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Herb of the Month-Thyme

With the summer heat now upon us, it’s time – no pun intended- to harvest some of our herbs. Here in the Central Valley of Oregon, things are a bit trickier, gardening wise, so we need to pick hardy perennials. With that in mind, let me introduce you to our Herb of the Month-Thyme.

Herb of the Month-Thyme
Thyme in a raised planter (Photo by Terry Lynn Pellegrini)

Thyme is a member of the mint family. It is generally a low growing perennial, winter hardy to zone five. Leaves are dark, gray green in color and the labiate flowers are tiny and generally pink. Blooms in early to midsummer. There are many tiny oval-shaped leaves on each slender, woody stem.

Thyme comes in over fifty varieties with different fragrances and flavors. Fresh or English thyme are used most often in cooking.

A native of the Mediterranean, Thyme was spread throughout Europe and used frequently by the Romans. Their soldiers added it to their bathwater to increase bravery, strength, and vigor. It enjoyed a long association with bravery. In Medieval England, ladies embroidered sprigs of thyme into their knights’ scarves to increase their bravery. In Scotland, highlanders brewed tea to increase courage and keep away nightmares.

Thyme is also a purificatory herb; the Greeks burned it in their temples to purify them and so thyme is often burned prior to magical rituals to cleanse the area. In spring a magical cleansing bath composed of marjoram and thyme is taken to ensure all the sorrows and ills of the past are removed from the person.

It is said that places where wild thyme grows are blessed by fae, and due to this association thyme is often used in work regarding fae.

Thyme

  • Plant: Thyme
  • Latin Name: Thymus vulgaris
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Folk Names: Garden Thyme, Common Thyme
  • Elements: Water
  • Energy: Feminine
  • Planet: Venus
  • Astrological Signs: Aries, Capricorn, Libra, Taurus
  • Deities: Aphrodite, Aries, Freya, Hecate, Mars, The Fae
Thyme in Bloom- Photo by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Magickal Uses of the Herb of the Month-Thyme

Parts used – Whole Herb

  • Banishing Negativity
  • Cleansing
  • Courage
  • Divination
  • Dream Work
  • Fairy Magick
  • Happiness
  • Healing
  • Health,
  • Heighten Empathy
  • Love
  • Prosperity
  • Psychic Abilities
  • Purification
  • Sleep

Magickal Ways to Use Thyme

  1. A pillow stuffed with thyme dispels nightmares and promotes positive dreams.
  2. Wearing a sprig of thyme in your hair makes you more approachable.
  3. Add thyme to your bathwater to increase courage.
  4. When working hard to achieve a goal that seems un-achievable, thyme can be used in spells to help you keep a positive attitude.

Growing Thyme

Thyme can grow in the ground or in a container. Either is left outside in wintertime. New leaves will emerge within the early spring. Thyme thrives in full sun and loves heat. Thyme likes well-drained soil as it doesn’t like “wet feet.” In the garden, plant with other drought-tolerant perennials.

It’s hard to grow thyme from seeds as they are slow to germinate and easily “drowned”. It is much simpler, and more satisfying, to buy the plants from a garden center or take some cuttings from a friend. Over time, you can propagate from your own cuttings.

Plant cuttings or young thyme plants any time after the ground temperature reaches 70°F. This is usually 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost in well-drained soil about 9 inches apart. 

Space young plants 12 to 24 inches apart, depending upon the specific variety. They will spread out quite a bit so they need plenty of room.

Thyme does well in greenhouses and even indoors with proper grow lights and moisture levels. This is important in Central Oregon as are many micro-climates can make growing any herbs a challenge.

Culinary Uses

Thyme is used most often to flavor soups, stews, meats and veggies. I use it in my pasta sauce, beans and sprinkle it into chicken soup. It’s great on roasted potatoes, and even in fresh bread.

Thyme can be used either fresh or dried. Dried has a more powerful flavor so use less than you would fresh, roughly one third of the dried herb compared to fresh. When using fresh you can use the entire stem (remove the stem before serving) or remove the leaves from the stems and sprinkle into your dish.

Thyme infused vinegar is a wonderful way to add flavor to salads and veggies. Fill a jar with fresh thyme (dried can be used in a pinch but it is harder to strain) and then cover with white wine vinegar. Let the jar sit for several days to a week. You will know when it is ready when the vinegar has a strong thyme taste. Strain the vinegar and discard the thyme. Place back in the jar or a fancy serving decanter.

Medicinal Uses of Thyme

The information provided below is for educational purposes only and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Before using any herb medicinally, always consult with your physician.

  • Antifungal
  • Antiseptic
  • Antitussive
  • Carminative
  • Disinfectant
  • Expectorant

Thyme is often used for acute respiratory infections including coughs and colds. It can sooth gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, gas, and indigestion.

Thyme is a powerful disinfectant and antiseptic when used both externally – as a wash – and internally in a tea or tincture.

Some benefits of using Thyme are:

  • fighting acne
  • lowering blood pressure
  • helping to alleviate cough
  • boosting immunity
  • disinfecting
  • repelling pests
  • aromatherapy
  • boosting mood
  • preventing bacterial infections
  • helping to treat yeast infections
  • possibly helping against certain types of cancer

Our Herb of the Month-Thyme, is an amazing plant. It is hardy, easy to grow, great for cooking and packed with medicinal benefits. May this humble yet amazing plant grace your garden and bring you joy.

