Winter savory, also known as mountain savory and white thyme, is a perennial, shrub-like herb in the mint family that is native to the Mediterranean and also distributed throughout southern Europe, Turkey and Russia. It has a stronger, more pungent flavor than its cousin, summer savory. The warm, peppery flavor and aroma of winter savory is due to carvacrol, the same phenol that lends oregano oil its antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.
Several studies show that the primary constituents in the plant, thymol and carvacrol, also demonstrate potent antioxidant activity. The authors of a study published in the July 2011 issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture report that the strongest antioxidant capacity was observed in aqueous (hot water) extracts of winter savory, while the high phenolic content of the essential oil exhibited strong antimicrobial activities against the seven species of foodborne pathogens tested, including Salmonella typhimurium.
The results of a similar study published in Journal of Chemistry in 2013 showed comparable effectiveness of winter savory essential oil compounds against various Salmonella species. The researchers also report that the essential oil showed significant antioxidant and cytotoxic activity against A549 cell line, also known as human lung adenocarcinoma epithelial cell line. The study authors conclude that winter savory essential oil “may be considered as an interesting source of components used as potent agents in food preservation and for therapeutic or nutraceutical industries.” These findings also explain why winter savory has a long history of use to counter nausea, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal complaints, as well as sore throat and lung congestion.
Used topically, the diluted essential oil of winter savory and strong infusions or tinctured herb are reputed to inhibit the growth of Candida albicans. The infused or tinctured herb or winter savory essential oil is also traditionally used to treat arthritic joints, insect bites and conditions relating to the scalp and hair loss. The herb is also used in various cosmetic preparations, including lotions, soaps, bath and body oils, and herbal bath bags and mouthwashes.
In terms of culinary use, winter savory adds a spicy note to herbal tea blends, sauces, stews, marinades and rubs. It pairs well with rosemary, thyme, sage and mint. As seasoning, winter savory is particularly suited to poultry, pork and beef, and dishes containing eggs, cheese and potatoes.
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Hanene Miladi, Rihab Ben Slama, Donia Mili, et al. Chemical Composition and Cytotoxic and Antioxidant Activities of Satureja montana L. Essential Oil and Its Antibacterial Potential against Salmonella Spp. Strains. Journal of Chemistry Volume 2013.