Satureja hortensis / Satureja montana

Herbs gallery - Savory

Common names

  • Mountain Savory
  • Savory
  • Summer Savory
  • Winter Savory

Ancient herbal texts frequently mention about two types of savories - summer savory comprising the dense parts of the herb Satureja hortensis L., and the winter savory, which is acquired from the herb Satureja Montana L. While the summer savory is an annual plant, the winter savory is perennial and is used to add essence to foods. Both these aromatic species belong to the mint (Lamiaceae) plant family. They are small plants that are cultivated extensively as garden plants. These plants produce slender leaves and flowers whose color varies from pale lavender to pink to white. Of the two Satureja species, the summer savory is valued highly and has been used widely in folk medicine in comparison to the winter savory. Both these herbs have been valued as sex medicines for several centuries. It was believed that the summer savory possessed the power to enhance sexual desire (acting in the form of an aphrodisiac), while the winter savory worked to lessen the sex drive (working in the form of an anaphrodisiac). Hence, it is not very difficult to understand why the summer savory turned out to be the more popular between the two herbs.

In contemporary folk medicine, currently summer savory is considered to be beneficial for the complete digestive system. Proponents of this species confirm that it possesses anti-flatulent and carminative properties, in addition to be a tonic for boosting appetite and treating diarrhea. An herbal tea made from this herb is believed to be useful in the form of a cough remedy as well as an expectorant. In Europe, this herbal tea is given to diabetic patients with intense thirst. Several practitioners of herbal medicine have listed various remedial utilities of this herb and some of them, such as using savory to cure deafness and augment vision, are so unbelievable that it is not worth discussing these supposed attributes of the herb.

The summer savory is excellently used in the form of a spice. This herb adds wonderful essence to beans as well as other legumes. This is the reason why the herb is known as Bohnenkraut (denoting the bean herb) in Germany. In fact, both summer as well as winter savories along with the aromatic oils extracted from them are widely used to flavour a variety of sausages.

Chemical analysis of summer savory has revealed that this herb encloses anything between 0.3 per cent to 2.0 per cent volatile (unstable) oil that comprises roughly 30 per cent carvacrol, about 20 per cent to 30 per cent p-cymene, and fewer amounts of several other elements. In addition, this herb encloses about 4.0 per cent to 8.5 per cent tannin. While scientists have found and identified other compounds contained by the plant, neither of them possesses any significant physiological actions.

As summer savory contains the compounds p-cymene and carvacrol, the volatile oil bestows a gentle antiseptic attribute to the plant. Apparently, this combines with the tannin's astringent effect, making the plant somewhat useful in treating ordinary cases of diarrhea. Perhaps, the volatile oil is somewhat effective, particularly when it is blended with hot water, as in the case of a savory tea, in curing slight irritations of the throat and minor digestive disorders. In addition, it has a pleasant taste and is comparatively safe, especially when ingested in reasonable amounts. While summer savory is definitely a pleasing herb, it is advisable that you should not expect it to do a lot of things.

Winter savory is native to the Mediterranean region where it fills the air all through the dry hillsides with its pleasant aroma. The winter savory is an enduring perennial plant that requires complete sunlight to thrive. It is very different from its cousin, the summer savory (botanical name S. hortensis), which is a comparatively smaller and softer garden plant that survives for just about a year (an annual plant). Summer savory as well as winter savory possesses the same remedial properties containing similar active elements and a number of herbalists are of the view that these constituents provide these herbs with antiseptic, tonic and expectorant attributes. Since several centuries, summer and winter savories, or the garden savory were believed to possess the aptitude to stimulate the physical and psychological aspects, besides enjoying considerable repute as aphrodisiacs. As the term 'satureia' was synonymous with the aphrodisiac prepared from savory, many people assumed that there possibly was a relation between the plants' genus name and the lecherous satyrs, which finds mention in mythology. However, no such relation actually exist and all beliefs about it are nothing but make-believe.

While a number of experts assert that winter savory does not possess any therapeutic attributes, there are others who confirm that the herb is an effective remedy for conditions like pains caused by stomach gas, and could be used in the form of a stimulant for the appetite, as well as an antiseptic gargle. In addition, the leaves of winter savory plant are used in culinary as a fragrant herb. Fresh branches of the plant are hung upside down to dry the leaves, which are subsequently crushed and sprinkled over the food while they are being cooked. Moreover, winter savory leaves have been traditionally used as an important ingredient in salami preparations.