Blessings!

Sources: Gladstar, Rosemary, Medicinal Herbs, a Beginner’s Guide, Storey Publishing 2012; Tierra, Michael, The Way of Herbs, Pocket Books, 1988

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Vervain – Herb of the Month, February 2020

Vervain, commonly known as Verbena, is an extremely versatile herb, both magickly and medicinally. Found all around the world, it has a rich and useful history. Vervain has been considered a magickal and sacred herb in many different cultures throughout the centuries. It is best remembered as a sacred plant to both the Druids and the Roman priesthood.

Vervain - Verbena Officinalis
Verbena Officinalis

To the ancient Romans the name “verbena” meant altar plant. The twigs of the plant were put into bundles and then used to sweep the altar and temple areas.

The name “vervain” comes from the Celtic term “ferfaen;fer” meaning “to drive away” and “faen” meaning “a stone”. Healers would gather this herb to be used to treat kidney stones – something it is still used for today.

Vervain is a slim plant that may grow to be about 80 cm (32 in) tall. It is a hardy perennial and self-sows. It grows freely in the wild and is often found along roadsides and in dry or stony grounds. Today it is a favorite in many a garden and a staple in every witch’s herbal cabinet and apothecary.

Plant: Common Vervain

Scientific Name: Verbena

Genus: Verbena, L.

Latin Name: Verbena Officinalis, Verbena Californica, Verbena Hastata (Blue Vervain)

Family:  Verbenaceae

Folk/Secret Names: Van Van, Dragon’s Claw, Enchanter’s Plant, Herba Sacra, Holy Plant, Frog’s Foot, Juno’s Tears, Pigeon Grass

Gender: Feminine

Elements: Water

Planet: Venus

Astrological Signs: Gemini

Deities: Venus, Cerridwen, Isis, Mars, Venus, Aradia, Jupiter, Thor, Juno

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Vervaain - An artists rendition of vervain

Magickal Uses of Vervain

Vervain is a sacred plant, potentially the most mystical plant on earth. It is used on altars and is a staple plant in magic ceremonies. It is a versatile herb that has many magickal uses.

Parts Used: Flowers and Leaves

  • Bestowing peace
  • Catalyst – use to make spells “go”
  • Cleansing the altar
  • Consecration of tools
  • Healing
  • Herb of Immortality
  • Keeping evil at bay
  • Protection
  • Purification
  • Romance and love
  • Turning your rival into an ally
  • Used in fortune telling and prophecy
  • Vervain is the herb of poets, singers, and bards.  It was often carried by these performers for to bring inspiration and increased skill
  • Vervain was placed around fields to prevent bad weather and to ensure a good harvest.
  • Vision questing

Substitutions: Motherwort, Skullcap, California Poppy

Verbana hastata
Verbena Hastata

Growing Vervain

This easy to grow plant is a favorite in many home gardens. The Verbena genus is large, contains both annuals and perennials, and has a range in height from 10 cm through to 1.4 m. Vervain (Verbena) as an annual grows in zones 1 to 10, as a perennial: zones 3 to 10. In general the plants have dark green toothed leaves, and bloom from summer until the first frost of winter. Depending on the variety they may have clusters of tiny flat fragrant flowers or spikes with tiny flowers, making Vervain a great attractor of butterflies and bees to the garden.

Vervain can easily be started from seeds. Be sure to stratify the seeds (follow link for definition) to increase the germination rate. Sow seeds outside after the last frost of spring. Seeds can take anywhere from two weeks to three months to germinate, so don’t get discouraged. Alternately you can pick up plants from your local nursery.

Plants need full sun and well-drained soil. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Spacing of your plants will depend on the variety.  Consult the information on the seed packets or plant tags to determine the planting space required for your variety. When in doubt, consult the staff of your favorite nursery or garden center.

Depending on your soil quality and acidity, Vervain needs very little fertilizer.  I usually add a bit to the soil before I sow seeds or add new plants and to any established perennials in the early spring.

Blooms are very long lived.  However, Vervain is self-sowing so if you don’t want your garden overrun with these beautiful plants cut the flowers before they go to seed.

Medicinal Uses

The information provided below is for educational purposes only and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Additional Information

Verbena Officinalis is most often used medicinally.  Alternately you could use Verbena Hastata. Some of Vervain’s properties are:

  • Analgesic
  • Antibacterial
  • Anticoagulant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antispasmodic
  • Astringent
  • Diaphoretic
  • Diuretic
  • Emmenagogue
  • Galactagogue
  • Nervine
  • Stimulant

Vervain is most often used to treat:

  • Anxiety
  • Ascites
  • Cirrhosis
  • Colds
  • Depression
  • Flus
  • Gout
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Jaundice
  • Kidney Stones
  • Liver disorders
  • Mastitis
  • Painful or irregular menses

Please consult a licensed Herbalist and your Physician before using any parts of the Vervain plant medicinally.


Sources: 

Beyerl, Paul The Master Book of Herbalism Blaine, Washington, Phoenix Publishing Inc. 1981

Dugan, Ellen Garden Witch’s Herbal, Woodbury, MN, Llewellyn Publications 2009

Mueller-Ebeling, Claudia, Ratsch, Christian, and Storl, Wolf-Dieter Witchcraft Medicine Vermont Inner Traditions 2003

Tierra, Michael The Way of Herbs New York, NY, Pocket Books, 1998