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Thyme vs Rosemary - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan by Victoria Mazmanyan | Last updated on November 29, 2020
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Thyme
vs
Rosemary

Summary

Rosemary is higher in calories and fats, while thyme contains more protein and sugars. Thyme is also richer in most minerals and vitamins, particularly vitamins C, B2, and iron. Nevertheless, rosemary is significantly higher in folate.

While most herbs have beneficial effects on health, rosemary has been researched more extensively to protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. When used with certain medications, thyme and rosemary should be consumed cautiously.

Introduction

Thyme and rosemary are two significant members of the herb family. Herbs have been used not only as flavorings in foods but also as medicinal remedies since ancient times. In this article, we will look into the nutritional comparison of thyme and rosemary and discuss how they affect our health based on scientific evidence.

Classification

Both thyme and rosemary are part of the Laminacaea family, also known as the mint, sage, or dead-nettle family. They share this family with other culinary and medicinal herbs, such as oregano, basil, mentha, salvia, and catnip.

Thyme belongs to the Thymus genus. More than 400 varieties of thyme are known; the most commonly used are Thymus vulgaris and Thymus serpyllum.

Rosemary or Salvia rosmarinus belongs to the Salvia genus. It is also scientifically known as Rosmarinus officinalis.

Appearance

Thyme has rounded, sharp leaves growing in clusters. The leaves are bright green when fresh and get darker as they age.

The leaves of rosemary are dark green, resembling needles. They also grow in clusters along the branches.

Taste and Use

Rosemary and thyme are both used as a seasoning in various cuisines and as medicine against numerous maladies.

The taste of thyme is herbal, sharp, and minty. Lemon thyme can also have a citrus-like flavor. When dried, thyme does not lose much of its taste.

The leaves of rosemary exude a clear and bright aroma. This herb is a part of the classic French spicy mixture of “Provence grass” and “bouquet garnish.” Rosemary leaves are often described to have a lemon-pine flavor that pairs well with different meats.

History

These herbs were known in ancient Mediterranean cultures to signify various ideas.

Thyme was considered to be a symbol of courage in ancient Rome. Roman soldiers bathed in water infused with thyme, later exchanging with each other and pinning the sprigs of thyme on their armor before the battle. Thyme was also used in ancient Egypt as part of embalming rituals.

The Latin name for rosemary translates as “dew of the sea.” In ancient Greece, rosemary was known to signify remembrance, happiness, and love. Rosemary springs were often used at funerals and weddings. Greek scholars even wore rosemary wreaths during examinations, as they believed the herb to help their memory.

Nutrition

The nutritional values below are presented for raw, fresh thyme and rosemary leaves.

Macronutrients and Calories

Rosemary and thyme are both packed with nutrients. Thyme is only a little denser in nutrients, containing 65% water, while rosemary consists of 68% water.

One average serving size of rosemary is two times larger than that of thyme. Thyme’s average serving size is half a teaspoon.

Calories

Small amounts of these herbs do not significantly alter the caloric value of the dish to which they are added. Nevertheless, between these two herbs, rosemary is higher in calories.

Protein and Fats

Thyme is richer in protein, while rosemary contains a more considerable amount of fats. That being said, rosemary has a more favorable protein quality, while thyme has a preferable fatty acid content.

Despite being lower in protein, rosemary contains some levels of all essential amino acids. Thyme lacks methionine, phenylalanine, and histidine.

The predominant fat type in thyme is polyunsaturated fat, while rosemary contains more saturated fatty acids.

Carbohydrates

Thyme is higher in carbohydrates, even though rosemary and thyme contain similar amounts of fiber.

Vitamins

Thyme is richer in vitamins, containing overall two times more when compared to rosemary. Thyme is notably higher in vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamins B2 and B3.

On the other hand, rosemary contains a higher level of vitamin B5 and vitamin B9 or folate.

