One of the best things about tea is that it's always there when you need it, no matter why you need it. Have digestive issues? Want to sleep more soundly at night? Feel a cold coming on? There's a tea for virtually every purpose. Heck, even the ritual of brewing a cup of tea is therapeutic on its own. While teas like green, chamomile (my fave), or black are the most popular, there are many other less buzzed-about teas that also come chock-full of benefits, thyme tea included.
Thyme tea, as its name suggests, is a tea made from thyme leaves. "Thyme is a perennial shrub with greenish-gray aromatic leaves," says chef, nutritionist, and Reiki master Serena Poon, CN, CHC, CHN. "It originates from southern Europe and countries bordering the Mediterranean but now is considered a common herb that can be found in most grocery stores and farmers markets alongside rosemary, oregano, bay leaf, and sage."
If you're looking to add a new tea to your rotation, it's worth giving thyme tea a try for its taste alone. Although different varieties of thyme have different flavor profiles, it generally contains a mix of fresh, floral, and earthy notes. Need further convincing? It's also got all sorts of health benefits, from nervous system support to an array of antioxidants and immune-boosting vitamins. Keep reading to learn about the various thyme tea benefits and how to brew the perfect cup. It's about thyme the tea got its moment in the spotlight, right? (Sorry, had to).
5 health benefits of thyme tea
1. It may have antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties
People have been drinking thyme tea since way before the days of matcha lattes. And for good reason: It's believed that the compounds in a cozy cup of thyme tea can help protect the body from germs. "Ancient wisdom had people using thyme tea for its strong antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties," says Poon. Indeed, multiple studies indicate that thyme essential oil shows antimicrobial activity against bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella, and staphylococcus aureus, as well as candida albicans yeast. However, the verdict's out on whether that activity would be as strong when thyme's consumed in tea form.
2. It's packed with antioxidants
We already know that antioxidants do the body good, and thyme tea has a lot of 'em. "Thyme is packed with antioxidants and polyphenols known as bioflavonoids, including lutein, zeaxanthin, and naringenin," says Felice Gersh, MD, OB/GYN and founder of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine. These compounds help defend against free radicals—unstable molecules produced by the body that contribute to aging and disease.
3. It contains a compound that calms the nervous system
Feeling anxious? A cup of thyme tea may be able to help with that, too. "Thyme helps produce beneficial effects on the neurological system because of a compound it contains called carvacrol," Dr. Gersh says. "It has a natural calming and supporting effect on the neurological system." Add it to your pre-bed routine or sip it at the office in high-stress moments—either way, you may just find that it calms your mind.
4. It contains essential vitamins and minerals
Antioxidants aren't the only beneficial compounds hiding within thyme's tiny leaves. The plant also delivers in terms of essential vitamins and minerals. As Poon points out, fresh thyme contains vitamins A and C, copper, fiber, iron, and manganese—all of which are present, to some degree, in its tea form as well. Vitamins A and C, in particular, can help give your body's infection-fighting forces a boost. "Thyme supports the immune system in dealing with viral pathogens causing such infections as mononucleosis, flu, shingles, HPV, genital or oral herpes, hepatitis, and others," Dr. Gersh says.
5. It may be a natural cough remedy
If you've got a scratchy throat, consider trying a warm cup of thyme tea. Research has shown that thyme leaves combined with ivy leaves can help alleviate coughing and other symptoms of acute bronchitis. That said, there haven't been any studies looking at thyme's effect on coughs when consumed solo.
How to make thyme tea
There are two ways to reap the benefits of thyme tea: Buy pre-made tea bags or brew your own using fresh thyme from the grocery store, farmer's market, or your own herb garden. Here, Poon shares her go-to recipe for fresh thyme tea with a sweet and citrusy twist.
Makes 1 large cup (12 oz) of tea
- 5-7 sprigs of fresh thyme, rinsed and cleaned
- 12 oz of alkaline water (if unavailable, use filtered)
- 1/2 small lemon or other citrus fruit
- 1 tsp manuka honey (adding slightly more is optional)
- Combine thyme and water in a small pot on the stove over medium-low heat.
- Squeeze half of a lemon into the pot and add the pulp and rind.
- Bring the pot to a simmer for five minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low and allow it steep for five minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and allow the tea to cool.
- Once the tea has cooled to a warm, drinkable temperature, add manuka honey and serve.
What are the side effects of thyme tea?
1. It may slow blood clotting
While thyme tea is generally safe for most people, like all foods and drinks, it may not be for everyone. Those on blood thinners, for example, should check with their doctors before drinking thyme tea—or avoid it altogether. "Like many other herbs, thyme may slow blood clotting," Poon says. "So people on blood thinners may want to be mindful of high consumption of thyme."
2. Some people may be allergic
Like anything edible, some people may have an allergic reaction to thyme. Poon says that those who are allergic to other herbs in lamiaceae family—including oregano, basil, and lemon balm—might also be allergic to thyme. If you do have a reaction, stop sipping the tea and check in with your doctor.
All in all, with its plentiful benefits and yummy taste, thyme tea is definitely worthy of a spot in your tea collection. Ready, set, brew.
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