The Comeback of the Oil Underdog

In part I, I reviewed why keeping mountain savory in close proximity during times of strain was a good idea. Based on my history of the use of this oil for supporting the body’s defense processes, inhibiting microbes, and a serendipitous happening, I got re-hooked by this oil.

This was due to:

  • the power of synergy found in this oil (spurred by my previous obsession with kunzea oil)
  • the many powerful constituents found in mountain savory and their complimentary actions
  • the importance of the “terpene factor” present in it
  • various chemotypes found in different manufacturers’ bottles of mountain savory

In this post, I’m going to continue to share helpful information on mountain savory.

I’ll discuss more about its properties, uses, and applications from the literature.

Although it may seem a bit complex when I discuss the chemical makeup of mountain savory, don’t worry. At the end, I’ll bring it all together for you and explain what you can expect from incorporating this amazing oil into your wellness regime.

Meet The Savories and Their Essential Oils

There are various species and subspecies of savory oils, with mountain savory being one of many. Just as we may share similar characteristics and genetics as our relatives, we differ in many other aspects and have variations in our gene expression. The same holds true for plant species.

In part I, I highlighted that carvacrol and thymol are the two main constituents found among the mountain savory family; however, the percentages of them can vary based on growing conditions, distillation techniques, harvesting, and other factors. Carvacrol, however, seems to be consistently present and in highest amount.

According to the Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition (Second Edition) there are two main species of Satureja:

Plants of two species of Satureja, which produce essential oils rich in carvacrol, are employed mainly as culinary herbs under the common name savory: S. hortenis L. and S. montana L.

S. hortensis, known as Summer savory, is an annual plant, up to 35 cm high, native to south Europe and Anatolia, and widely cultivated as a pot herb. The main area of production is France. It has linear leaves and white or lilac flowers arranged in verticillasters, borne in the axils of the upper leaves.

S. montana, known as winter savory, is a native plant of south Europe. It belongs to a group of related species, growing wild in parts of the Mediterranean region. Among them, only S. montana is used on a larger-than-local scale. It is a small shrub, up to 60 cm high, with lanceolate leaves and white or pale pink flowers arranged in verticillasters, in the axils of the leaf-like bracts.

The value of the two savories is in the high carvacrol content, which gives a fresh, herbaceous, spicy odor with slightly sharp notes, reminiscent of oregano. The two herbs have a similar odor, though summer savory’s odour is thought to be more rounded and harsh. They are used to flavor foods, such as sauces, soups, sausages, and canned meats. Savory oil sometimes replaces the dried leaves in food flavoring. The essential oils of S. montana wild growing plants are variable and, besides carvacrol, may have high amounts of p-cymene, thymol, linalool, borneol, or bornyl acetate.

As stated in the above article, S. montana essential oils are “variable, and besides carvacrol,” they may contain high amounts of terpenes, including the monoterpenoids linalool and borneol. Both of these components have brain health properties that are calming and neurologically supporting. The oxygenated monoterpene bornyl acetate may also be present. This compound is also found in pine and cinnamon oil and may contribute to their anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial characteristics.

Another article in Medicinal Plants goes a little deeper into a comparison between mountain savory and another species. It further validates the variations in compounds and makes another important distinction, the herb has different properties and molecules than the oil. In this analysis, the herb contained many minerals and trace elements. The essential oil constituents once again confirmed to be the most predominant in S. montana were carvacrol and thymol.

The researcher’s state:

Satureja montana (Lamiaceae) and S. subspicata are used as spice and pepper substitute, for preparing tea and juice, and as a medicine..

Fourteen populations (seven per species) of S. montana and S. subspicata growing in Croatia were examined to determine the chemical composition of the essential oil (analyzed by GC-FID and GC–MS), the content of macroelements (Na, K, Ca, and Mg) and trace elements (B, Fe, Cu, Mn, Zn, Al, Pb, Cr, Cd, Ni, Hg, and As) analyzed by ICP-AES (Dunkic’ et al., 2012) and antioxidant compounds (by UV/VIS spectrophotometer), and the types and distribution of trichomes (by scanning electron microscopy).

