The region from which all thymes originated includes southern Europe, Asia and northern Africa. The name “thyme” comes from the Greek word that means to fumigate. The Ancient Greek physician and botanist Dioscorides considered the herb thyme an effective expectorant and the herb was also mentioned by Roman naturalist Pliny as an effective fumigant.
The Roman legions brought thyme to England and it went on to be grown and widely used by the English during the Middle Ages.
At one time it was considered to be a hybrid of common garden thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and broad-leaved thyme (Thymus pulegioides), but lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus) is actually its own distinct species of thyme. Note that broad-leaved thyme is also sometimes referred to as lemon thyme.
Flavor profile of lemon thyme
Lemon thyme gets its name from the fact that its leaves produce a strong lemony fragrance along with notes of thyme. This variety of thyme is sweet and lacks the camphorous bitterness that common garden thyme sometimes has. It can bring a strong lemon flavor to dishes that require it, which makes this herb an excellent substitute for both lemon and thyme. There are different cultivars of lemon thyme that are named for the similarity of their fragrance to different citrus fruits including orange thyme.
Health benefits of lemon thyme
Lemon thyme contains many compounds that are known to be effective for preventing certain diseases while also boosting the immune system. These compounds include:
- Antioxidants: Lemon thyme is a rich source of phenolic antioxidants like zeaxanthin, lutein and luteolin. This class of compounds is believed to have anti-cancer benefits and can promote healthy aging.
- Vitamins: Lemon thyme contains all of the most important vitamins including vitamin C, which helps the body to protect itself against infections as well as damage from free radicals. Lemon thyme is also a rich source of vitamin A, which is necessary for good vision and healthy skin.
- Minerals: Lemon thyme contains a variety of essential minerals including calcium, which is necessary for healthy bones and teeth. It also has a significant amount of potassium, which your body uses to regulate fluid balance and to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
The compounds in lemon thyme can help to treat and prevent conditions like:
- Respiratory tract ailments: Compounds like thymol can provide relief from bronchitis, whooping cough and similar illnesses.
- Gastrointestinal ailments: Lemon thyme can be used to treat gastritis along with bloating and indigestion.
- Gingivitis: The antifungal and antibacterial properties of thymol and other components can help to prevent and/or treat gingivitis and other dental problems.
Common uses for lemon thyme
Lemon thyme is best used fresh rather than dried. Like lemon and like thyme, it is versatile and can be paired with a wide range of ingredients including poultry, fish and vegetables. You can use the herb to flavor baked or roasted potatoes, and it can be included in a stuffing for chicken or turkey. Fresh lemon thyme leaves can be included in salads as well. Lemon thyme is also an excellent complement for other herbs like oregano and basil.