Thyme, low undershrubs or perennial herbs, of the genus thymus (Gr. θύμος, from θύειν to burn perfume, it having been used as incense), of the labiate or mint family. The wild or creeping thyme of northern Europe (T. Serpyllum) is sparingly naturalized in the older states in old fields, and in some cases as a weed upon lawns; it is much branched and prostrate, forming low dense tufts a foot in diameter; its very small ovate leaves are fringed at the base with a few long hairs, and its purplish flowers are crowded in whorls at the ends of the branches. This is sometimes cultivated as an aromatic herb, but not so much so as the garden thyme (T. vulgaris), from southern Europe, which differs from the preceding in having a more erect and bushy habit, paler leaves, and flowers in shorter clusters; there are varieties of this, both the broad-leaved and narrow-leaved being known in kitchen gardens, and the variegated or golden thyme, which has each leaf distinctly marked with yellow, is a pleasing ornamental plant. Lemon thyme, much esteemed by some for its peculiar flavor, is T. citriodorus.
The thyme in general use is T. vulgaris, the foliage of which is highly aromatic and much used for flavoring stuffing and other cooking ; its properties are due to an essential oil, the oil of thyme, which is used as an external stimulant, in liniments, especially in veterinary medicine; it contains a liquid and a solid oil or camphor, which may be separated by fractional distillation.
Wild Thyme (Thymus Serpyllum).