Botany and Production
Thymus capitatus belongs to the family of Labiatae, and is sometimes referred to as "Spanish origanum". The genus thymus is very variable, and many chemotypes are known. Thymus capitatus belongs to the carvacrol chemotype. The plant is one of the most used pharmaceutical plants throughout history. Though a native of the Mediterranean, the genus thymus is widely cultivated all over Europe, mainly for culinary purposes. Formerly production of the essential oil from Thymus capitatus was mostly in Spain, but today only small amounts of this oil is produced.
In Crete, Thymus capitatus grows spontaneously and widespread and large populations are found from sea level up to 1000-meter altitude. Several studies have shown that plants originating from higher altitudes are richer in thymol, while low altitudes favor the dominance of carvacrol in the essential oil. We collect the flowering tops of Thymus capitatus when in full bloom in June/July from abundant wild populations situated at sea level on the Western coast of Crete. This area is one of the most rough and uninhabited areas of the Cretan Coast. Thyme collection is often the 'hottest' of the year, sometimes temperatures approach 40ºC..so it is good that the sea is near for a swim, and a few trees provide shade for our break during the midday hours...Collection is always shared with lots of busy bees. Talking to them, they readily move over to the other part of the plant or another plant altogether, while we are cutting. Amazing but true, none of us has ever been stung by a bee, collecting thyme all these years...
These populations of Thymus capitatus steam distilled for 3 hours yield approximately 2% of essential oil, a very high value within this species, and also a quality criterion for the herb. The oil is warm and burning, with a strong scent of Cretan summer...
Our oil is mainly composed of Carvacrol (50%), thymol (8%), γ-terpinene (7%), p-cymene (13%), terpinen-4-ol (4%), β-myrcene (2%), α-pinene (1.5%), α-terpinene (1.4%), endo-borneol (1%) and linalool, limonene, β-phellandrene, camphene and α-thujene (0.3-0.7% each), along with other minor components, like the sabinene-hydrate isomers, L-α-terpineol, 1-octen-3-ol, α-terpinolene, sabinene, β-pinene and Δ-carene.
No formal testing on Thymus capitatus. However, carvacrol types thymus is non-toxic at low levels (permitted food flavouring), highly irritant, non-sensitising. Not for use on damaged or sensitive skin, avoid in pregnancy and be cautious with high blood pressure. Probably hepatotoxic in large amounts and prolonged use (due to the phenolic compounds carvacrol and thymol). Never to be applied undiluted onto skin or taken internally! Our thyme oil is very strong, a drop is enough for most purposes. When handling thyme oil, be careful not to touch mucous membranes such as lips, nose etc or the eyes.
A truly giant thyme individual of this spread population. Ready to share its spirit with us
Principle of Action
Disinfectant especially for the broncho-pulmonary system, expectorant; strengthens the immune system, purifying. Bactericidal activity (typhus, meningococci, diphteric bacteria, staphylococci). Stimulates the production of white blood globules.
Energises a tired mind and revives the senses. Calms the nerves, counteracts melancholy and shyness. Has strong sunny, earthy properties.
Cut and dried Thyme flowering tops, ready for Distillation. Then the retort is filled.
Thyme is one of the oldest herbal remedies known. In Egypt it was called 'tham' and used in embalming and in ancient Greece it was used as a purifying temple incense. Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) tells us, that when thyme is burned, "it puts to flight all venomous creatures". The name thymos is attributed to Theophrastus (3rd century BC) and might relate to the ancient Greek word, thumos, for spiritedness, courage, passion or to thymo, 'I perfume'. Dioscurides (ca 75AD) in his "De Materia Medica" describes 5 Thymus species, among them 'Thymos", which is a little much branched hardy bush forming heads, with many small narrow leaves and purplish terminal flowerheads- a description fitting Thymus capitatus. He recommends thymos for respiratory problems, as an expectorant and for asthma, and externally used in compresses, with vinegar for 'fresh edemas', with wine for ischias pains. "Excellent is its use as a culinary spice for the healthy"... Since Roman times it was used to preserve meat and foodstuffs. To "smell of thyme" was an expression of praise..
Thyme was regarded a messenger of the fairy world, bestowing courage and lightheartedness, counteracting melancholy and shyness. Ancient rituals involved warriors bathing with thyme before battles to evoke strength and courage.
Somehow, the action of thyme is less spiritual, but more essentially physical, earthbound. One drop added to a blend in the aroma-lamp adds a certain earthy, warm spicy quality, reminding us of summer, south and sun and aids us to bring our feet back onto the ground. By itself, using the lower concentration of 3-4 drops in the bowl of the lamp, the fragrance energizes and revives a tired mind, is warming and stimulating, and gives a feeling of physical well-being, courage and strength.
