, that’s because of the anti-inflammatory and anti-infection properties of thyme, which may help fight the common cold and reduce muscle spasms that occur when you cough. Thyme may also help treat sore throats, chronic bronchitis and asthma.

Thyme may help combat bacterial and fungal infections.

Thyme has been compared to penicillin. The most active ingredient in thyme is an organic compound called thymol. Ancient Egyptians reportedly used thymol extract to help preserve mummies! Thymol is a natural antiseptic and may help prevent the growth of fungus and harmful bacteria. You can apply thymol topically or even use an antiseptic mouthwash that contains thymol (Listerine reportedly contains it), which may help prevent inflammation and gingivitis. Thyme may also help treat thrush, a fungal infection of the mouth. Several reports say that thyme is a natural remedy for lice, scabies, toenail fungus and even acne.

Thyme may help with tummy problems.

Have an upset stomach? Try drinking a hot cup of thyme tea. Thyme may relax the muscles in the stomach and may help with issues, like indigestion, loss of appetite, chronic gastritis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Because thyme has anti-infection properties, it may help prevent the growth of bacteria in the stomach that may cause issues.

Thyme may also stimulate blood flow, lower blood pressure and improve heart health and boost your overall immunity.

Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the specific, essential nutrients in 100 grams (about a cup to a cup and half) of fresh thyme.

  • Calcium, 405 mg. An adult between 19-50 years of age (male or female) in general should aim to have about 1,000 mg of calcium per day. This mineral is needed to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Calcium is also needed for clotting of the blood to stop bleeding and for proper functioning of the nerves, muscles and heart. The National Cancer Institute conducted a study that monitored calcium intake in 135,000 men and women. The subjects who had a calcium intake of more than 700 mg per day had a 35-45% reduced risk of cancer of the distal (lower) part of the colon than those who had a calcium intake of 500 mg or less per day.
  • Fiber, 14 g. Fiber may help relieve issues with digestion, like constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Having a sufficient fiber intake has also been associated with a lower risk for developing colon cancer.
  • Iron, 17.45 mg. Iron is an essential component of many proteins and enzymes. It is vital in the formation of red blood cells and lean muscle. If you are low in iron, you may find that you feel very tired.
  • Magnesium, 160 mg. This mineral helps regulate blood pressure, contributes to bone metabolism and has antioxidant functions. Magnesium is also great for pain management. Many people use magnesium as a safe alternative to ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Magnesium may even help alleviate leg cramps women may experience during pregnancy.
  • Phosphorus, 106 mg. This mineral often does not get the credit it deserves, but it does so much for your body. Phosphorus is almost as abundant in your body as calcium and helps calcium build strong bones and teeth. Phosphorus is also important for how your body stores and uses energy, repairs cells and is needed to make proteins like the one responsible for the oxygen-carrying capabilities of our red blood cells. This mineral has also been linked to weight management. In a study of almost 40,000 women in Korea, phosphorus deficiency correlated with weight gain from oral contraceptives. Furthermore, a study from Lebanon showed that phosphorus supplements in a small group (63 people) for 12 weeks significantly decreased body weight, BMI, waist circumference and subjective appetite scores. 
  • Potassium, 609 mg. There’s a surprising connection with the liver and potassium. Liver injury or infection causes patients to urinate their potassium out. When the liver heals, the potassium levels start to go back up. This has implications for people with chronic liver problems, in terms of both diet as well as use of medications, since very low potassium levels can be more dangerous than the liver problem alone. Potassium may also help keep blood pressure under control and may even help reduce kidney stones and bone loss as you age.
  • Vitamin C, 160.1 mg. You likely know about the immune-boosting benefits of vitamin C, but what about this nutrient’s importance regarding aging? Click here to find out.
  • Folate, 45 mcg. Folate (also called vitamin B9) is a very important nutrient, especially for pregnant women. Folate may also help prevent cancer and heart disease and improve mental health. A study from Harvard Health suggests folate may also be useful in treating symptoms of depression.
  • Vitamin A (RAE), 238 mcg. This vitamin is an antioxidant that supports the immune system and is good for skin and eye health. Vitamin A also promotes cell growth.

Who would have known such a tiny, little herb could pack so many amazing health benefits?!

To check out some delicious vegetarian recipes that incorporate thyme, click here.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have any medical concerns, talk to your doctor before you use thyme oil topically.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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