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Satureja thymbra in bloom

Classification System: APG IV

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiosperms
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: Core eudicots
Cladus: Asterids
Cladus: Lamiids
Ordo: Lamiales

Familia: Lamiaceae
Subfamilia: Nepetoideae
Tribus: Mentheae
Subtribus: Menthinae
Genus: Satureja
Species: Satureja thymbra

Satureja thymbra L., Sp. Pl. 1: 567 (1753).

Micromeria thymbra (L.) Kostel., Allg. Med.-Pharm. Fl. 3: 763 (1834).
Clinopodium thymbra (L.) Kuntze, Revis. Gen. Pl. 2: 516 (1891).
Thymus tragoriganum L., Mant. Pl. 1: 84 (1767).
Satureja hispida Ehrh., Beitr. Naturk. Verw. Wiss. 7: 147 (1792).
Satureja collina Salisb., Prodr. Stirp. Chap. Allerton: 77 (1796).
Thymbra hirsuta Pers., Syn. Pl. 2: 114 (1806).
Thymbra hirsutissima Vent. ex Pers., Syn. Pl. 2: 114 (1806), not validly publ.
Thymus hirsutissimus Poir. in Lamarck, Encycl. 7: 650 (1806).
Satureja tragoriganum (L.) Tausch, Syll. Pl. Nov. 2: 248 (1828).
Satureja thymbra var. calvescens Pamp., Agric. Colon. 15: 375 (1921).
Satureja biroi Jáv., Magyar Bot. Lapok 21: 25 (1922 publ. 1923).

Native distribution areas:

Southwestern Europe
Southeastern Europe
Greece, Kriti, Turkey-in-Europe.
Northern Africa
Western Asia
Cyprus, East Aegean Islands, Lebanon-Syria (Lebanon, Syria), Palestine (Israel), Turkey.

References: Brummitt, R.K. 2001. TDWG – World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions, 2nd Edition
Primary references

Linnaeus, C. 1753. Species Plantarum. Tomus II: 567. Reference page.

Additional references

Dobignard, A. & Chatelain, C. 2012. Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du Nord. Volume 4: Dicotyledoneae: Fabaceae – Nymphaeaceae. Conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève, ISBN 978-2-8277-0126-1, 431 pp. PDF Reference page.
Hand, R. 2015. Supplementary notes to the flora of Cyprus VIII. Willdenowia 45(2): 245–259. DOI: 10.3372/wi.45.45210 Reference page.


Govaerts, R. et al. 2022. Satureja thymbra in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published online. Accessed: 2022 April 18. Reference page.
Govaerts, R. et al. 2022. Satureja thymbra in Kew Science Plants of the World online. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published online. Accessed: 2022 April 18. Reference page. 2022. Satureja thymbra. Missouri Botanical Garden. Published online. Accessed: 18 April 2022.
International Plant Names Index. 2022. Satureja thymbra. Published online. Accessed: April 18 2022.
Hassler, M. 2022. World Plants. Synonymic Checklist and Distribution of the World Flora. . Satureja thymbra. Accessed: 18 April 2022.
Hassler, M. 2022. Satureja thymbra. World Plants: Synonymic Checklists of the Vascular Plants of the World In: Roskovh, Y., Abucay, L., Orrell, T., Nicolson, D., Bailly, N., Kirk, P., Bourgoin, T., DeWalt, R.E., Decock, W., De Wever, A., Nieukerken, E. van, Zarucchi, J. & Penev, L., eds. 2022. Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life. Published online. Accessed: 2022 April 18. Reference page.
Euro+Med 2006 onwards: Satureja thymbra in Euro+Med PlantBase – the information resource for Euro-Mediterranean plant diversity. Published online. Accessed: 2022 April 18.