Excellent remedy in cases of viral and bacterial pneumonia, colds, 'flu and viral attacks. However, direct inhalation is not recommended, evaporate it in an aroma lamp instead. Secrolytic, secromotoric, broncholytic and disinfecting, very efficient for bronchitis and all kind of spasmodic coughs. Especially recommended in cases of chronic conditions because of its immune stimulant activity. A favorite to evaporate in times of epidemic 'flu's. It is one of the strongest antibacterial oils. Thyme was, along with Lavender, Rosemary and Sage, an ingredient in the medieval "Four thieves vinegar", a remedy to ward off infection by the plague, the black death. It is said, that a gang of thieves used this remedy in order to ransack the homes of plague victims for valuables, without contracting the disease. Upon being caught, they traded their life successfully for the recipe of the 'secret remedy' which protected them.
During the first world war, thyme essential oil, or later its constituents thymol or carvacrol were used in hospitals to disinfect patients rooms and operation theaters. It kills 95% of common household germs, that can cause serious diseases, so it is beneficial to add a drop or two of thyme essential oil to your washing water for floors, surfaces, kitchen cabinets and the like. Another way is to prepare a disinfectant spray, adding a drop or two of thyme oil to water in a spray-flask. Remember to shake well before immediate use, as the oil otherwise will stay on top. We always advise patients in hospital to carry a bottle of thyme oil, alternately Lavandula stoechas, with them and just use a drop on their pillow or sheet daily to avoid contamination with the numerous germs flourishing in hospital settings...
Thyme, as mentioned, has a remarkable anti-bacterial activity, especially where the respiratory system is concerned. To evaporate it in the aroma-lamp has a disinfecting and bactericidal activity thus purifying the air. Evaporate it in times of contagious illness, to prevent contamination, and in cases of infectious lung diseases it is a great help to evaporate it in the room of the ill person, for both patient and visitor. 1-3 drops diluted in 20ml of a carrier oil makes a good remedy to rub on chest and back of the patient. Rub in with strong, fast strokes and cover well. This is the oil par excellence for infectious conditions. To inhale the oil, one should use one drop of this above mentioned mixture, and not a drop of oil, since thyme is a strong oil and a mucus irritant in large quantities. However, even in this recommended high dilution it is very efficient. This method has also proven effective in cases of inflammations in the mouth. Specially recommended for spasmodic coughs and whooping cough, one can prepare a syrup by mixing 3 tea spoons of honey with 1 drop of the oil , adding 2 tea spoons of hot water. Give a tea spoon of the mixture every 2 hours. To add it to a bath, for its invigorating, calming and grounding effect, as well as for the cleansing and disinfecting activity, especially in cases of pulmonary afflictions, it first has to be emulated. Stir 3-5 drops into a cup of full fat dairy cream and add it after filling the bathtub, stir well. For children use 2 drops of thyme and 5-6 drops of myrtle instead.
Not a special skin care oil by itself, thyme oil at very low concentration (<0.5%) added to after shaves and skin tonics and even creams especially for oily and impure skin, adds a very efficient anti bacterial touch. Usually one drop in 100 ml of product is enough, since thyme works at very low concentrations and is irritant to the skin in greater amounts. In times that I made cosmetic creams, I always added a tiny bit of thyme to preserve the cream. I still have a cream I made entirely of natural ingredients some 12 years ago, which hasn't deteriorated. It is an excellent antibacterial preserver.
Thyme also works from inside; An old proverb from the medieval says: “If you have impure skin, add a lot of thyme to your foods”. Internally used (a drop added to foods, stews etc) it stimulates the liver and spleen, calms intestinal spasms and flatulence, eases cramps and stimulates the appetite.
Thymus capitatus is an oil, one has to get to know. Its not a perfume oil, not ever to be used undiluted, an oil to respect for its power. However, it is in no way an aggressive oil, it has this quiet, earthy sunny humility to it..
So often people tell us, 'your oil is so strongly aromatic, usually thyme oils are much more faint' and all we can tell them is, that this is exactly what an essential oil is supposed to be, if collection and distillation honors the plant and its spirit. Thymus capitatus is not our only oil inviting comments like this...
Visitors to Crete, coming from Northern countries, like to take a bottle of our thyme oil with them, during the winter months it will remind them of sunny, bee-buzzing Crete in the hot summer months, of light and colors, of mountains and wilderness...
Humble thyme, not pretending to be beautiful, sweet and seducing as a perfume, rests in himself. And yes, for us Thymus capitatus is a he, a male, male in its most ancient, innocent, almost boyish form. Not aware of his strength, not taking credit or pride in strength, he gives us that lightheartedness and joy, as only a child can do. That is exactly where its strength lays. That is why he can relieve melancholy and shyness..., because he can connect us with our unconscious, underlying strength and combine it with a form of gaiety, of innocence and playfulness. All the while, unconsciously, purifying our environment...
Thank you, Thyme
A Thymus capitatus being has found just a tiny bit of earth, of life, in a crack of a rock near Kallikratis, some 750 meters over sea level..you can just glimpse the sea below. Holding on with serenity, offering its flowers to the world around.. A sign he sends, a message to us all. "Never give up"
Sharing Thymus flowers with the bees
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