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Medically reviewed on March 9, 2018

Scientific Name(s):Summer savory: Satureja hortensis L., syn. with Calamintha hortensis Hort. Winter savory: Satureja montana L., syn. with S. obovata Lag. and Calamintha montana . Family: Lamiaceae (mints)

Common Name(s): Savory , summer savory , winter savory 1


In addition to being widely used as a condiment, savory has antispasmodic, antidiarrheal, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and chemotherapeutic properties, although there is a lack of clinical research to support any of these uses.


There is no clinical evidence to support specific doses of savory for therapeutic use. The herb is widely used in foods as a condiment and seasoning.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Research reveals little or no information regarding adverse reactions with the use of savory.


Savory is not associated with any significant toxicity.


The genus Satureja L. contains over 30 species. S. montana contains numerous subspecies, and there is much variability in morphologic characteristics with the species S. montana L. The various species within the genus Satureja hortensis L. are primarily located in the eastern part of the Mediterranean region, but can be found throughout many parts of the world. Summer savory is an annual herb with oblong leaves that grow to about 0.7 m in height. Winter savory is a perennial shrub that grows to about the same height; the leaves of winter savory share some common characteristics with summer savory. Flowers of both species are pink to blue-white and flower from June to September. 1 , 2 , 3 , 4


The savories have been used for centuries as cooking herbs and have flavors reminiscent of oregano and thyme. Because the flavor of summer savory is somewhat sweeter than that of winter savory, summer savory is used almost exclusively in commerce. The green leaves and stems, both fresh and dried, along with extracts, are used as flavors in the baking and food industries. 1 , 2 , 5

Tertiary resources document both summer and winter savory having a history of use in traditional medicine as tonics, carminatives, astringents, and expectorants, and for the treatment of intestinal problems such as diarrhea and nausea. However, the scientific literature primarily documents S. hortensis as a folk remedy in treating various ailments such as cramps, muscle pains, nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, and infectious diseases. Tertiary resources also document summer savory as being an aphrodisiac, while winter savory is said to decrease libido. 1 , 3 , 5 , 6


Dried summer savory contains approximately 1% of a volatile oil composed primarily of carvacrol, thymol, and monoterpene hydrocarbons such as beta-pinene, p-cymene, limonene, and camphene. The leaves contain a variety of minor components including minerals and vitamins. 2 , 7

Winter savory contains about 1.6% of a volatile oil. Some authors document the dominant components of the oil as caryophyllene and geraniol or as carvacrol. Twenty-one compounds, which represent 97.4% of the total oil, have been identified. The major compound was phenolic monoterpene thymol followed by monoterpenic hydrocarbons p-cymene, gamma-terpinene, oxygen-containing compounds carvacrol methyl ether, thymol methyl ether, carvacrol, geraniol, and borneol. It also contains triterpenic acids including ursolic and oleanolic acids. The relative composition of the volatile oil varies with location of cultivation, the species, and the strain. 4 , 5 , 7 , 8 , 9

Uses and Pharmacology

S. hortensis has in vitro antispasmodic, antidiarrheal, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.

Chemotherapeutic activity
In vitro

The proposed mechanism of action is related to the high content of phenolic components in the essential oil, particularly carvacrol and thymol. It is also suggested that the chemotherapeutic activity is associated with these chemicals acting synergistically. 10

One study examined the antimicrobial activities of hexane and methanol extracts of S. hortensis L. The hexane extract of S. hortensis inhibited 4 strains belonging to 3 Bacillus species ( Bacillus amyloliquefaciens , Bacillus megaterium , and Bacillus sphaericus ). The methanol extract inhibited 6 Candida albicans isolates and 23 strains of 11 species belonging to 5 different bacterial genera including B. amyloliquefaciens , Bacillus atrophaeus , Bacillus macerans , B. megaterium , Bacillus pumilus , B. sphaericus , Bacillus substilis , Escherichia coli , Kocuria varians , Micrococcus luteus , and Pantoea agglomerans . 11

The antifungal activity of the essential oil was studied and inhibition of growth was found against Alternaria alternate , Aspergillus flavus , Aspergillus variecolor , Fusarium culmorum , Fusarium oxysporum , Penicillium spp., Rhizopus spp., Rhizoctonia solani , Moniliania fructicola , Trichophyton rubrum , Trichophyton mentagrophytes , Microsporum canis , Sclerotinia sclerotiorum , and Sclerotinia minor . The authors of this study suggest that the antifungal activity of S. hortensis essential oil is higher than that of amphotericin B. 10

The essential oil of S. montana L. has broad-spectrum activity against 46 species of yeast. S. montana L. also has potent anti-HIV-1 activity. 12 , 13

