Thyme, Basil

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Thyme, Basil

otanical: Calamintha acinos
Family: N.O. Labiatae
Synonyms: Common Calamint. Calamintha officinalis. Calamintha menthifolia. Thymos acinos. Acinos vulgaris. Mountain Mint.
Part Used: Herb.
Habitat: Rather scarce in England, though fairly generally distributed over the country; it is rare in Scotland and very rare in Ireland.

Description: This species is found on dry banks and in fields, in chalky, gravelly and sandy soils: a small, bushy herb, its stems 6 to 8 inches high, branching at the base, slender and leafy.

The shortly stalked leaves, 1/4 to 1/2 inch long, with the veins prominent beneath, are eggshaped and hairy. The flowers, in bloom in July and August, are 1/2 inch long and grow in whorls from the axils of the leaves, like in the preceding species, as well as at the summit of the stem. The corollas are bluish-purple, variegated with white on the lower lip, in the middle of which there is a purple spot. The calyx is distinctly two-lipped, the lower lip bulged at the base and has prominent ribs, fringed with bristly hairs.

The plant varies much in degree of hairiness. It has a pleasant, aromatic smell, somewhat similar, though weaker, than that of Thyme, to which, however, in general appearance, it bears little resemblance. Basil Thyme was a great favourite with the old herbalists. Gerard enumerates twelve uses to which it can be applied without fear of failure. Among them he states that: 'it cureth them that are bitten of serpents; being burned or strewed, it drives serpents away; it taketh away black and blew spots that come by blows or by beatings, making the skinne faire and white; but for such things, saith Galen, it is better to be laid to greene than dry.' Externally, its use has been recommended as an addition to warm baths, especially for children, as a strengthener and nerve soother.

The oil, which is very heating, is of service as a rubefacient, applied to the skin in sciatica and neuralgia.

One drop of the oil, on cotton wool, put into a decayed tooth, will alleviate the pain.

The flowering tops are used to flavour jugged hare, etc., they have a milder and rather more grateful flavour than the common Thyme.

Although it has been stated that animals will seldom eat this plant and that rabbits do not touch it, it has been alleged that sheep love to crop its fragrant leaves and that, as a consequence, a fine flavour is imparted to their flesh.

It is said that Wild Thyme and Marjoram laid by milk in the dairy will prevent it being turned by thunder.