Thyme: The Emperor's Herb
It may look innocuous sitting in your local supermarket today, but in ancient times, thyme held quite the reputation as an healing herb and symbol of valor and strength. In a fascinating blog from History.com which examines the various ways thyme was revered in the past, we learn that this herb was highly esteemed by Roman emperors and valiant soldiers of the Roman Era and Middle Ages, believed to protect one from poison and worn as badge of honor on the battlefield.
Thyme’s reputation as a healer and protector goes back thousands of years. In the Roman era, it was widely held that eating thyme either before or during a meal would protect you from poison. For obvious reasons, this made the herb a particular favorite of the emperors. It was even said that a bath in warm water liberally dosed with thyme could stop the effects of poison after it was inadvertently consumed.
Thyme was also associated with courage, bravery and strength in ancient times. Roman soldiers exchanged sprigs of thyme as a sign of respect. Greeks and Romans burned bundles of thyme to purify their temples and homes, and to evoke a spirit of courage in those who inhaled it.
The association with courage and bravery persisted into the Middle Ages. Thyme was a traditional gift offered to men going into battle. Most soldiers would just cram these fragrant charms into their pockets or purses, but some were known to attach thyme to their clothing or armor as a visible badge of honor. When worn into battle, thyme might serve double duty: used as an embalming herb since the time of the Egyptians, it was thought to be a powerful aid to those making their passage into the next life.
Learn more about thyme's rich history (and get a great recipe from Mushroom-Thyme soup!) at History.com.