Thyme: your knight in shining, fragrant, armour

Take the time to plant thyme, for goodness sake

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From a quick pick-me-up to athletes' foot and mouthwash, it's thyme you got herbal, writes Alan Hayes.

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DURING the Middle Ages, thyme was given by a lady to her beloved knight as a farewell gift when he embarked on the crusades. And those daring knights who ate thyme were thought to become more courageous.

Today we know that thyme is rich in thymol and has powerful antiseptic and cosmetic properties. It acts as an astringent and helps to clear spots and acne, and cleanses, soothes and refreshes the skin.

For a quick pick-me-up, try a cup of thyme tea, and hold a bunch of the fresh herb to the nostrils as well. Crush the herbs with your hand and breathe in its fragrance.

Thyme tea also aids digestion and tones the nervous system and respiratory organs; it is also reputed to alleviate the discomfort of a hangover.

The cooled tea makes an excellent mouthwash to freshen the breath and is said to calm a cough and get rid of phlegm.

You can make a tea by infusing a few sprigs of thyme in hot water, or use a proprietary brand herbal tea bag available from health food stores and supermarkets.

The oil of this herb is one of the strongest antiseptics known and helpful in treating infected wounds and fungal problems, such as athletes' foot.

Small cuts, grazes, bites and scratches can be treated by washing the affected area carefully with a warm saline solution to which has been added two drops of thyme oil.

For athletes' foot and nits make a tincture from the dried herb.

To make a thyme tincture, cover 100 grams of dried thyme with two cups of cider vinegar. Keep the mixture in a sealed jar and shake every day for two weeks. Strain and store the thyme vinegar indefinitely in an airtight, sterilised bottle. Apply once a day for athlete's foot, or comb through hair and leave overnight for nits and reapply in 10 days.

At the end of a busy day, relax your feet by soaking them in a soothing thyme foot-bath. Add five drops of thyme oil and a cup of bicarbonate of soda to a large bowl of warm water. Mix well and soak your feet for 20 minutes.

If you have thyme in your garden, use it for your foot-bath instead. Add half a cup of cider vinegar and two tablespoons of fresh thyme to two cups of water, heat, then reduce to a simmer for five minutes. Pour the liquid into a large bowl, cool until just bearable, then soak your feet until the water is cool.

Muscular aches and pains, including rheumatism, can be eased by relaxing in a thyme bath. Place a large handful of the dried herb in the centre of a square of muslin cloth, draw up the sides, tie with a string and hang from the tap so that the hot water gushes through it as the bath fills.

And to keep your home smelling fragrantly fresh, use the following antibacterial air spray: Dissolve 20 to 30 drops of thyme essential oil in 10ml of methylated spirits, and then mix with half a litre of distilled water. Store in a pump-spray bottle and use on a fine mist setting as required. It is ideal for the bathroom and toilet area of the home!

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