Vernacular names
English: water savory, pink savory, Persian zatar
eesti: egeuse piparrohi
italiano: Santoreggia sarda
Nederlands: tijmbonenkruid
sardu: Isòpu
Türkçe: Girit sateri

Satureja thymbra, commonly known as savory of Crete, whorled savory, pink savory, and Roman hyssop (Arabic: za'atar rumi; za'atar franji),[1] is a perennial-green dwarf shrub of the family Lamiaceae, having strongly scented leaves, endemic to Libya, southeastern Europe from Sardinia to Turkey; Cyprus, Lebanon and Israel (Palestine). The plant is noted for its dark-green leaves which grow on numerous, closely compacted branches, reaching a height of 20–50 cm. The plant bears pink to purple flowers that blossom between March and June.


The semi-shrub grows mainly in Mediterranean woodlands and scrubland, adapting well to higher elevations, but also seen on rocky limestone gullies as an undergrowth, and alongside dirt roads. In Israel, the plant is commonly found in the Mount Carmel region, south of Haifa, as well as in the mountainous district of Upper Galilee, in Samaria and in the Judean mountains, thriving in areas where the soils are mainly terra rossa and hard limestone, but also in chalk.[2] The plant is rarely found along the coastal plains, or in the Jordan valley.

The leaves of the aromatic plant Satureja thymbra have numerous glandular trichomes of two morphologically distinct types: glandular hairs and glandular scales.[3] The leaves are opposite, entire and smooth. The flowers grow in whorls, and range from pink to purple. Its fruit pods are schizocarps. Satureja thymbra has a fuscous-brown bark, with many erect young shoots, somewhat tetragonal, gland-dotted and pubescent with short downy white hairs.

Its leaves are sessile, generally extending in condensed clusters of inflorescence, consisting of a pair of sessile cymes arranged around an axis and equally spaced, with numerous lanceolate bracts measuring about 5 mm long and 2 mm wide.[4]
Chemical composition

An analysis of the plant's chemical composition reveals that the Satureja thymbra, of the kind grown in Israel, contains a very high content of the chemicals γ-terpinene (15.9%), and p-cymene (12.4%), with the highest concentration being that of carvacrol (55.2%).[5] Other independent studies revealed the main compounds of the essential oil ranging at varying levels; carvacrol (34.6%), γ-terpinene (22.9%), p-cymene (13.0%) and thymol (12.8%).[6] Air dried aerial parts from S. thymbra collected in Lebanon and which were submitted to steam distillation using a Clevenger-type apparatus to produce the essential oil were also tested. The extracted oil was dried using anhydrous magnesium sulfate and stored at 4 °C. Analysis revealed that the Lebanese Satureja thymbra oil is characterized by high amounts of γ-terpinene (34.08%), carvacrol (23.07%) and thymol (18.82%).

The pesticidal property of the plant's volatile essential oil and other constituents was tested against an adult tick (Hyalomma marginatum), the result being that high concentrations of this oil resulted in the mortality of the tick.[7]
Culinary uses

The crushed leaves of this plant have more of a pungent taste and smell than the true hyssop (eizov), for which reason it is not commonly used today as a spice, except in Lebanon, where it is still used as a herbal tea in Lebanese traditional medicine. In ancient times, whorled savory (Satureja thymbra) was used as a spice in Anatolia and Greece. In Mishnaic times, the whorled savory was called sī'ah in Hebrew,[8][9][10] and is often mentioned in rabbinic literature along with eizov (marjoram) and qurnit (white-leaved savory), three herbal plants that grew naturally in the wild.[11] In ancient times in Palestine, water in which whorled savory had been steeped was used to flavor meats that had been skewered and placed over hot coals for roasting.[12] Dioscorides, in the Third Book of his De Materia Medica (3:44–45), alludes to the plant, bringing down its medicinal uses in his day.[13] In ceremonial usage, although it is related to the biblical hyssop, it was considered a different species, thus invalid to be brought in the purification ritual where true hyssop (eizov) was used in the preparation of the sprinkling water to purify those defiled by corpse uncleanness.

