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.
What is thyme tea?
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 and nutritionist 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," Poon adds.
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," Poon says. Indeed, multiple studies indicate that thyme essential oil shows antimicrobial activity against bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella, and staphylococcus aureus1, as well as candida albicans2 yeast. However, keep in mind that 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. On that note, additional best teas for longevity include green tea, other herbal teas (like brews made from rosemary, wild sage, and dandelion), and milk thistle. All of which have tons of anti-inflammatory properties that support healthy aging.
3. It contains a compound that calms the nervous system
Wondering what does thyme do to the brain? Well, a cup of thyme tea may be able to help mitigate feelings of anxiety. "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
Can thyme tea help boost the immune system? It likely can. 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 may be helpful for when looking to soothe cold symptoms and boost immunity. Research has shown that thyme leaves combined with ivy leaves can help alleviate coughing and other symptoms of acute bronchitis3. That said, there haven't been any studies looking at thyme's effect on coughs when consumed solo.
6. It may help with digestion
Thyme is considered one of the best herbs for indigestion, which may be attributed to its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties that can potentially help ease digestion. Research shows that thyme essential oil has can potentially increase the production of digestive enzymes, which in turn might improve the digestion of nutrients.
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. Keep in mind that a large batch of thyme tea can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two to three days. Plus, you may want to rely on fresh thyme whenever possible, as it will yield a more potent and flavorful freshly-made tea.
Citrus thyme tea recipe
Yields 1 large cup (12 oz) of tea
5-7 sprigs of fresh thyme, rinsed and cleaned
12 ounces 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.
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. So, who should not drink thyme tea? 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.
How to make an iron-boosting herbal tea featuring the benefits of thyme:
- Sateriale, Daniela et al. “Antibacterial and Antibiofilm Efficacy of Thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) Essential Oil against Foodborne Illness Pathogens, Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica Serovar Typhimurium and Bacillus cereus.” Antibiotics (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 12,3 485. 28 Feb. 2023, doi:10.3390/antibiotics12030485
- Rajkowska, Katarzyna et al. “Effect of Clove and Thyme Essential Oils on Candida Biofilm Formation and the Oil Distribution in Yeast Cells.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 24,10 1954. 21 May. 2019, doi:10.3390/molecules24101954
- Kardos, Peter et al. “Effectiveness and tolerability of the thyme/ivy herbal fluid extract BNO 1200 for the treatment of acute cough: an observational pharmacy-based study.” Current medical research and opinion vol. 37,10 (2021): 1837-1844. doi:10.1080/03007995.2021.1960493
- Amouei, Hossein et al. “Effect of Essential Oil of Thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) or Increasing Levels of a Commercial Prebiotic (TechnoMOS®) on Growth Performance and Carcass Characteristics of Male Broilers.” Animals : an open access journal from MDPI vol. 11,11 3330. 22 Nov. 2021, doi:10.3390/ani11113330
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