Thyme or Thymus is known as a shrub with purple flowers. It blooms in late spring to early summer, for less than a month. Thyme is a member of the nectar-producing mint family, Lamiaceae. It is best cultivated in a hot, sunny location with well-drained soil. It is generally planted in the spring, and thereafter grows as a perennial. It can be propagated by seed, cuttings, or by dividing rooted sections of the plant. It tolerates drought well. The plants can take deep freezes and are found growing wild on mountain highlands.
The genus Thymus contains about 350 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 serpyllum also called Wild thyme covers large areas of droughty, rocky soils in southern Europe (Both Greece and Malta are especially famous for wild thyme honey) and North Africa, as well as in similar landscapes in the Berkshire and Catskill Mountains of the northeastern US.
What is thyme honey?
General characteristics of thyme honey:
- Taste: Thyme honey has a pleasant taste.
- Aroma: Intensely aromatic honey.
- Colour: Usually pale amber.
(The honey of Attica and of Cyclades islands is lighter than the honey of Crete, which is dark orange.)
- Crystallization: Usually it crystallizes in between 6 and 18 months.
Unifloral Thyme honey is mainly produced in:
Italy from Thymus capitatus (pollen grains/10 g: 10 100 ± 6 000; Thymus pollen 26.6% ± 10.0);
Greece from a variety of different species of Thymus and other Labiatae. The Greek samples show a very variable pollen content (pollen grains/10 g:33 800 ± 16 700; Thymus pollen 40.2% ± 16.4);
Spain and France mainly from Thymus vulgaris; New Zealand from Thymus vulgaris.
Greek thyme honey is light colored and infused with layers of flavor from the abundant wild flowers carpeting the mountains in spring and summer. The presence of phenol is known for its antibacterial activity.
Mount Hymettus is known locally as “Trelos” or “Crazy” (τρελός), and people believe this is due to the wild and crazy behavior of the bees, when eating thyme pollen and nectar.
Also thyme honey is produced in areas such as the Cyclades islands and on Crete and is found in dry and stony locations. It grows from sea level to an altitude of 2000 meters.
Because thyme grows wild it is organic, although there are no certification standards in place. The percentage of thyme nectar by pollen count averages around 40% and ranges from the high teens to 90%. It is commonly mixed with other Lamiaceae species such as Sage, Oregano, Rosemary and Savory.
- Thyme Honey Has Strong Antioxidant Properties – A Polish study that compared the antioxidant properties of 10 honeys found that the type of antioxidants found in thyme honey have been labelled “defensive antioxidants”. These antioxidants can bind damaging oxidants that form, stopping them turning to free radicals and causing cell damage. Professor Nolan’s research has suggested that some of the highest rating food for supplying defensive antioxidants is thyme honey.
- Thyme Honey Has Anti-Cancer Effects – A Greek study that was published in the peer-reviewed journal “Food Chemistry” (vol 116 issue 3) found that thyme reduced the viability of Ishikawa (endometrial) cancer cells and PC-3 (prostate) cancer cells in vitro. The authors suggest that a diet enriched with thyme honey “may prevent cancer-related processes in breast, prostate and endometrial cancer cells” (Tsiapara, Jaakkola, Chinou et al Food Chemistry 116.3 2009).
- Thyme Honey is Anti-Allergenic and Antiseptic properties – One recent study did find that pollen collected by bees has anti-allergenic effects, mediated by an inhibition of IgE immunoglobulin binding to mast cells. That said, most honeys you find in the shops have been filtered and contain therefore very little, if any, pollen. It can be used to cover burns and scalds, as a poultice for wounds, to prevent infection or to treat sore throats due to colds or flu.
Thyme Honey is one of the main ingredients of Doc Pharma’s syrups Doc Natural for children (+3 years) and Doc Natural for adults.