Creeping thyme is a scented herb native frequently used to add color to a garden or flavor to a recipe. Originally found growing in Mediterranean Europe, its versatility ensured that it would be exported, and it is now found growing throughout the world. Unlike common thyme, which grows upright and stands about 12 inches (30.5 cm) tall, creeping thyme remains low to the ground, usually standing 2 to 4 inches (5.1 to 10.2 cm) tall. Rather than growing upward, it instead sprawls out to cover an area of 18 inches (45.7 cm) or even more in some cases, making it an ideal choice for ground cover.
As a ground covering plant, creeping thyme is a sturdy, low-maintenance choice, able to thrive in a variety of climates and with varying degrees of sunlight. It remains green all year and produces pink flowers that blossom through the summer. Creeping thyme’s low profile means that it does not require mowing or trimming, and because of its ability to survive regular foot traffic, it often is used to fill the space between flagstones in a walkway. It also is a common feature in landscaping, often placed in the foreground or filling the gaps between larger plants.
Although used in cooking less frequently than common thyme, creeping thyme is an herb and can be used in food preparation. Thyme can be used fresh or dried to season a wide variety of meals and is an essential element of cooking styles around the world. Bees are fond of thyme as well, and honey produced using nectar from thyme has a distinct flavor.
Thyme also is one of the earliest recorded herbal remedies, and it figures heavily in tradition, myth and folklore. Ancient Egyptians used the herb to cure both headaches and nightmares from as early as 1600 B.C. The ancient Greeks believed that thyme had purifying properties and used it in their temples. Some legends suggested a link between thyme and the fairy world, a link that William Shakespeare included in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
In the modern age, thyme retains its medicinal reputation. As an antiseptic, creeping thyme can be made into a tea to treat a sore throat or used topically to disinfect cuts and scrapes. Thyme also has expectorant properties, making it useful for treating congestion. It has been used to treat whooping cough, colic and bronchitis as well. Flatulence and indigestion are also said to be relieved by thyme. Of course, professional medical advice should be sought before treating any serious condition.