Lemon thyme – characteristics, cultivation and use

lemon thyme
lemon thyme

Lemon thyme is the wild brother of thyme. It is native to Central Europe and grows in places that are too dry, stony and sunny to other plants. There, on rocky sunny places, wild thyme forms whole carpets, which bloom pink in the summer and smell from a distance herb-spicy. In herbal medicine you can use plant much like thyme. It helps against coughing, strengthens digestion and relieves women’s complaints. Also, against inflammatory skin problems and joint pain you can use this diverse medicinal plant.

Profile of lemon thyme:

Scientific name: Thymus pulegioides

Plant family: mint family (Lamiaceae)

Other names: broad-leaved thyme, wild thyme

Sowing time / Planting time: April – May

Flowering period: June – September

Harvest time: May – August

Useful plant parts: leaves, flowers, shoots

Location: sunny to full sun

Soil quality: sandy, loose and nutrient-poor

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: cold, flu infections, heartburn, dry cough, rheumatism

Use as aromatic herb: meat, fish, potato dishes, salads, egg dishes

Plant characteristics and classification of lemon thyme

Origin and occurrence of the lemon thyme

Unlike the common thyme, which is native to the southern European Mediterranean, the lemon thyme comes from Central Europe. The undemanding plant is found on meadows and fields just as in barren mountain landscapes in the Alps and far into Siberia. Due to the widespread distribution lemon thyme depending on occurrence is called also broad-leaved thyme and wild thyme.

Plant order of lemon thyme

The wild thyme is a member of the Labiatae family (Lamiaceae) and also belongs to the subfamily Nepetoideae. This subfamily includes many other well-known culinary and medicinal herbs such as basil, savory, lavender, hyssop or lemon balm.

The genus Thymus contains more than 210 species. In addition to lemon thyme (Thymus pulegioides), the common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is still of great importance.

Look and characteristics of wild thyme


Lemon thyme, like the common thyme, is a perennial, frost-resistant plant. The growth is creeping, so that the plant literally forms carpets. Compared to the common thyme, wild thyme does not lignifies as much and grows to a height of about 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in). Despite the rather creeping growth, it is a subshrub.


The leaves are also slightly different compared to common thyme. The lancet-shaped leaves are, with a length of 1 to 1.5 cm (0.4 to 0.6 in), are much smaller and appear more compact. In addition, the leaves of wild thyme feel smooth and have a rich green color, while the common thyme is more likely to have a silvery-green foliage.


Another difference between thyme and lemon thyme are the flowers that appear mostly from June to the end of September. These are also filigree, but sit just like the common thyme at the end of the leaves branches. Striking is the arrangement of the funnel-shaped opening up to one centimeter (0.4 in) small flowers that form a ball consisting of several flowers. The flower color of wild thyme varies. Most common are pink to purple flowers. The color of the flowers may sometimes be white or a strong pink.


After pollination and fertilization wild thyme develop from the flowers small nut fruits. Incidentally, the plant is particularly visited by bees and is a popular bee pasture.

lemon thyme with pink flowers
lemon thyme with pink flowers

Lemon thyme – cultivation and care

Although the wild thyme was once considered a wild plant, there are more and more traders who offer preferred lemon thyme in pots or as seeds. This is partly because the plant is used more often as a medicinal herb than the common thyme.


Wild thyme has little demands to the location. It grows best in a sunny to full sun spot. Perfect are sandy and nutrient-poor soils. Loamy or dense soils should be mixed with sand, lava sand or fine gravel and loosened up. It is important that the water can flow off unhindered and no waterlogging is made.


Lemon thyme is relatively easy to grow. For sowing on the window sill, the seeds are cultivated from the end of March, sprinkled on the potting soil and gently pressed. After just two or three weeks, the first seedlings will show up. As soon as the night frosts are over at the end of May, the plantlets can be planted in the garden or on the balcony. Sowing in the field is also possible. For this the late May is suitable. Longer night frosts usually do not tolerate the seedlings very well. When growing, a distance of at least 15 x 15 cm (6 x 6 in) should be kept. In herb spirals, wild thyme can be easily grown at the top.


Alternatively, you can multiply lemon thyme by cutting. To do this, cut off young, strong shoot tips of a mother plant and put them in soil.


With successful rooting or when the grown from seed plants have grown, lemon thyme soon forms lush lawns. Therefore, wild thyme is also suitable for green roofs or for the rock garden.


Lemon thyme does not need fertilizer or only little, just like another treatment. Only in the spring you can cut back the plant a bit to counteract the lignification. If the thyme is planted over several years, some compost is usually sufficient in the following year.


In winter, in contrast to many Mediterranean thyme, no special precautions need to be taken for wild thyme. Lemon thyme is very resistant to frost and snow, which is proven by the occurrence in frosty Siberia.

