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Thyme Blossoms

Cathy Christensen October 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
fresh thyme

It's the small things in life that prove to be the most important. I remember several years ago when I had a very, very bad morning and stopped at a fast-food restaurant for a cup of coffee, thinking it would help my mood. When the drive-thru worker handed me the cup with a smile, and said “Have a nice day,” I literally felt I had at least one friend in this cruel world. Little did that worker realize how much her clichéd saying would improve my day.

In a way, thyme does the same thing for dishes and treatments—it’s a pick-me-up that adds a touch of flavor, aroma and depth, improving anything it touches.

In the kitchen

With at least 60 different varieties, thyme is a member of the mint family and is a perennial evergreen shrub with stems covered in small grey-green leaves.1,2 It is an excellent source of iron and manganese and a good source of calcium, as well as a good source of dietary fiber.

Thyme originated in Asia, southern Europe and the Mediterranean region and, historically, the ancient Egyptians used it as an embalming agent to preserve their deceased. It was also burned as incense in ancient Greek temples.1 It was a symbol of courage and admiration, and is a delicious and healthful addition to salads, soups, sauces, vegetables and meat dishes.2

Thyme’s benefits are no secret to spa cuisine chefs. At Gaia Retreat & Spa in Brooklet, Australia, guests can enjoy field mushrooms stuffed with thyme and goat cheese on saffron risotto with a port wine and virgin olive oil reduction; and the Spa Seafood Salad at The Spa at Charleston Place in Charleston, South Carolina, is topped with lemon thyme dressing. At Ojai, California’s Ojai Valley Inn & Spa’s Oak Café, the Green Goddess Romaine Salad with Grilled Baguette, Shaved Parmesan and Micro Thyme can be enjoyed; and a dash of thyme perks up the Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella Millet Polenta, available at Red Mountain Spa in St. George, Utah. Check out how thyme is incorporated in the Fresh Tuna Salad Nicoise from Executive Chef Terry Conlon of Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas.

In the spa

Thyme features antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties that help firm collagen in the skin.3 Additionally, the flowering thyme tops contain an essential oil, as well as a variety of flavonoids, increasing thyme’s antioxidant capacity.1, 2

The Hot Stone Foot Treatment from Cal-a-Vie, The Spa Havens in Vista, California, features a warm paraffin wax infused with thyme, cucumber and iris to help soothe and heal dry, damaged skin; and Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington, offers a Nurturing Organic Thyme Foot Scrub as an add-on for massages or wraps. At Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone, California, the Aromatherapy Facial uses thyme and lavender to soothe and balance skin; and the Carita Lift and Firming Treatment at Bella Santé in Boston utilizes thyme in a blend of facial massage oil to exfoliate and lift. The Himilayan Renewal Package from Sattva in Denver, features a detoxifying thyme and eucalyptus herbal steam; and The Baths of Caracalla in Grand Rapids, Michigan, provides Raindrop Therapy that uses thyme essential oil to help balance clients. Sage Waters of Taos, New Mexico’s, Radiant Body Polish features a total body exfoliation using a variety of essential oils, including thyme; and the Salt Glow & Garden Wrapsody is a full-body cleansing and exfoliation featuring sea salts and essential oils such as thyme from Le Petite Retreat Day Spa in Los Angeles.

Professional skin care suppliers also haven’t forgotten about this diminutive herb. Hormeta’s Skin Clearing Cream to fight pigmentation is enriched with thyme, rosemary and lemon, and DermaNatural offers an Apple & Pectin Masque to speed exfoliation with the herb’s help. Yon-Ka Paris uses thyme in a variety of products, including its Emulsion Pure, where the ingredient helps oily, acneic skin; and thyme’s scent is featured in the company’s Ylang-Ylang-Grapefruit-Thyme Candle Therapy collection. Eve Taylor’s No. 10 Professional Aromatherapy Treatment Oil includes thyme essential oil, and Karin Herzog Skin Care’s Oxygen Hand & Nail Cream features thyme extracts to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on hands.

Thyme in

Although it is petite, thyme, in many ways, improves everything it comes in contact with. Whether the benefits are simply aromatic and flavorful, or they enhance your spa’s offerings with therapeutic results, perhaps it’s time to consider thyme for your spa’s menu.

REFERENCES

1. www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=77

2. homecooking.about.com/od/herbsspices1/a/thymevarieties.htm

3. www.dermanatural.com/ingredients.html

(All accessed on Aug 7, 2008)

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Quick Facts: Thyme

  • Thyme is included in a French combination of herbs called bouquet garni that is used to season stock, stews and soups.1
  • In medieval times, it was a ritual for women to give their knights a scarf with a sprig of thyme placed over an embroidered bee for bravery.1
  • Pour a cup of thyme tea in a plant mister and spray around doorways and windows in the summer to repel insects.2
  • Thyme leaves are sweetest if picked just as the flowers appear.2
  • One fresh sprig of thyme equals the flavoring power of one-half teaspoon of dried thyme.2
  • According to legend, thyme was an essential ingredient in a magic brew that allowed the drinker to see fairies.2
  • It was also considered an aphrodisiac.2

Recipe: Fresh Tuna Salad Nicoise

from Executive Chef Terry Conlon, Lake Austin Spa Resort, Austin, Texas

Makes 4 servings, 312 calories, 8 grams of fat

This is a take on a classic French entrée salad, perfect if served with some good bread and iced herbal tea. A high-quality canned white albacore tuna, packed in spring water and well-drained, may be substituted for the fresh tuna steak.

1 1⁄2 cups water

3⁄4 cup white wine

1⁄2 sliced lemon

1⁄4 cup sliced onion

1⁄2 rib of celery, sliced

1⁄4 cup sliced carrot

1 bay leaf

2 black peppercorns

12 ounces albacore tuna steak

4 steamed new potatoes, cut into quarters or halves

1⁄2 cup (3⁄4 inch) peeled carrot strips, steamed until tender

1 cup (1 1⁄2 inch) green beans, steamed until tender

1 small red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, diced

8 pitted black olives, cut into halves

1⁄2 cup diced red onion

2 green onions, minced

Dressing:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1⁄2 teaspoon anchovy paste

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 1⁄2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, or 1⁄4 teaspoon dried thyme

1⁄8 teaspoon salt

1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine the water, wine, lemon, onion, celery, sliced carrot, bay leaf and peppercorns in a stainless steel or other nonreactive saucepan over medium heat.

2. Bring to a simmer and add tuna; gently poach for 10 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and allow tuna to cool to room temperature in poaching liquid.

4. Remove the tuna and place in a large bowl; flake.

5. Add the potatoes, carrot strips, green beans, bell pepper, olives, red onion and green onions; mix well.

6. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, anchovy paste, garlic, Dijon mustard, thyme, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over the tuna and vegetables; mix well.

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