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Winter Savory

Satureja thymbra


Botany and Production

Satureja thymbra, winter savory of the Labiatae family is a wild species growing in tuffs or heads as many other Labiatae. It attains a height of 30-40 cm and grows spontaneously around the Mediterranean basin. In Crete it is widespread and a common plant in the typical marquis. The plants growing at low altitudes are softer both in appearance and in aroma than the plants growing at higher altitudes. The leaves and flowers of Satureja have been used since antiquity to combat infections and to preserve foods due to their anti bacterial activity.


We collect Satureja in June when the plants are in full bloom from several populations growing in the southwestern part of Crete (Sfakia), along riverbeds and near to the sea. The new branches with leaves and flowers are clipped leaving the main body and a few new branches to regenerate, and distilled immediately. Collecting Satureja means to share the plants with the bees, which are collecting vigorously. Cretan plants have a high essential oil content, and the yield we achieve from a 3-hour distillation can be as high as 2.5%. The oil has a hot and burning scent. As always, we collect by hand, cutting just about half of the flowering tops off each plant, leaving enough for the bees.


Our S. thymbra essential oil contains mainly carvacrol (45%) γ-terpinene (29%), p-cymene (6%), caryophyllene (3.5%), α-terpinene (3%), borneol (0.9%), thymol (3%) α- and β-pinene (1.7% and 0.8%), α-thujene (1.5%), β-myrcene (1.9%), limonene (0.5%), camphene (0.6%) linalool (0.73%), tricyclene (0.4%), L-α-phellandrene (0.25%), β-phellandrene (0.24%), and  small amounts of the sabinene hydrate isomers (trans- 0.3% and cis- 0.15%) and humulene (0.19%) along with  traces <0.1% of sabinene, Δ-3-carene, octanol, and α-terpineol.


Satureja thymbra is Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) but irritant and hepatotoxic in long term use. This oil should not be used on children. The oil is NEVER to be used pure, and has always to be diluted well. A very potent oil, even at minimum concentrations. Avoid long-term uses. Do not use for inhalations (mucus irritant).


Principle of Action

Anti bacterial, anti infectious and anti fungal, warming (stimulating circulation). The oil acts on hyper: hyperthermic, hypertension. Immunostimulant.


Invigorating, aphrodisiac, tonic for the reproductive system. Spicy pungent flavor.


Already Theophrastus (4th century BC), the father of botany, describes Satureja in his work "Inquiry into Plants".

The name Satureja is attributed to Pliny (23-79AD), who associated the plant with the satyrs, mythical creatures of the wild, half man, half goat with a horse tail which roamed the ancient forests. The satyrs were the companions of Dionysus, the god of wine, ritual madness and ecstasy, the conquerer of worry. Satyrs were great lovers of pleasure, wine, women, music and dance.

Dioscuridis describes the plant also under the name 'thymbra', however, refers to his entry on Thyme describing the use of thymbra: 'the plant has the same qualities as thyme, used in the same way.. and is also very good used on healthy days'.


Cutting Satureja thymbra, in a splendid biotope of this plant, south coast, Sfakia...

The hot, sharp and pungent fragrance of this oil has a long reputation as an aphrodisiac, its nature is very sensual, warm, physically tempting, very earthly and instinctive. It seems to be helpful with sexual debility, especially in males. The oil is very potent even at low doses, it can be added to a basic oil or any oil-blend for massage at 0.5-1%.

Used once a while alone or in a blend of oils ( for example with a citrus oil) in the aroma lamp, it surrounds us with its fragrance that lead us back to physical strength and energy when we have lost our heads in the clouds.


Satureja thymbra oil is an excellent additive in treatments of any kind of infectious or fungal skin diseases. We have seen great success with stubborn fungal infections (feet, under the nails, Pityriasis versicolor, hypo- or hyper-pigmented skin areas caused by the the fungus Malassezia furfur). It is an excellent additive to remedies for treatments of any kind of bacterial or fungal diseases of the skin as hookworm, ringworm, eczema, psoriasis added up to 1% in a carrier oil containing other specific oils as well. To treat scabies for example, on can make a stronger solution, 5% in a carrier oil, and use drop wise on the affected areas.


