The genus Thymus (/ˈtməs/ TY-məs;[3] thymes) contains about 350[4] species of aromatic perennial herbaceous plants and subshrubs to 40 cm tall in the family Lamiaceae, native to temperate regions in Europe, North Africa and Asia. Thymus species are particularly concentrated in Iran, attributed to Iran's diverse climate and topographic/geographic location.[5]

Thyme is packed with phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals.[6] Thyme species such as T. fedtschenkoi, T. pubescens, and T. transcaucasicus have high amounts of essential oils; thymol and carvacrol.[7] These Thymus species are used for herbal tea, spice, and medicine.[7] The therapeutic effect of thyme is largely attributed to these essential oils belonging to the terpenoids family. [8]Thyme is considered amongst the most consequential medicinal plants due to its substantial amount of bioactive compounds.[9] Thyme has been used to treat diabetes, cold and chest infections, and coughs.[10] Thymus quinquecostatus Celak is an example of a Thyme species present in Korea.[11] In conventional Korean medicine, Thymus quinquecostatus Celak has been used to treat cancer, hepatic disease, and constipation.[12]

Stems tend to be narrow or even wiry; leaves are evergreen in most species, arranged in opposite pairs, oval, entire, and small, 4–20 mm long, and usually aromatic. Thyme flowers are in dense terminal heads with an uneven calyx, with the upper lip three-lobed, and are yellow, white, or purple.

Several members of the genus are cultivated as culinary herbs or ornamentals, when they are also called thyme after its best-known species, Thymus vulgaris or common thyme.

Thymus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some butterfly and moth insect species, including Chionodes distinctella and the Coleophora case-bearers C. lixella, C. niveicostella, C. serpylletorum, and C. struella (the latter three feed exclusively on Thymus).


A considerable amount of confusion has existed in the naming of thymes. Many nurseries use common names rather than binomial names, which can lead to mix-ups. For example golden thyme, lemon thyme, and creeping thyme are all common names for more than one cultivar. Some confusion remains over the naming and taxonomy of some species, and Margaret Easter (who holds the NCCPG National Plant Collection of thymes in the UK) has compiled a list of synonyms for cultivated species and cultivars.[13]

The most common classification is that used by Jalas, in eight sections: [14]

  • Micantes: Iberian Peninsula, Madeira and the Azores, includes T. caespititius
  • Mastichina: Iberian Peninsula, includes T. mastichina
  • Piperella: Monotypic section confined to the vicinity of Valencia, Spain
  • Teucrioides: Balkan Peninsula
  • Pseudothymbra: Iberian Peninsula and north Africa, includes T. cephalotos, T. longiflorus and T. membranaceus
  • Thymus: Western Mediterranean region, includes T. camphoratus, T. carnosus, T. hyemalis, T. vulgaris and T. zygis
  • Hyphodromi: Throughout the Mediterranean region, includes T. cilicicus and T. comptus
  • Serpyllum: The largest section, throughout whole region, apart from Madeira and Azores, includes T. comosus, T. doerfleri, T. herba-barona, T. longicaulis, T. pannonicus, T. praecox, T. pulegioides, T. quinquecostatus, T. richardii, T. serpyllum, T. sibthorpii and T. thracicus


Thymus is cultivated for its fragrant leaves and used as a culinary herb in mediterranean cooking.[15]

Mrs Margaret Easter was appointed International Cultivar Registration Authority for the genus in 2007.[16]

Selected species


  1. ^ Linnaeus.Sp. Pl.: 590 (1753).
  2. ^ Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  3. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book. 1995. pp. 606–607.
  4. ^ "Thymus Linnaeus". Flora of China.
  5. ^ Emami Bistgani, Zohreh; Mamedov, Nazim; Lotfy Ashour, Mohamed (2022), Öztürk, Münir; Khan, Shujaul Mulk; Altay, Volkan; Efe, Recep (eds.), "Genus Thymus in Iran—Ethnobotany, Phytochemical, Molecular, and Pharmacological Features", Biodiversity, Conservation and Sustainability in Asia: Volume 2: Prospects and Challenges in South and Middle Asia, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 817–848, doi:10.1007/978-3-030-73943-0_45, ISBN 978-3-030-73943-0, retrieved 2024-04-01
  6. ^ Hammoudi Halat, Dalal; Krayem, Maha; Khaled, Sanaa; Younes, Samar (2022-05-18). "A Focused Insight into Thyme: Biological, Chemical, and Therapeutic Properties of an Indigenous Mediterranean Herb". Nutrients. 14 (10): 2104. doi:10.3390/nu14102104. ISSN 2072-6643. PMC 9147557. PMID 35631245.
  7. ^ a b Hosseini, Naser; Ghorbanpour, Mansour; Mostafavi, Hossein (2024-02-13). "Habitat potential modelling and the effect of climate change on the current and future distribution of three Thymus species in Iran using MaxEnt". Scientific Reports. 14 (1): 3641. Bibcode:2024NatSR..14.3641H. doi:10.1038/s41598-024-53405-5. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 10864348. PMID 38351276.
  8. ^ Patel, Vinood B.; Preedy, Victor R. (2020). Toxicology: oxidative stress and dietary antioxidants. London: Academic press, an imprint of Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-12-819092-0.
  9. ^ Nieto, Gema (2020-07-30). "A Review on Applications and Uses of Thymus in the Food Industry". Plants. 9 (8): 961. doi:10.3390/plants9080961. ISSN 2223-7747. PMC 7464319. PMID 32751488.
  10. ^ Kuete, Victor (2017). Medicinal spices and vegetables from Africa: therapeutic potential against metabolic, inflammatory, infectious and systemic diseases. [Amsterdam] London: Elsevier Academic press. ISBN 978-0-12-809286-6.
  11. ^ Kim, Minju; Sowndhararajan, Kandhasamy; Kim, Songmun (January 2022). "The Chemical Composition and Biological Activities of Essential Oil from Korean Native Thyme Bak-Ri-Hyang (Thymus quinquecostatus Celak.)". Molecules. 27 (13): 4251. doi:10.3390/molecules27134251. ISSN 1420-3049. PMC 9268194. PMID 35807496.
  12. ^ Kim, Minju; Sowndhararajan, Kandhasamy; Kim, Songmun (January 2022). "The Chemical Composition and Biological Activities of Essential Oil from Korean Native Thyme Bak-Ri-Hyang (Thymus quinquecostatus Celak.)". Molecules. 27 (13): 4251. doi:10.3390/molecules27134251. ISSN 1420-3049. PMC 9268194. PMID 35807496.
  13. ^ Easter, Margaret. "Thymus Synonyms". Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  14. ^ Jalas, Jaakko (1971). "Notes on Thymus L. (Labiatae) in Europe. I. Supraspecific classification and nomenclature". Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 64: 199–235.
  15. ^ "How to grow thyme". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 12 October 2023.
  16. ^ Margaret, Easter. "Thymus Nomenclature". Thymus. Retrieved 12 October 2023.
  17. ^ Thymus x citriodorus - (Pers.)Schreb.. Plants for a Future.
  18. ^ USDA Thymus pulegioides


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