Summer Savory: Potential Prevention and Treatment of a Number of Serious Health Conditions


Summer savory (Satureja hortensis) belongs to the Lamiaceae family which contains about 200 species of herbs and shrubs which are grown mostly in the Mediterranean region, Europe, West Asia, North Africa, the Canary Islands, and South America.

Summer savory has lilac tubular flowers which bloom in the northern hemisphere from July to September. It grows to around 30 to 60 cm (0.98 to 1.97 ft) in height and has very slender, bronze-green leaves. 

Summer Savory is used as a spice in many European countries.  It has a spicy aroma and pungent, peppery flavor.  It is one of the ingredients in the popular spice blend called Herbes de Provence.

Compounds in Summer Savory

Summer savory contains the following compounds:  1

  • rosmarinic acid (α-O-caffeoyl-3,4-dihydroxy-phenyl lactic) (the major compound in the ethanolic extracts of summer savory)  2 
  • carvacrol (30 to 45%)
  • thymol
  • α-terpinene
  • γ-terpinene
  • β-caryophyllene
  • β-bisabolene
  • p-cymene (max. 30%)
  • α-pinene (8%)
  • dipentene
  • borneol
  • 1-linalool
  • terpineol
  • l-carvone 

Medicinal Properties of Summer Savory

There have been a number of published studies on the medicinal benefits of the Satureja species in general and Satureja hortensis (Summer Savory) in particular.

Following is a list of the various conditions that are effected by the use of Satureja hortensis:


The protective properties of Satureja hortensis on the rat lymphocytes DNA lesions were tested.  Both the ethanolic extract and the essential oil of the plant reversed the oxidative damage to rat lymphocytes induced by hydrogen peroxide.  3


Antinoiceptive is the action or process of blocking the detection of a painful or injurious stimulus by sensory neurons.  Results suggest that S. hortensis L. has antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects and probably mechanism(s) other than involvement of opioid and adenosine receptors mediate(s) the antinociception.  4


Studies have shown that polyphenolic compounds and essential oil of Satureja species have potent anti-inflammatory effects. The studies support the traditional usage of S. hortensis as a remedy for reducing inflammation and relieving pain.  5 

Antioxidant Activity

The leaves of summer savory are rich in phenolic compounds, particularly rosmarinic acid and flavonoids, which account for the high antioxidant capacity of the leaves.  6 


S. hortensis appears to have blood anticoagulant activity. Carvacrol and other monoterpene hydrocarbons, flavonoids like apigenin, and phenolic acids like labiatic acid could contribute to the anti-platelet property of S. hortensis.   7 

Alzheimer’s disease

The essential oil and the methanol extract of Satureja thymbra were evaluated for cholinesterase inhibitory effects against acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase which are the chief enzymes of Alzheimer’s disease.  The experimental findings indicated that the compounds, except p-cymene, were active in both activity tests. Moreover, the extract exhibited a good lipid peroxidation inhibitory activity.  8

Anti-bacterial and Anti-fungal

The essential oil of S. hortensis contains significant amounts of two phenolic ketones: Carvacrol and thymol. Carvacrol and thymol have been generally reported to have a strong inhibitory effect on the growth of wide range of microorganisms including fungi and bacteria.  9  10  11

Thymol, p-cymene, γ-terpinene and carvacrol were the main components of S. hortensis oil while thymol, γ-terpinene, and o-cymene were the major components of T. copticum oil. Two essential oils exhibited strong antimicrobial activity but the antimicrobial activity of T. copticum oil was higher than that of S. hortensis oil.  12

The essential oil and methanol extract of Satureja hortensis were tested for antifungal activity against Aspergillus flavus in vitro on Petri plates and liquid culture, and under storage conditions. The oil showed strong antifungal activity based on the inhibition zone and minimal inhibitory concentration values against the pathogen on Petri plates assays. The results in this study showed that the essential oil of S. hortensis had strong antifungal activity against pathogen fungi tested. So, the essential oil of S. hortensis could be used for management of this pathogen as a potential source of sustainable eco-friendly botanical fungicides.  13

arNOX inhibitor

Aging-Related Cell Surface NADH Oxidase (arNOX) generates the potent free radical superoxide.  The aging-related ECTO-NOX protein (arNOX) provides a mechanism to transmit cell surface oxidative changes to surrounding cells and circulating lipoproteins potentially important to atherogenesis.   S. hortensis actively inhibits arNOX.  14


The effect of carvacrol on a human non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell line known as A549 shows that carvacrol has an inhibitory effect on the cancer cells, but does not have a significant effect on normal lung cells (HFL1).  15 


Summer Savory (dried spice)

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