What about the coverage of our daily needs? Thyme covers six times more of our daily need for vitamins, as it contains seven times more vitamin C and three times more vitamin B2.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Thyme
6
:
Contains more Vitamin A +62.5%
Contains more Vitamin C +634.4%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +33.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +209.9%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +100%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +96.6%
Contains more Folate +142.2%
Equal in Vitamin B6 - 0.336
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 286% 0% 0% 534% 12% 109% 35% 25% 81% 34% 0% 0%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 176% 0% 0% 73% 9% 36% 18% 49% 78% 82% 0% 0%
Contains more Vitamin A +62.5%
Contains more Vitamin C +634.4%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +33.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +209.9%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +100%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +96.6%
Contains more Folate +142.2%
Equal in Vitamin B6 - 0.336

Minerals

Thyme is the winner in this category as well, containing twice the amount of minerals as rosemary. Thyme is significantly higher in most minerals, namely iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, phosphorus, calcium, and manganese.

The two herbs have a similar potassium content, with rosemary being only a little higher.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Thyme
7
:
Contains more Calcium +27.8%
Contains more Iron +162.4%
Contains more Magnesium +75.8%
Contains more Phosphorus +60.6%
Contains less Sodium -65.4%
Contains more Zinc +94.6%
Contains more Copper +84.4%
Equal in Potassium - 668
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 122% 655% 115% 46% 54% 2% 50% 185%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 96% 250% 65% 29% 59% 4% 26% 101%
Contains more Calcium +27.8%
Contains more Iron +162.4%
Contains more Magnesium +75.8%
Contains more Phosphorus +60.6%
Contains less Sodium -65.4%
Contains more Zinc +94.6%
Contains more Copper +84.4%
Equal in Potassium - 668

Glycemic Index

Due to a high level of dietary fiber and a relatively low level of sugars, the glycemic index of herbs, such as thyme and rosemary, is very difficult to measure. However, one study has demonstrated that consumption of thyme tea results in a lower glycemic index compared to rosemary tea (1).

Research has also found thyme and rosemary tea to possess qualities inhibiting an enzyme that breaks down sugars in the gastrointestinal tract, called alpha-glucosidase (1).

Thyme and rosemary are assumed to have low glycemic indices.

Weight Loss & Diets

When used as seasonings, rosemary and thyme do not alter the caloric value of the meal drastically. One average serving of rosemary used in a dish adds only 1 calorie. Thyme has fewer calories and smaller serving size. The caloric content found in an average serving for thyme is equal to 0.4.

Based on their nutritional content, thyme is preferable for low-calorie, low-fat, and low glycemic index diets, while rosemary is preferable for a low-carb diet.

A study has found rosemary leaf extract to have the potential to limit weight gain induced by a high-fat diet in mice (2). This property may be due to a compound found abundantly in rosemary called carnosic acid (3).

Health Impact

Health Benefits

Thyme and rosemary have been used in traditional medicine as healing herbs for centuries. Here, we will look at the scientific evidence about the beneficial effects of these herbs on health.

Cardiovascular Health

Studies on animals have shown dietary rosemary supplementation to attenuate adverse effects of cardiac remodeling caused by myocardial infarction (4).

Due to a high level of phenolic phytochemicals, rosemary has been studied to have significant anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-atherosclerotic, and anti-thrombotic qualities. Rosemary may also decrease blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol (5).

Due to a compound called thymol, found in high quantities in thyme, this herb exhibits anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and immunomodulatory activities (6).

Thyme may also protect against cardiac and hepatic damage induced by the consumption of heated frying oil (7).

Thyme and rosemary both have the potential to inhibit the formation of blood clots without prolonging bleeding time (8).

Diabetes

Rosemary extract and the polyphenols found in it, such as rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid, have been researched to have insulin-like effects, exhibiting protective properties against hyperglycemia in animals with type 2 diabetes mellitus (9).

Thyme has also demonstrated antihyperglycemic effects, which may be used for supplementary treatment of diabetes and diabetic complications (10).

Cancer

Numerous studies have researched rosemary to have anticancer effects against colon, pancreas, breast, prostate, cervical, bladder, ovarian, lung cancers and leukemia, through various mechanisms (11).

Thyme has been studied less extensively. Nevertheless, thyme may protect against breast, colon, and liver cancers (12, 13).