The main constituents of the essential oil were carvacrol and thymol in S. montana and all populations belong to one phenol chemotype, while a-eudesmol, B-eudesmol, and spathulenol dominated in S. subspicata and three chemotypes could be distinguished.

Both species possess considerably higher quantities of Ca and Mg and moderate concentrations of K and Na, while Hg and As levels were below the limit of quantification. (Source)

The Nuclear Family of Mountain Savories

To complicate things a little more, along with the various factors that impact an essential oil’s predominant constituents, there are subspecies of plants. Subspecies are populations within a species that have distinct morphological features. Mountain savory has several.

One study assessed two subspecies of S. montana. Variations in compounds and percentages were found, with carvacrol (again) being the main constituent shared. Interesting, in one subspecies, thymol was not reported; rather there were various other monoterpene compounds in its makeup. The authors reported that both of these oils had antioxidant properties:

The Satureja L. genus belongs to the Lamiaceae family and comprises about 30 species commonly known as savory. Savory is represented by aromatic plants which are used as spice, tea and food additive. In this study, we explored the differences in essential oil composition and antioxidant activity between two subspecies occurring in Italy, namely S. montana subsp. variegata and subsp. montana. Essential oils were analyzed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and the major volatile constituents were carvacrol (22.5%), p-cymene (17.6%), thymol (17,4%) in the subsp. variegata, and carvacrol (61.9%), p-cymene (9,9%) and y-terpinene (8.2%) in the subsp. montana. The main chemical difference was the carvacrol:thymol ratio, with the latter much higher in the subsp. montana (above 300) compared with the subsp. variegata. The antioxidant activity was determined by using DPPH, ABTS and FRAP and essential oils displayed noteworthy radical scavenging effects against the ABTS radical (IC50 of 30.02-34.5 µg/ml).

Conclusion & Take Aways

Mountain Savory is powerful and, depending on the species of savory and mountain savory’s chemotype and subspecies, the constituents can vary. As stated in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine:

Among the medicinal plants, Satureja species have gained increasing interest because they are composed of different bioactive chemicals such as volatile oils, phenolic compounds, flavonoids, tannins, steroids, acids, gums, mucilage, pyrocatechols, etc.[1,5,6] Studies have shown that there is an abundance of a variety in chemical composition and therapeutic values of different Satureja species.[1]

The major constituents of the essential oils from savory species are carvacrol, thymol, phenols, and flavonoids.[1] Many reports show that in S. hortensis, carvacrol,[7] thymol, y-terpinene, and p-cymene are the main components of the essential oil and a-terpinene, B-caryophyllene, and B-bisabolene are present in smaller amounts[8,9] [Table 1 and Figure 1].(source)

The good news is, if you have a good quality mountain savory bottle, it will likely contain carvacrol, terpenes, and have thymol.

Regardless of the exact ratios of the compounds found, this oil across the board is highly antimicrobial and antifungal and stimulates the body to enhance its defenses and repair processes and boost wellness. To me, I view mountain savory as a beautiful blend of oregano and thyme with additional distinct properties. (source, source, source)

I feel it is great to have on hand for times such as these….


I do use essential oils internally, though it is controversial. If you do this, you must understand dilution and safety and have experience with unadulterated, quality, essential oils used therapeutically. (Read more here.)

If you do use pure, potent, quality essential oils that are safe for ingestion (check your labels!), you may wish to take one or two drops in a veggie capsule diluted with a non-dairy milk substitute. I like to combine mountain savory and lemon when indicated.

Otherwise, you can topically apply this oil very diluted in a carrier oil to the bottom of the feet or diffuse it with a citrus oil for an invigorating and wellness-enhancing aroma.

Let me know what you think?

Will mountain savory be on your essential oils shelf this winter?

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Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)

According to experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no approved standard of care treatment, cure, or preventative for COVID-19. Supportive measures and containment are in full force as a result. Please see the CDC website and your state’s website for more information and updates. They also state when to contact your physician related to symptoms and travel history, exposures. Please read my more detailed article on this subject here.

This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.

Thanks Pixabay and Canva.

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