This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Garden Thyme, a cultivated form of Wild Thyme (Thymus serpyllum, or "creeping"), is a familiar denizen of our kitchen herb-bed, being put into seasonings, stuffing, and sauces. It has a very fragrant odour, and a pungent, aromatic taste, because of its essential volatile oil, which consists of two hydrocarbons, with thymol as the fatty base, this thymol taking high modern rank as an antiseptic. It will arrest gastric fermentation when given judiciously as Thyme tea; also when applied externally Thymol will disinfect, and destroy the germs which characterize several forms of skin disease. The Oil of Thyme is known commercially as Oil of Origanum. Thymol is the basis of the fragrant volatile Essence of Sweet Thyme. By mixture with spirit it makes an admirable antiseptic remedy for inhalation, on absorbent cotton-wool within a respirator for the purpose. Thyme oil is of equal service with tar for treating such skin affections as psoriasis, and eczema. When inhaled it is most useful against septic sore throat, especially during scarlet fever. For curing ringworm in children, an ointment made with one drachm of Thymol, and one ounce of soft paraffin, is found to be a sure specific. To "smell of Thyme" was a former panegyric bestowed on writers who had mastered the Attic style.
Dr. Neovius has told enthusiastically in Finland about the paramount virtues of Common Thyme for combating whooping-cough. He has found that the pounded herb, if given fresh, from one to six ounces a day, mixed with a little syrup, regularly for some weeks, is practically a specific cure. If it be taken from the first, then the most active symptoms become much modified in two, or three days, and in a fortnight the disease is expelled. The simplicity, harmlessness, and cheapness of this homely remedy go far to commend its use. Thyme, again, bears the appellation "Mother of Thyme" in allusion to its beneficial uses by women. "Serpyllum matricem (womb) comfortat, et mundificat"; being called also in Latin "Matris animula, quod menstrua movet." Thyme tea is good against nervous headaches, hysterical troubles, flatulence, and the headache which follows inebriation. "A conserve made from the flowers and leaves of Thyme, relieves those troubled with the falling sickness." "Thyme boiled in wine, and drunk, is good against the wamblings, and gripings of the belly." That the herb was esteemed to be antiseptic in classic times, we learn from Dryden's Virgil, in the Georgics:-
"But if a pinching winter thou foresee, And would'st preserve thy famished family, With fragrant thyme the city fumigate".
Among the ancient Greeks, Thyme was an emblem of bravery, and energy. With a similar notion, the ladies of England's chivalry embroidered on the scarves which they presented to their doughty knights, the device of a bee hovering about a sprig of Thyme, as teaching the union of the courageous with the amiable.