Nervous System and Cognitive Abilities

Inhalation of rosemary oil can positively affect brain wave activity, autonomic nervous system functions, and overall mood (14). Rosemary aroma has also been studied to improve cognitive performance (15).

Animal studies have shown thyme to have the potential to relieve anxiety (16).

Downsides and Risks

Drug Interactions

Herbs, such as thyme and rosemary, can bind to specific proteins and inhibit or induce enzymes, leading to an increased or decreased activity of certain drugs when used simultaneously.

Some of the medications that can negatively or positively interact with thyme are (17):

  • antithyroid drugs
  • caffein
  • fluorouracil
  • hormonal drugs

Rosemary can interact with the following medications (18):

  • lithium
  • diuretics
  • anticoagulants
  • ACE inhibitors

People on these medications have to be advised to use thyme and rosemary with caution.

Sources.

  1. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/fstr/16/1/16_1_39/_pdf
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19918713/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21676274/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5426768/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27178264/
  6. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.6109
  7. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343047965
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18378282/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5622728/
  10. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338686150
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5133115/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6479806/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92774/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3700080/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736918/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4936652/
  17. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/143841098.pdf
  18. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221876211
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: November 29, 2020

Infographic

Thyme vs Rosemary infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Thyme Rosemary
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Rich in minerals ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Sugar Equal
Lower in Cholesterol Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Thyme Rosemary Opinion
Net carbs 10.45g 6.6g Thyme
Protein 5.56g 3.31g Thyme
Fats 1.68g 5.86g Rosemary
Carbs 24.45g 20.7g Thyme
Calories 101kcal 131kcal Rosemary
Starch g g
Fructose g g
Sugar g g
Fiber 14g 14.1g Rosemary
Calcium 405mg 317mg Thyme
Iron 17.45mg 6.65mg Thyme
Magnesium 160mg 91mg Thyme
Phosphorus 106mg 66mg Thyme
Potassium 609mg 668mg Rosemary
Sodium 9mg 26mg Thyme
Zinc 1.81mg 0.93mg Thyme
Copper 0.555mg 0.301mg Thyme
Vitamin A 4751IU 2924IU Thyme
Vitamin E mg mg
Vitamin D 0IU 0IU
Vitamin D 0µg 0µg
Vitamin C 160.1mg 21.8mg Thyme
Vitamin B1 0.048mg 0.036mg Thyme
Vitamin B2 0.471mg 0.152mg Thyme
Vitamin B3 1.824mg 0.912mg Thyme
Vitamin B5 0.409mg 0.804mg Rosemary
Vitamin B6 0.348mg 0.336mg Thyme
Folate 45µg 109µg Rosemary
Vitamin B12 0µg 0µg
Vitamin K µg µg
Tryptophan 0.114mg 0.051mg Thyme
Threonine 0.154mg 0.136mg Thyme
Isoleucine 0.285mg 0.136mg Thyme
Leucine 0.262mg 0.249mg Thyme
Lysine 0.126mg 0.143mg Rosemary
Methionine mg 0.047mg Rosemary
Phenylalanine mg 0.169mg Rosemary
Valine 0.307mg 0.165mg Thyme
Histidine mg 0.066mg Rosemary
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg
Trans Fat 0g 0g
Saturated Fat 0.467g 2.838g Thyme
Monounsaturated Fat 0.081g 1.16g Rosemary
Polyunsaturated fat 0.532g 0.901g Rosemary

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Thyme Rosemary
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
93
Thyme
43
Rosemary
Mineral Summary Score
153
Thyme
78
Rosemary

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
33%
Thyme
20%
Rosemary
Carbohydrates
24%
Thyme
21%
Rosemary
Fats
8%
Thyme
27%
Rosemary

Comparison summary

Which food contains less Sodium?
Thyme
Thyme contains less Sodium (difference - 17mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Thyme
Thyme is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 2.371g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Thyme
Thyme is lower in glycemic index (difference - 25)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Thyme
Thyme is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Thyme
Thyme is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food is cheaper?
Rosemary
Rosemary is cheaper (difference - $0.7)
Which food contains less Sugar?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sugar ( g)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Thyme - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173470/nutrients
  2. Rosemary - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173473/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.