The Wild English thyme (Thymus serpyllum) belongs to the
Labiate plants, and takes its second title from a Greek verb
signifying to creep, which has reference to the procumbent habit
of the plant. It bears the appellation Brotherwort.
Typically the Thymus serpyllum flourishes abundantly on hills,
heaths, and grassy places, having woody stems, small fringed
leaves, and heads of purple flowers which diffuse
a sweet perfume
into the surrounding air,  especially in hot weather.
Shakespeare's well known line alludes to this pleasant fact: I know
a bank where the wild Thyme grows.
The name Thyme is derived from the Greek thumos, as identical
with the Latin fumus, smoke, having reference to the ancient use
of Thyme in sacrifices, because of its fragrant odour; or, it may be,
as signifying courage (thumos), which its cordial qualities inspire.
With the Greeks Thyme was an emblem of bravery, and activity;
also the ladies of chivalrous days embroidered on the scarves which
they presented to their knights the device of a bee hovering about a
spray of Thyme, as teaching the union of the amiable and the active.
Horace has said concerning Wild Thyme:--
Impune tutum per nemus arbutos
Quaerunt latentes, et thyma deviae
Olentis uxores mariti.
Wild Thyme is subject to variations in the size and colour of its
flowers, as well as in the habits of the varieties.
This wild Thyme bears also the appellation, Mother of Thyme,
which should be Mother Thyme, in allusion to its medicinal
influence on the womb, an organ which the older writers always
termed the Mother. Isidore tells that the wild Thyme was called
in Latin, Matris animula, quod menstrua movet. Platearius
says of it: Serpyllum matricem comfortat et mundificat. Mulieres
Saliternitanoe hoc fomento multum utuntur.
Dr. Neovius writes enthusiastically in a Finnish Journal on the
virtues of common Thyme in combating whooping cough. He has
found that if given fresh, from an ounce and a half to six ounces a
day, mixed  with a little syrup, regularly for some weeks, it is
practically a specific. If taken from the first, the symptoms vanish in
two or three days, and in a fortnight the disease is expelled. The
simplicity, harmlessness, and cheapness of this remedy are great
supporters of its claims.
Other titles of the herb are Pulial mountain, and creeping Thyme. It
is anti-spasmodic, and good for nervous or hysterical headaches, for
flatulence, and the headache which follows inebriation. The infusion
may be profitably applied for healing skin eruptions of various
Virgil mentions (in Eclogue xi., lines 10, 11) the restorative value
of Thyme against fatigue:--
Thestylis et rapido fessis messoribus oestu
Allia, Serpyllumque herbas contundit olentes.
Thestlis for mowers tired with parching heat
Garlic and Thyme, strong smelling herbs, doth beat.
Tournefort writes: A conserve made from the flowers and leaves of
wild Thyme (Serpyllum) relieves those troubled with the falling
sickness, whilst the distilled oil promotes the monthly flow in
The delicious flavour of the noted honey of Hymettus was said to be
derived from the wild Thyme there visited by the bees. Likewise the
flesh of sheep fed on pasturage where the wild Thyme grows freely
has been said to gain a delicate flavour and taste from this source:
but herein a mistake is committed, because sheep are really averse
to such pasturage, and refuse it if they can get other food.
An infusion of the leaves of Thyme, whether wild, or cultivated,
makes an excellent aromatic tea, the odour of which is sweet and
fragrant, whilst the taste of the  plant is bitter and
camphoraceous. There is in some districts an old superstition that to
bring wild Thyme into the house conveys severe illness, or death to
some member of the family.
In Grecian days the Attic elegance of style was said to show an
odour of Thyme. Shenstone's schoolmistress had a garden:--
Where herbs for use and physic not a few
Of grey renown within those borders grew,
The tufted Basil,--pun provoking Thyme,
The lordly Gill that never dares to climb.
Bacon in his Essay on Gardens recommends to set whole alleys
of Thyme for the pleasure of its perfume when treading on the plant.
And Dioscorides said Thyme used in food helps dimness of sight.
Gerard adds: Wild Thyme boiled in wine and drunk is good against
the wamblings and gripings of the belly: whilst Culpeper describes
it as a strengthener of the lungs, as notable a one as grows. The
Thyme of Candy, Musk Thyme, or Garden Thyme is good against
the sciatica, and to be given to those that have the falling sickness,
to smell to.
The volatile essential oil of Wild Thyme (as well as of Garden
Thyme) consists of two hydrocarbons, with thymol as the fatty base,
this thymol being readily soluble in fats and oils when heated, and
taking high modern rank as an antiseptic. It will arrest gastric
fermentation when given judiciously as a medicine, though an
overdose will bring on somnolence, with a ringing in the ears.
Officinally Thymol, the stearoptene obtained from the volatile oil of
Thymus vulgaris, is directed to be given in a dose of from half to
 Thymol is valued by some authorities more highly even than
carbolic acid for destroying the germs of disease, or for disinfecting
them. It is of equal service with tar for treating such skin affections
as psoriasis, and eczema. When inhaled thymol is most useful
against septic sore throat, especially during scarlet fever. At the
hospital for throat diseases the following formula is ordered:
Thymol twenty grains to rectified spirit of wine three drachms, and
carbonate of magnesia ten grains, with water to three ounces; a
teaspoonful to be used in a pint of water at 150 deg. Fahrenheit for each
Against ringworm an ointment made with one drachm of thymol to
an ounce of soft paraffin is found to be a sure specific.
The spirit of thymol should consist of one part of thymol to ten parts
of spirit of wine; and this is a convenient form for use to medicate
the wool of antiseptic respirators. As a purifying and cleansing
lotion for wounds and sores, thymol should be mixed in the
proportion of five grains thereof to an ounce of spirit of wine, an
ounce of glycerine, and six ounces of water.
The common Garden Thyme is an imported sort from the South of
Europe. Its odour and taste depend on an essential oil known
commercially as oil of origanum.
Another variety of the Wild Thyme is Lemon Thyme (Thymus
citriodorus), distinguished by its parti-coloured leaves, and by its
lilac flowers. Small beds of this Thyme, together with mint, are
cultivated at Penzance, in which to rear millepedes, or hoglice,
administered as pills for several forms of scrofulous disease. The
woodlouse, sowpig, or hoglouse abounds with a nitrous salt which
has long found favour for curing scrofulous  disease, and
inveterate struma, as also against some kinds of stone in the bladder.
The Hoglouse, or Millepede was the primitive medicinal pill. It is
found in dry gardens under stones, etc., and rolls itself up into a
ball when touched. These are also called Chiselbobs, and Cudworms.
From three to twelve were formerly given in Rhenish wine for a
hundred days together to cure all kinds of cancers; or they were
sometimes worn round the neck in a small bag (which was absurd!).
In the Eastern counties they are known as Old Sows, or St.
Anthony's Hogs. Their Latin name is Porcellus Scaber. The
Welsh call this small creature the withered old woman of the
wood, the little pig of the wood, and the little grey hog, also
Grammar Sows. Their word gurach like grammar means a
dried up old dame.
Cat Thyme (Teucrium marum verum) was imported from Spain,
and is cultivated in our gardens as a cordial aromatic herb, useful in
nervous disorders. Its flowers are crimson, and its bark is astringent.
The dried leaves may be given in powder or used in snuff. A
tincture (H.) is made from the whole herb which is effectual against
small thread worms. Provers of the herb in material toxic quantities
have experienced troublesome itching and irritation of the
fundament. For similar conditions, and to expel thread worms, two
or three drops of the tincture diluted to its first decimal strength
should be given with a spoonful of water three or four times in the
day to a child of from four to six years.