Its medicinal use, when concocted into a tea, is said to aid against digestive problems, diarrhea, colic pains, flatulence, intestinal cramps and anorexia. In Israel, the plant Satureja thymbra has protected status, making it a criminal offence to harvest it.[2]
See also

Thymus capitatus (syn. Coridothymus capitatus)

Further reading

Meaning, "Roman hyssop" and "European hyssop," respectively.
Avi Shmida, MAPA's Dictionary of Plants and Flowers in Israel, Tel Aviv 2005, p. 349 (s.v. Satureja thymbra) (Hebrew) OCLC 716569354
A.M. Bosabalidis, "Glandular Trichomes in Satureja thymbra Leaves", in: Annals of Botany, vol. 65, issue no. 1, 1 January 1990, pp. 71–78
Mouterde, Paul (1983). Nouvelle flore du Liban et de la Syrie (in French). Vol. 1–3. Beirut. OCLC 742432106.
Fleisher, Alexander; Fleisher, Zhenia (1988). "Identification of Biblical Hyssop and Origin of the Traditional Use of Oregano-Group Herbs in the Mediterranean Region". Economic Botany. Springer on behalf of New York Botanical Garden Press. 42 (2): 235. doi:10.1007/BF02858924. JSTOR 4255069. S2CID 45220405.
Öztürk, Mehmet (September 2012). "Anticholinesterase and antioxidant activities of Savoury (Satureja thymbra L.) with identified major terpenes of the essential oil". Food Chemistry. 134 (1): 48–54. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2012.02.054.
Cetin, H.; Cilek, J.E.; Oz, E.; Aydin, L.; Deveci, O.; Yanikoglu, A. (June 2010). "Acaricidal activity of Satureja thymbra L. essential oil and its major components, carvacrol and γ-terpinene against adult Hyalomma marginatum (Acari: Ixodidae)". Veterinary Parasitology. 170 (3–4): 287–290. doi:10.1016/j.vetpar.2010.02.031. PMID 20303667.
Faran, Mina; Tcherni, Anna (1997). Medicinal herbs in Modern Medicine (ṣimḥei marpé bir'fū'ah ha-modernīt) (in Hebrew). Vol. 1. Jerusalem: Akademon (Hebrew University of Jerusalem). p. 142. ISBN 965-350-068-6. OCLC 233179155., s.v. Satureja thymbra
Dalman, Gustaf Hermann (2013). Work and customs in Palestine. p. 565. ISBN 978-9950-385-00-9. OCLC 1040774903.
Sī'ah (Heb. סיאה) is explained in the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 128a) as having the connotation of the Aramaic word צתרי. This word, in turn, is explained by Payne Smith, J. (1903) in her Thesaurus Syriacus (p. 485, s.v. ܨܬܪܐ) as having the meaning of satureia thymbra, a view shared by Marcus Jastrow (Dictionary of the Targumim, s.v. צתרי), who, citing Immanuel Löw and William Smith, writes that the word has the meaning of Satureia (=savory).
Cf. Mishnah (Shevi'it 8:1; Ma'aserot 3:9; Uktzin 2:2), Tosefta (Kila'im 3:13; Shabbat 14:12; Shevi'it 5:14), Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 128a; Niddah 51a), Jerusalem Talmud (Shevi'it 7:2 [37b])
Solomon Sirilio, Commentary on Jerusalem Talmud (Terumot 10:2 [52a]), s.v. מי צתרי. The discussion in the Jerusalem Talmud revolves around Terumah (heave-offering) which can only be eaten by Jewish priests in a state of ritual cleanness. In this case, whorly savory which was cultivated in one's garden and had been picked, its owner separated therefrom the designated tithes (heave-offering) meant for the priests, and when he had given the portion designated to the priests, the priest took water in which the same whorly savory had been steeped and sprinkled it over skewers of meat laid over hot coals in order to impart the plant's aroma and flavour to the meat. The question asked was whether a regular skewer of meat which lay alongside of it was permitted to be eaten by an outsider who was not of the priestly clan, although it too had absorbed the aroma of the other skewer belonging to the priest (P'nei Moshe Commentary and Sirilio's Commentary)
Ibn al-Baitar (1989). Ibrahim Ben Mrad (ed.). Tafsīr Kitāb Diāsqūrīdūs (in Arabic). Beirut: Dar Algharb Al'Islami. pp. 224–225. OCLC 957197903., where Ibn al-Baitar explains Dioscorides' entry of Thymbra as having the meaning of Satureia (=savory).

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