Another splendid Satureja thymbra biotope on the South coast

As thyme, savory is a remarkable anti bacterial agent and stimulant of the immune system, but its action is more directed to the  digestive and urinary system. Added to foods (a few drops in sauces, meat dishes etc.) it prevents flatulence and helps digestion, and in cabbage dishes it takes the particular smell. As an additive to pulses, like beans, savory is famous, and its German name ‘Bohnenkraut’ (bean herb) illustrates this traditional use. It prevents and counteracts flatulence. It also has an effect on the yeast Candida albicans,which can affect the digestive system, genitals as well as the skin and mucous membranes.

One can add a few drops of the oil to foods, such as meats and seasonings, pasta sauces and pizza, salad dressings, because of its digestive, antispasmodic, carminative and general anti microbial, anti fungal activity, as well as its spicy flavor.


It has often be used in preserved foods to prevent bacteria formation. Pellecuer et al. carried out a study of the antimicrobial activities of a number of essential oils in 1975 and demonstrated the superiority of Savory (S. montana) over the other oils (various Lavandula spp, Rosemary and thyme (T. vulgaris) in respect to the microorganisms and fungi tested. Savory was active even at much lower concentrations than the other oils. Later also other authors confirmed that essential oils from Greek Satureja species showed remarkable bactericidal properties, clearly superior to those of several Origanum and Thymus species tested.

Savory oil can be taken 1 drop in a small glass of alcohol in acute digestive difficulties with flatulence, spasms and diarrhea caused by bacteria. Generally, savory is an oil to treat acute conditions, and should not be used over long periods of time, during pregnancy or with children.


The oil serves well in low concentrations (1%) diluted in massage oils to warm muscles and is beneficial for arthritis and rheumatisms. It warms and eases the pain substantially. Avoid use on sensitive or damaged skin though.


The oil is not commonly used in skin care products with the exception of the above mentioned medical indications.


Here Janina's cousin Werner has joined us for collection during his holidays


We collect Satureja thymbra near Frangokastello, Sfakia by the Libyan sea.. its a hot collection by the end of June, the sun is strong and the herb is so strong, so pungent. Collecting, its scent strengthens us, we are hardly tired during the days of collection in June... we hardly wear gloves when collecting and suppose, we are taking up a lot of its energy during those days. Well, we can assure you, that the herb has a certain aphrodisiac, tempting and profoundly sensual property..

A fire that burns is Satureja, an immortal aspect of earth and being, of an almost volcanic nature. However, as the satyrs, it also is a shy being despite its love for pleasure and ecstasy. This plant will render its properties to the wise one, who would know how, when and at what doses to use it...


When collecting Satureja in some places in the South, at sea-level, we have the mountains just behind us..During our breaks we might be tempted to climb up in search for the Cretan endemic, Dictamnos, Origanum dictamnus, dittany.

This plant was regarded as a panacea for thousands of years, a cure-all, a magical herb, symbolizing love and eternal health. It is endemic to Crete, where it grows wild in the gorges and mountainsides, places unaccessible to even goats.

Crete exported this wild herb for centuries, the collection was difficult, and numerous death are reported for people collecting dittany, because the sites are steep, collection dangerous.

Dittany lost its age-old reputation, when cultivation of the plant was attempted and carried out, in the middle of the 21st century. The cultivated plants didn't in any way have the properties of the wild growing ones, and the market filled with Cretan dittany of cultivated origin, which in no way had the same properties. The price and the ancient appreciation .of this herb vanished. Dittany as such, lost its importance, its longstanding reputation as a panacea. A plant that refuses to be tamed. Whenever you find it on the market, it will be the cultivated, tamed variety, grown at low altitudes, in greenhouses.

However, it still grows wild on the steep mountainsides in Crete, and has its properties as recorded and acknowledged over 2000 years....

We collect it whenever we find it, for our own use as tea.


Can you spot Babis?

Here Babis is up collecting Dittany, can you spot him in the picture?  (See the close up below)


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Winter Savory Essential Oil?

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