Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae), Satureja species

Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis L.)

Winter Savory (Satureja montana L.)

Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.

There are two important species of Satureja used as culinary herbs. Satureja hortensis L., known as summer savory, comprises the principle savory of commerce. It is a herbaceous annual, native to southern Europe and naturalized to sections of North America. Satureja montana L., or winter savory, is a hardy, woody perennial, native to Europe and North Africa, and used only limitedly. Flowers of both savory species are pink to blue-white and are known to attract bees.

The reported life zone of summer savory is 7 to 211Cdeg;C with 0.3 to 1.3 meters of annual precipitation and a soil pH of 5.6 to 8.2 (4.1-31). Reaching a height of 0.5 meter, summer savory develops best in full sunlight and is quite tolerant of different soil types and different moisture regimes. Winter savory, a plant slightly smaller than summer savory, grows between 7 and 233Cdeg;C with 0.7 to 1.7 meters annual precipitation and a soil pH of 6.5 to 7.3 (4.1-31).

The plants are generally harvested during the first flowering season and if grown as short-lived perennials, harvested twice in subsequent years. Uniformity of plant material for processing is usually questionable as a combination of plant types of similar botanical origin and fragrances are frequently collected and bulked together.

The main constituents of the essential oil in summer savory are the phenols carvacrol and thymol, as well as para-cymene, -caryophyllene, linalool, -terpineol, camphene, myrcene, and other terpenoids (6.4-102, 14.1-8). Essential oil from winter savory includes the phenols carvacrol and thymol, as well as para-cymene, l-linolool, l-terpineol, d-borneol, dihydrocuminyl alcohol, 1-carvone, l-menthone, and various organic acids (14.1-8). Oil from Coridothymus capitatus Fchb. f., a type of origanum, and Thymus vulgaris L. are sometimes used as adulterants in savory oil (14.1-8).

The green leaves and herbaceous sections of stems from both species are used fresh and dried as flavoring agents in seasonings, stews, meat dishes, poultry, sausages, and vegetables. Summer savory has a sweeter and more delicate aroma and fragrance than does winter savory, and is therefore the more popular of the two species. Both the essential oil, obtained by steam distillation, and the oleoresin are used in the food industry. In addition, the essential oils of both species have been used in the perfume industry, either alone or blended with other essential oils.

As a medicinal plant, summer savory has been traditionally used as a stimulant, stomachic, carminative, expectorant, antidiarrheic, and aphrodisiac. The essential oil has demonstrated antimicrobial and antidiarrheic activity because of the phenols in the oil (14.1-8). Savory have been used in the treatment of cancer (14.1-16).

Calamintha hortensis, Hort. and C. montana Lam. have been mistakenly cited as summer and winter savory, respectively (14.1-3, 14.1-4). Satureja intricata, a savory from Spain, has recently been reclassified as Satureja montana and Satureja nepeta, of Europe and Asia, has been reclassified as Calamintha nepeta (14.1-3). Satureja thymbra, of which there are several chemotypes, grows wild in some Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries and is known for its high carvacrol or thymol content. This plant is picked and used locally in herbal teas, in culinary preparations, and as an oregano when other plants normally used as oregano are unavailable. Satureja douglasii, an evergreen perennial, is also used in western United States as a tea.

Summer and winter savory are generally recognized as safe for human consumption as both spices/natural flavorings and plant/oil extracts (21 CFR sections 182.10, 182.20 [1982]).

[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in full in the original reference].

Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index

Last modified 6-Dec-1997