Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden
Basil thyme, Acinos arvensis (formerly named A. thymoides, Calamintha acinos, Clinopodium acinos and Satureja acinos), is also known as basil balm, dandy, mother of thyme and Spring savory. It is not closely related to sweet basil, holy basil, thyme, lemon thyme, Summer savory, Winter savory or lemon balm. it is said to taste like a mild version of common thyme.
Basil thyme is an attractive hardy perennial which reaches a height of around 6 inches (15cm) and spreads over about a foot (30cm). It is a European native, though it’s also found wild in some parts of the USA. It likes well drained, light to medium soil, though it’s not fussy as to acidity levels. It will grow in poor soil, dry or moist soil, in full sun or semi-shade.
It is not a long-lived plant, but if it is happy will self-seed, so you are unlikely to have to replace an older plant. To propagate, you can grow it from seed, divide established plants in Spring or take basal cuttings, also in Spring.
Basil thyme was once a very popular medicinal herb, but is not much used in herbal medicine nowadays. The whole plant can be used to make infusions, usually prepared from fresh herb, and the essential oil is also used.
As I have failed in a search online to find the essential oil on sale, I will give instructions on how to make a usable approximation (although genuine essential oil is prepared by distillation, a technique which uses equipment not available in the average home). You will need:
- an airtight clear glass jar (a small preserving jar is ideal),
- enough of the fresh chopped herb to fill the jar,
- enough olive oil to cover the herb, and
- some spirit vinegar to act as a preservative.
- Fill the jar with the chopped herb, pushing it down so that you can get as much in as possible.
- Add 1 tablespoonful of spirit vinegar (not malt vinegar)
- Cover with the oil
- Seal tightly and put it on a sunny windowsill.
- Every day or so, turn the jar round so that a different part faces outward, and give it a little shake.
- After 2-3 weeks, strain off the herb:
- put some cheesecloth into a colander on top of a large jug
- pour the oil through the cheesecloth into the jug
- let it stand for half an hour or so to get as much of the oil out as possible
- twist the cheesecloth with the herbs inside it to squeeze out the last drops
- Transfer the oil to a smaller dark-colored airtight glass container.
- Label it “Basil Thyme essential oil. Made on ” and the date.
- Store it somewhere cool.
This will keep for at least 6 months, but it’s best not to make more than you think you will get through in this time. If you’re still using it after the 6 months is up, always check that the oil smells good before use.
This oil can be used as an external rub for rheumatic pain, sciatica, neuralgia and bruises. A single drop on a piece of cotton wool can be used to help alleviate a toothache.
A standard infusion can be made by using 3 handfuls of fresh basil thyme to 2.5 US cups (570ml, 1 UK pint) of boiling water. Strain after 15 minutes to 4 hours for use. The dosage is 75ml (1/3 US cup) up to 3 times a day. This can be used as a diuretic and to aid digestion.
As with all herbs used for medicinal purposes, basil thyme should be grown organically so as to avoid foreign chemicals being taken in along with your remedy. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.