Everything You Need To Know About Wild Thyme In New Zealand


Here at Wild Dispensary, we celebrate the landscape and the unique plants that grow in our region. Central Otago wild thyme is one of those plants. In spring, the hills are ablaze with purple as this plant, which thrives in harsh environments like Central, begins to flower. This is when we head out to wild harvest the thyme that goes into our Chest Tonic, Throat Spray and Vira Elixir.

Thyme is the common name given for 300-400 different species that are cultivated around the world. The most common variety found in herbal medicine is Thymus vulgaris. Thyme is part of the Lamiaceae (mint) family and is a relative of oregano. 

You'll know thyme as a culinary herb found in most kitchens, but wild thyme is a very important plant in herbal medicine. It can help support various body systems, such as your respiratory, digestive and even your nervous system. Mainly, it's used for its ability to support the immune and respiratory system.

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The history of wild thyme in New Zealand

Thyme is a hardy plant that grows well in dry, sandy and harsh climates, making it the perfect plant to thrive in Central Otago. Thyme was introduced into Central in the 1800s by a French gold miner (there are also reports that it was introduced by the Chinese miners as well). It then escaped his garden, and as livestock didn't like the taste, it spread without challenge - resulting in the fields of thyme you see in spring and early summer today.


How to identify wild thyme

Wild thyme is a low-growing shrub-like perennial with woody stalks and fibrous roots. It is dense and has a strong smell. Thyme has small green, oblong, egg-shaped leaves. It has small flowers that appear in spring and range from pale pink, magenta and white, with the most common being a lilac colour. You can use both the leaves and the flowers.

How to harvest wild thyme

Harvesting can be done by cutting the thyme stems at any time during spring. We are lucky to be close to Central Otago which allows us to utilise the wild thyme that grows prolifically in this rugged region. Central Otago thyme is incredibly potent due to the fact it grows in such tough conditions. The stress placed on the plant allows it to build up more of its defence  (the volatile oils) which you then benefit from when you take our formulas.


How to use wild thyme

You can use wild thyme in a variety of ways. You can make thyme into a tincture, tonic, tea, gargle, throat spray, distilled into an essential oil, or infused in vinegar or an oxymel. Thyme is generally considered safe to use and has no known side effects (Hoffmann, 2003). However, if ingested or applied undiluted directly on skin, thyme's essential oil can cause skin and mucous membrane irritation and possible allergic reactions, including headache, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

Health benefits of wild thyme

Thyme’s actions are very diverse;  it supports the immune system and your body’s ability to fight off ills and chills with its antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptc and antiviral actions.

But it also supports the digestive system with it’s carminative and antispasmodic actions and also helps to work as an antioxidant, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, nervine, spasmolytic.

1. Thyme is great for your respiratory system

The main constituent of thyme is thymol. Thymol works as an expectorant -meaning it can help thin and bring mucus up, which is very helpful for those stubborn coughs. Thyme helps relieve contractions which is how it can help reduce spasms from coughing or from inflammation. 

It is also antispasmodic and antimicrobial - this means it helps support a healthy immune system and more relaxed breathing. This is why herbalists often favour thyme to support those with chest weakness through the cooler months.

2. Immune support

Thyme has strong antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties, which can help support both the immune system and also help with skin support. In vitro studies show that it has great promise with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and assists with accelerated wound healing. Thyme has also shown inhibitory effect on virus growth.

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3. Thyme can be used topically 

Thyme was traditionally used for leprosy and shingles, and also for nerve pain as thyme oil acts as a counter-irritant when applied topically. More recently it is being used as a disinfectant and is found in acne medicaton and washes, hand santisers, mouthwashes and also within foods as a preservative (due to its antibacterial actions).

How you can use our Chest Tonic at home

We use Central Otago wild thyme in our Chest Tonic which is perfect if you're looking for a natural way to support your respiratory system. This blend also includes kawakawa which helps support inflammation and Californian poppy which enhances the soothing action of thyme.

Ways you can use our Chest Tonic:

  • If you have a stubborn cough taking our Chest Tonic neat is your best bet to help with an irritating coughing fit. 
  • If you find that you get a chest infection or issues every winter, taking it daily as a preventative action will help support your respiratory system.
  • Having our Chest Tonic hot/warm is an excellent way of getting those volatile oils into your system to help support more relaxed breathing.



Bone, K., & Mills, S. (2013). Principles and practice of phytotherapy (2nd ed). London, United Kingdom: Elsevier

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press

Kordali S KR, Mavi A, Cakir A, Ala A, Yildirim A.
Determination of the chemical composition and antioxidant activity of the essential oil of Artemisia dracunculus and of the antifungal and antibacterial activities of Turkish Artemisia absinthium, A. J Agri Food Chem. 2005;53(24):9452-8. DOI:10.1021/jf0516538
Organization WHO. WHO monographs on selected medicinal plants: World Health Organization; 1999.

Pursell, J.J. (2015). The herbal apothecary. Portland, OR: Timber Press

Takzaree, N., Hassanzadeh, G., Rouini, M.R., Manayi, A., Hadjiakhondi, A., &
Majidi Zolbin, M.
(2017). Evaluation of the effects of local application of thyme honey in open cutaneous wound healing. Iranian Journal of Public Health, 46(4), 545-551.




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