The Oswego Indians made tea from the aromatic leaves and introduced this practice to the original settlers as a beverage. The Shakers thought that the tea was effective in treating upper respiratory infections. They prescribed it for young brides to stimulate the appetite and to regulate menstruation. The early settlers steamed the plant and inhaled fumes to clear their sinuses. It contains thymol, which is a pleasant aromatic substance used in the past in dentistry as a preservative and as an antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal agent. See Thymus vulgaris.
Oswego tea replaced imported tea after the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. The embargo of imported tea by all of the American colonies led to the bankruptcy of the British East India Company.