(Thymus) is a genus of about 350 species of aromatic perennial herbs and sub-shrubs to 40 cm tall, in the Family Lamiaceae and native to Europe, North Africa and Asia. A number of species hassome chemotypes. The stems tend to be narrow or even wiry; the leaves are evergreen in most species, arranged in opposite pairs, oval, entire, and small, 4-20 mm long. The flowers are in dense terminal heads, with an uneven calyx, with the upper lip three-lobed, and the lower cleft; the corolla is tubular, 4-10 mm long, and white, pink or purple. Common Thyme or Garden Thyme, T. vulgaris is a commonly used culinary herb. It is a Mediterranean perennial which is best suited to well-drained soils and enjoys full sun.Citrus Thyme T. x citriodorus (T. pulegioides x T. vulgaris) is also a popular culinary herb, with cultivars selected with flavours of various Citrus fruit.
Thyme is often used to flavour meats, soups and stews. It is used in French cuisine, where it is an important element in a bouquet garni, as well as in Herbes de Provence. It is also widely used in Caribbean cuisine. In Jordan the condiment zahtar contains thyme as vital ingredient. Thyme should be added early in cooking so that its oils have time to be released.
Ancient Egyptians used this herb in embalming. The Greeks used it in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples. It was thought that the spread of thyme throughout Europe was thanks the Romans as they used it to purify their rooms. In medieval times, women would often give knights and warriors gifts that included thyme leaves as it was believed to bring courage to the bearer. Thyme was also used as incense and placed on coffins during funerals as it was supposed to assure passage into the next life.