I love fresh herbs, so I grow my own sage, lemongrass, basil and mint, but not thyme. (I didn't figure I cooked with it enough to make it worthwhile.) But I'm going to plant some ASAP. That's because some intriguing new data suggests that the well-loved herb might be a serious cancer-fighter.
In a study published in Nutrition and Cancer, T. serpyllum — wild thyme extract — "induced significant cytotoxicity in breast cancer cells but not in normal cells."
And the thyme's effects weren't middling; they were significant: The study's authors wrote, "... the first preliminary data on the effects of the methanolic extract of T. serpyllum in normal and breast cancer cells were obtained and suggest that T. serpyllum may be a promising candidate in the development of novel therapeutic drugs for breast cancer treatment."
While breast cancer has a genetic component, it also has what scientists call an epigenetic part too — "changes in gene expression caused by mechanisms that do not involve alterations in DNA sequence." That's where lifestyle (quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol) and nutrition, and possibly supplementation come into play. While we can't change our genes, we can change habits, where we live, and what we consume.
Thyme has long been known as a medicinal plant —with well-known antibacterial and antifungal properties. It's used in mouthwash (on the ingredient list it's labeled as Thymol) and it's a great digestive aid for kids and adults when an upset stomach demands relief. You can add thyme to savory dishes or use the herb to make a tea.
Or, since it's summer, make your sangria with thyme (and cucumber) for a refreshing drink, as this recipe details.
Related on MNN:
- 10 amazing healing plants you can find in your garden
- How to store fresh herbs
- The risks of breast cancer and how you can reduce them