Parts used

Flowering tops, essential oil.


Most often, summer savory is employed in the form of a culinary herb. However, it possesses specific therapeutic properties some of which are beneficial for our digestive system. Compared to its close relative winter savory (botanical name S, Montana) the action of this plant is mild. The entire herb, particularly its flowering shoots, is aromatic, antiseptic, digestive, carminative, stomachic and expectorant. When used internally, summer savory is believed to work as an independent remedy for colic and also cure flatulence. In addition, summer savory is used for treating conditions like diarrhea, nausea, congestion of the bronchial tracts, tender throats as well as menstrual problems. However, this herb should never be given to pregnant women, for it may possibly have an adverse affect on the fetus. Rubbing a twig of the summer savory at sites of bee stings or wasp stings provided relief almost instantaneously.

Like its close cousin summer savory, winter savory too is frequently used in culinary and it offers distinct remedial benefits, particularly to the entire digestive system. Compared to summer savory (S. hortenis), this plant possesses a more potent actions. When used internally, winter savory is understood to work as an independent remedy for colic and also cure flatulence. In addition, this herb is used to treat conditions like bronchial congestion, cystitis, diarrhea, gastro-enteritis, nausea, aching throats as well as menstruation problems. Like summer savory, this herb should also not be used during pregnancy.

Winter savory is harvested during the summer when the plant is in blossom and may be used fresh or dried up and stored for future use. The essential oil obtained from this plant is used as an active element in liniments for the scalp in the initial stages of baldness. In addition, the entire plant is used to prepare a salve that is applied topically to alleviate joint pains due to arthritis.

Other medical uses

Habitat and cultivation

Savory is native to the southern regions of Europe and is generally grown in the form of a garden plant. The flowering tops of these herbs are gathered during the summer.

Winter savory grows well in sunlit locations that have a good drainage system. While winter savory is a perennial plant and possesses a spicy, pungent essence, summer savory is an annual plant, possessing similar attributes, but in a way more subtle. Summer savory is propagated by its seeds, which are sown in fertile, light and damp soil, about eight inches from one another. On the contrary, winter savory has the aptitude to survive even in lesser fertile soils and does not require much water. Propagation of winter savory can be done by its seeds, cuttings as well as division.

Several summer savory plants can be grown together in big pots. Alternatively, you may also grow them separately in pots measuring about 12 inches (30 cm). It is essential to supply a normal potting soil and also use fertilizers for plants grown in pots once in 3 to 4 weeks. Spruce the branch tips frequently with a view to promote luxuriant growth. You can sow the summer savory seeds throughout the year and this species may be cultivated well indoors, provided you keep the containers in a location that is cool as well as bright.


Winter savory contains about 1.6% volatile oil, composed mostly of carvacrol, p-cymene, thymol and linalool.

Herb mixture for beef dishes

Squeeze all the leaves together in a large bowl, combine well, and bottle firmly. Use 1 teaspoon of the mixed herbs as flavouring.

Herb mixture for pork dishes

  • 3 Tbs. dried summer savory, or 2 Tbs. winter savory
  • 3 Tbs. dried sage
  • 3 Tbs. dried sweet basil
  • 3 Tbs. dried rosemary

Crush all the leaves together in a large bowl, blend well, and bottle strongly. Use 1 teaspoon of the mixed herbs as flavouring.

Bouquet garni

The technique of adding flavour to foods has been derived from the traditional French cuisine. For example, bouquet garni, a traditional herbal combination used to cook meats as well as vegetables, is most excellent when it is used in so-called 'wet' recipes - soups, stocks, stews, poached vegetables, meat or fish, wherein the culinary liquid soaks up the essence of the herbs, which, subsequently, infuses into the ingredients. The basis of bouquet garni comprises two to three stems of freshly obtained parsley together with one stem or leaf of two to three additional herbs. You may try out with these ingredients and determine for yourself the precise combinations you prefer for preparing different dishes.

While a kitchen twine or resilient sewing thread is essential, you may experiment with any one of the combinations of freshly obtained herbs listed below.

Use a twine or strong threat to fasten these herbs firmly at their stalk end. Then, soak the bunch in the culinary liquid and remove it just prior to serving.


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