Lemon thyme and its use

The wild thyme is many not quite as well known as the common thyme. Nevertheless, it can be used for the same purposes. As a medicinal herb, it is preferable to common thyme, as the species has a higher concentration of medically valuable ingredients.

Lemon thyme in the kitchen

Compared to common thyme, the taste of lemon thyme is milder, although spicy, but far less aromatic. The difference between the flavors of wild thyme and common thyme becomes particularly clear when you smell both herbs. Thyme is a bit stronger in flavor and taste. Therefore, wild thyme is recommended if a mild thyme flavor is desired.

Nonetheless, lemon thyme can be used for the same dishes and food as the related common thyme. Wild thyme goes well with rich meat dishes as well as with fish, salads and potato dishes. In addition to the delicate leaves, the flowers are also used.

lemon thyme with pale pink flowers
lemon thyme with pale pink flowers

Lemon thyme as a medicinal herb

Wild thyme is especially known for the relief of respiratory diseases, it can be used to relieve many other symptoms.

Respiratory system

The main application of lemon thyme are diseases of the respiratory system. With its antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties, lemon thyme combats coughs and colds caused by pathogens. The antispasmodic property helps against spasms when coughing, which makes wild thyme also effective against whooping cough, dry cough and asthma. In addition, it dissolves the mucus, which can be better coughed off.


Lemon thyme stimulates the entire digestion. Therefore, it is also suitable as a spice for difficult to digest dishes. Even with flatulence and heartburn, lemon thyme can help.


Above all, the folk medicine considers wild thyme as a female herb. With its anti-spasmodic properties, lemon thyme can relieve menstrual cramps. It can also promote menstruation and regulate the cycle. The birth can be facilitated by wild thyme.


Lemon thyme should not be used in large quantities during pregnancy.

Nervous system

The wild thyme is also considered a medicinal plant for the nervous system. It should be able to alleviate sleep disorders. Previously, it was also used against epilepsy.

Preparation of lemon thyme tea

This tea helps with many types of cough such as irritating cough and whooping cough. Also in asthma lemon thyme has an anticonvulsant effect. In menstrual cramps, the tea infusion has a relaxing and regulating effect.

Time needed: 10 minutes

This is how you prepare a lemon thyme tea by yourself.

  1. put a teaspoon of the dried herb in a tea strainer in a cup

  2. dash with boiling hot water

  3. let it cover for about 5 to 10 minutes

  4. you can sweeten the tea with honey to enhance the effect

  5. this tea is drunk in small sips and also lets the steam of the tea affect you

External application of lemon thyme

Externally, you can use wild thyme for bruises, contusions and all inflammations of the skin. So you soak a cloth in warm lemon thyme tea and prepare an envelope with it.

Lemon thyme can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • abdominal diseases
  • asthma
  • bad breath
  • badly healing wounds
  • bloating
  • bronchitis
  • bruises
  • cold
  • contortions
  • cough
  • coughing spasm
  • diarrhea
  • dry Cough
  • eczema
  • epilepsy
  • erysipelas
  • facial erysipelas
  • facilitating birth
  • heartburn
  • hoarseness
  • indigestion
  • inflamed wounds
  • insomnia
  • joint pain
  • menopausal symptoms
  • neurasthenia
  • period cramps
  • promoting menstrual
  • shingles
  • sore throat
  • sprains
  • stomach upset
  • tracheitis
  • whooping cough

Medicinal properties

  • antibacterial
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antispasmodic
  • expectorant
  • hemostatic
  • reassuring
  • sweaty


Lemon thyme should not be used in large quantities during pregnancy.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy lemon thyme – What to pay attention to?

Lemon thyme is rarely found in the trade. Fresh plants are occasionally found in larger plant centers and at some online retailers. The plants should be robust and free of pests. Watch out for small white spots or brown spots. Also, the soil in pots should not be damp, otherwise the plant is in danger of carrying root damage.

One should pay attention to the botanical name Thymus pulegioides. Earlier wild or Breckland thyme (Thymus serpyllum) was named as lemon thyme. Some sources mistakenly call wild thyme as wild thyme. The price per lemon thyme plant is about 2 to 4 EUR/$.

In addition to fresh plants, some seed producers also offer lemon thyme seeds, so that the plants can also be cultivated at home or in the garden. Most plants and seeds are slightly more expensive than the common thyme. The price per package is about 2 EUR/$.

Dried herb is available in many herbal shops as well as on some online marketplaces. In supermarkets, it is practically not to be found, because usually the common thyme is used for seasoning. It is however inexpensive to obtain. The herbs should have a fragrant aroma and be closed aroma-tight.

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