Antispasmodic and antidiarrheal activity
In vitro

S. hortensis essential oil inhibits acetylcholine concentration by activating muscarinic receptors, which reduces ileum contraction and mediates the response of acetylcholine. 14

S. hortensis L. is reported to have a spasmolytic effect on isolated smooth muscle and may have an antidiarrheal effect due to the phenolic compounds in the oil and the tannins contained in the plant. S. hortensis essential oil inhibits castor oil-induced diarrhea and is a relaxant of rat ileum smooth muscle in vitro. The effects were qualitatively similar to dicyclomine. 2 , 6 , 7 , 14

Anti-inflammatory activity
In vitro

The anti-inflammatory activity of S. hortensis L. was examined based on measurements of nitric oxide metabolites and histological changes in rabbits being treated for rhinosinusitis. The concentration of nitric oxide metabolites and activity of nitric oxide synthesis in mucosal specimens were reduced by topical administration of S. hortensis L. extract. As compared with the control group, histological evidence demonstrated no edema and/or reduced inflammation. S. hortensis also inhibited carrageenan-induced paw edema in rats. 1 , 15


The oil has been reported to possess an antidiuretic effect due to carvacrol. 5 Teas made with savory have been used traditionally in Europe to treat excessive thirst in diabetic patients, a use that may have some pharmacologic basis. 6

The antioxidant properties of S. hortensis L. may be related to its secondary metabolites. 16 , 17


There is no clinical evidence to support specific doses of savory for therapeutic use. The herb is widely used in foods as a condiment and seasoning.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Research reveals little or no information regarding adverse reactions with the use of savory.

The oil is strongly irritating in animal skin models, but is not phototoxic. 7 In diluted form, the oil is not irritating to human skin.


Savory is generally recognized as safe for use as a condiment and flavoring. When applied undiluted to the backs of hairless mice, summer savory oil was lethal to half of the animals within 48 hours. 7


1. Uslu C, Murat Karasen R, Sahin F, Taysi S, Akcay F. Effects of aqueous extracts of Satureja hortensis L. on rhinosinusitis treatment in rabbit. J Ethnopharmacol . 2003;88:225-228.
2. Simon JE. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography, 1971-1980 . Hamden, CT: Shoe String Press; 1984.
3. Schauenberg P, Paris F. Guide To Medicinal Plants . New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing; 1990.
4. Slavkovska V, Jancic R, Bojovic S, Milosavljevic S, Djokovic D. Variability of essential oils of Satureja montana L. and Satureja kitaibelii Wierzb. ex Heuff. from the central part of the Balkan peninsula. Phytochemistry . 2001;57:71-76.
5. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs . Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1985.
6. Tyler VE. The New Honest Herbal . 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: G.F. Stickley Co.; 1987.
7. Leung AY. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used In Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics . New York, NY: J. Wiley and Sons; 1980.
8. De Vincenzi M, Stammati A, De Vincenzi A, Silano M. Constituents of aromatic plants: carvacrol. Fitoterapia . 2004;75:801-804.
9. Radonic A, Milos M. Chemical composition and in vitro evaluation of antioxidant effect of free volatile compounds from Satureja montana L. Free Radic Res . 2003;37:673-679.
10. Güllüce M, Sökmen M, Daferera D, et al. In vitro antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant activities of the essential oil and methanol extracts of herbal parts and callus cultures of Satureja hortensis L. J Agric Food Chem . 2003;51:3958-3965.
11. Sahin F, Karaman I, Güllüce M, et al. Evaluation of antimicrobial activities of Satureja hortensis L. J Ethnopharmacol . 2003;87:61-65.
12. Ciani M, Menghini L, Mariani F, Pagiotti R, Menghini A, Fatichenti F. Antimicrobial properties of essential oil of Satureja montana L. on pathogenic and spoilage yeasts. Biotechnol Lett . 2000;22:1007-1010.
13. Yamasaki K, Nakano M, Kawahata T, et al. Anti-HIV-1 activity of herbs in Labiatae. Biol Pharm Bull . 1998;21:829-833.
14. Hajhashemi V, Sadraei H, Ghannadi AR, Mohseni M. Antispasmodic and anti-diarrhoeal effect of Satureja hortensis L. essential oil. J Ethnopharmacol . 2000;71:187-192.
15. Hajhashemi V, Ghannadi A, Pezeshkian SK. Antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects of Satureja hortensis L. extracts and essential oil. J Ethnopharmacol . 2002;82:83-87.
16. Souri E, Amin G, Farsam H, Andaji S. The antioxidant activity of some commonly used vegetables in Iranian diet. Fitoterapia . 2004;75:585-588.
17. Dorman HJD, Hiltunen R. Fe(III) reductive and free radical-scavenging properties of summer savory ( Satureja hortensis L.) extract and subfractions. Food Chem . 2004;88:193-199.

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