Friday, July 12, 2024

The Savorys - Winter and Summer

 From the Jan/Feb 2015 issue of The Essential Herbal 
The following article was written in response to the IHA Herb of the Year® as we try to do each year.  For instance, we're aiming to include something about yarrow in each issue this year for the same reason.  We find that we learn so much about these herbs when we really look at them individually!
Right now, Herb Society of America is honoring Savory as their herb of the month, and so I pulled this article out to share!

Seasonal Savorys

Savory Saturea ssp.


There are two types of Savory, Winter (Satureia montana) and Summer (Satureja hortensis).   They are from the Lamiaceae, or Mint family.  Winter Savory is a semi-evergreen perennial and blooms in winter.  Summer Savory is an annual.  Although Winter Savory has a sharp flavor and Summer Savory is more sweet, they are used interchangeably as a seasoning. The name itself has come to mean a specific type of food, full of flavor and depth.  The piney and peppery Winter Savory is (in my mind) more responsible for that.  Folklore has it that Winter Savory decreases the sex drive, while Summer Savory enhances it, so you may want to keep that in mind while flavoring those side dishes. 



Savory is known as "the bean herb."  In fact the German word for the herb is Bohenkraut - which means bean herb and that might be due to its ability to help with bloating, and flatulence.  It can be made into a tea as well as used as a seasoning, and helps with colic, stomach upsets, diarrhea, and indigestion, and because it contains tannins as well as possessing antibiotic properties, it helps with sore throats.  It is also mildly expectorant.  It can help relieve abdominal cramping.


On the west coast, varieties of Savory (as well as several other herbs) may go by the nickname Yerba Buena.  Satureja douglasii and Satureja viminea are two of these that are made into teas and sipped as "the good herb."  However, depending on location, there are several mints and quite a few other plants that also go by that moniker.


It can be made into a mild salve to help with insect stings and rashes.  To do that, one would simply steep the Savory in a fat or oil, strain, and combine with enough beeswax to make it the proper feel.



Winter Savory was used in knot gardens during the Tudor era in England, and often beehives were located near them so that the honey would be flavored with the herb.


Both Winter and Summer Savory grow easily and quickly from seed.  They aren't fussy, but Summer Savory might grow so quickly that it falls over, so be sure to cut it often and use it! 

If you don't get around to using it right away, Savory dries beautifully.


Savory contains essential oil  Commercially it is used in soaps and toothpastes. As with all essential oils, this one will cause skin irritation if used without proper dilution.  It should not be taken internally.


All in all, not a bad little herb to have around.


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Sunday, July 07, 2024

book review: A Shamanic Herbal by Matthew Wood

 This is one of those very rare books that I savor like fine chocolate.  I don't want to read a lot at one sitting, because each herb (for instance) description or tale requires some introspection.  To read too quickly, I couldn't absorb it properly.  It deserves the time.

Physically, the book feels good.  Nice size (over 400 pages), easy to hold at 9" x 6" - and print that I can easily read.  The paper is non-glare, which I also appreciate.

Very often when people are attempting to convey experiences that are mystical or beyond the mundane, they employ a sort of language that I find ambiguous and confusing. Although that can be good in works of fiction, it is less than helpful when sharing information.

The GOOD news is that Matthew's voice is very clear, leaving out innuendo.  By speaking this way, he makes it easy to read about faeries, spirit, clairvoyance, and the like and takes the reader along willingly.  He talks it through and I find that to be unusual and wonderful.

The first half of the book describes the things that got his attention along the way and led to learning from so many teachers himself (not all human) to have a confidence and familiarity in that information.  I need to reread it to really get all of it - and I wanted to get this post up since the book is out!

The second half of the book is different kinds of medicine and the animals that help share their magic.  The animals are described in their realm and how they interact with us, each other, their enemies, surroundings, or qualities specific to them. These clarify their role in medicine.  Each animal has a number of herbs that relate to them, and we are allowed a peek into the way Matthew considers how to choose a plant for a situation.  

It's fascinating and the book is generous, opening doors for us to wander through.  Eye-opening.  If you want to learn what shamanism means and how it relates to herbalism, you will learn it here.

Stay tuned, subscribers!  I will get a chance to talk with the author about this book at the upcoming Black Walnut Botanical Conference, and I'll share it in the Sept/Oct issue, along with an excerpt from the book.  

But don't wait for me - get this book!

Matthew Wood has been a practicing herbalist for more than 40 years. An internationally known author and lecturer in the field, he holds a master of science degree in herbal medicine from the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine and is the author of several books, including The Earthwise Herbal and The Book of Herbal Wisdom. He runs an online school, the Matthew Wood Institute of Herbalism, and lives in Spring Valley, Wisconsin.


A Shamanic Herbal: Plant Teachers and Animal Medicines by Matthew Wood

ISBN: 9798888500200, July 2024 Also available as an ebook 

Paperback: $29.99, 416 pages, 6 x 9. Imprint: Healing Arts Press