Immersion 37, June 30th – About Thyme

I ask of my Herbal Medicine Practitioner friends and colleagues how often do we limit the actions of the herbs we use in food and medicine? How often do we use a herb because of what we were taught and what the books or research says and not from our direct experience of that plant. I realise that along with gathering respectfully, living with it drying in my Herb Room, preparing, drinking, using in food, this local Central Otago Thyme is something special.

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In Western Herbal Medicine its actions are said to be;
– Antimicrobial (Antifungal and Anti bacterial)
– Relaxing expectorant
– Carminative (relieves wind)
– Anti-spasmodic
– Some bitterness, astringency and expeller of intestinal worms.
Mostly though its actions are focused on the respiratory and digestive systems.

I always look to the second most treasured book of my younger years – that of Juliette de Bairacli Levy’s The Illustrated Herbal Handbook . I met Juliette and later bought her to New Zealand. Everyone loved her, she captured all – from the most scientific herbalist among us to the most grassroots. What was especially precious was the way she interacted with local Maori, she gathered them around her like moths to a light. They saw who and what she was, authentic, a wise Elder.
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What Juliette says about thyme:
“ Treatment of all digestive complaints, including inflammation of the liver, bad breath, flatulence. Treatment of whooping cough, sore throat, asthma, sinus ailments, rickets. Treatment of all nervous derangements, including hysteria, nervous indigestion, nightmares, headaches. To control excessive menstrual flow, expel retained afterbirth, treatment of inflamed or diseased uterus, mastitis and all swelling of the breast. A safe remedy for worms even in infants. Used to promote perspiration in fevers.
“Externally: As a hot fomentation for abscesses and boils and all kinds of swellings and gatherings”.

This is amazing! Here is Juliette with a wealth of experience talking about this plant in a way no-one else that I can find does.

What do I think? This Central Otago Thyme in flower has an added layer of complexity to an already complex being. I understand now why it was picked in flower. The vinegar (Thyme infused in Apple Cider Vinegar) is delicious and I have yet to strain the tincture.

As I said in Blog 35, on a more experiential level, thyme enhances/gives direction/reflection to where you are at in your life, a timely reminder of what you are about.
I will be taking Juliettes recommendations on board and will use it more expansively in my clinical practice.
It is interesting that as I focus on a particular plant I see a number of people clinically that I creatively use that plant for.
A mother brought her 7month old boy to see me – he had been diagnosed with bronchiolitis, had been hospitalised twice, prescribed antibiotics but just wasn’t thriving. He was congested and though OK, not robust.
As an extra I suggested putting a strong Thyme infusion in his vaporiser while I could get a formula to him and gave her enough for several days. She phoned me back two days later saying that the two nights using the Thyme had resolved the congestion and cough.

Wild food of the month
Juliettes Za’atar.
The powdered Thyme is mixed with roasted Sesame seeds, coriander seeds and salt. Eat this with Olive oil on slices of bread.

At home
I am watching a beautiful snowstorm I was about to take my dog Finbar Wisp for a walk when there was a roar up the valley coming closer and closer (like a motor car ralley) but it was the wind ahead of the storm. At first the snowflakes danced in a frenzy at the will of the wind and then the energy changed as that wind past. On Winter Solstice it is hard to believe that each snowflake doesn’t have a degree of consciousness.

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