Medicinal plants

Olive herb (green saint herb) - application, effects and recipes

Olive herb (green saint herb) - application, effects and recipes

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At the Olive herb (Santolina viridis), as the name might suggest, is not the herbaceous parts of the olive plant. No, behind the name there is a special type of plant from the genus of sacred herbs. However, the olive herb has something in common with the olive tree, as its leaves are rich in essential oils, the aroma of which is reminiscent of the taste of green olives. In Mediterranean cuisine, olive herb is therefore a real traditional herb for refining the taste of meat and fish dishes containing olive oil and for refining pasta sauces, salad marinades and pesto. With us, Santolina viridis, on the other hand, is still relatively unknown, although the Mediterranean herb plant is not only useful as a kitchen, but also as a medicinal herb. Because where it intensifies the taste experience while eating, after enjoying hearty dishes, the gastrointestinal tract benefits from the digestive properties of the olive herb. And Santolina viridis should also be an insider tip for infectious diseases, breathing difficulties or skin problems.

useful information: The olive herb is still listed as Santolina rosmarinifolia in some of the specialist literature. The name comes from the plant's epithet rosemary holy herb thanks to the rosemary-like arrangement of its leaves.

Wanted poster for olive herb

  • Botanical name: Santolina virids
  • Plant family: Daisy family (Asteraceae)
  • Popular names: Cypressen, green saint flower, green saint herb, rosemary leaf saint herb, green lavender cotton, rosemary heather, cypress herb
  • Occurrence: Southern Europe, North Africa, Mediterranean
  • Parts of plants used: Leaves, seeds, flowers and fruits
  • application areas:
    • Respiratory symptoms,
    • Skin problems,
    • Infections
    • and indigestion.

Herbal portrait

Heiligenkraut, with just 24 known species, is a relatively small genus of plants, but can be easily recognized in the wild by the special appearance of its leaves. These, like the branches of the up to 60 centimeters tall subshrub, are covered with a felted down that in some species even has a striking whitish shimmer. The leaves of the Santolina are arranged alternately and are strongly reminiscent of small pin heads, which gives the leaf stems a very unusual appearance. If the rows of leaves were colored purple, one could almost think of the buds of lavender flowers, not least for popular names such as Cotton lavender or Lavender cotton (in English: Cotton Lavender / Lavender Cotton) is responsible. In contrast, the actual flowers of the sacred herbs stand out due to their bright yellow color and their rounded cup shape.

tip: Incidentally, its original appearance also makes Santolina an interesting ornamental plant. Especially in the rock garden, which is known to live on a Mediterranean planting, the sacred herb, originally from Spain, Portugal and Morocco, is often planted again and again. The subshrub is wonderfully suited as a bed border, structural plant and greening for dry stone walls. You don't necessarily have to plant the plant in the herb garden, you can also use it in the garden for decorative purposes.

The name of the sacred herbs can be directly derived from their Latin technical name Santolina derive which is composed of the words "sanctus" for holy and "linum" for flax. In ancient times, this "holy flax" was not unknown as a medicinal herb. So it was used not only as a kitchen herb, for example for deworming and hair loss. Two types of Santolina were used primarily:

  • Gray holy herb (Santolina chamaecyparissus)
  • and green saint herb / olive herb (Santolina viridis).

In the Middle Ages, however, the types of saint herb initially caused considerable confusion in the naming. Obviously, it was difficult to classify the old herb plant correctly. Because of their shrub growth, some of the first descriptors initially considered the plant to be a variant of the cypress (Cupressus) or the boar diamond (Artemisia abrotanum), which led to the creation of nicknames such as "cypressen", "cypress herb" or "Abrotanum foemina".

"The Cypressen seed / which is the Abrotanum foemina /
serve taken against the worm / which will be killed ”
- P.A. Mattioli; Source:

The use of holy herb against worm infestation described by Mattioli is nevertheless correct. Even today, the good effect of saint or olive herb on digestive complaints and diseases of the gastrointestinal tract is primarily in the foreground of medical use, but in some countries, olive herb is still used for deworming in some countries. In addition, the herb also proves to be efficient in combating other undesirable sub-tenants. The area of ​​action of the plant ranges from moth control to the treatment of infections caused by pathogens such as Escherichia Coli and Candida fungi. Again, the smell of the saint herb is important, which is particularly strong in the green saint herb.

In addition to its digestive and antibacterial or antiparasitic effects, inflammatory skin diseases sometimes respond well to the Mediterranean herb. And even positive experiences with the use of olive herb for respiratory diseases are known. Below is an overview of the most important areas of application:

  • natural parasite and insect control (e.g. cockroach, moth, termite or worm infestation),
  • Indigestion (e.g. loss of appetite, bloating or stomach cramps),
  • Digestive system disorders (e.g. bladder infection, bilious inflammation or gastrointestinal infection)
  • and other inflammatory and infectious diseases (e.g. with respiratory infections, skin infections or meningitis).

Ingredients and effects

Thanks to some extensive studies, the healing properties of olive herb have now been well documented. Again and again, researchers came to the conclusion that Santolina has exceptional immunomodulatory properties, i.e. properties that strengthen the immune system. In turn, various effects regulating the metabolism and nerve function could be determined for the digestive effect of the herb. These plant-specific abilities are largely due to the following ingredients:

  • essential oils,
  • Bitter substances
  • and tannins.

Essential oils

Essential oils are primarily composed of terpenes, which occur in the flora in a remarkable variety of over 8000 different variants. In olive herb there are mainly representatives of these natural substances, which are also typical for other Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary, marjoram, myrtle, caraway, coriander or the olive tree. They not only give the plant its characteristic taste, but also represent a significant part of the plant's own healing powers. For example, the cineol of olive herb is known to be excellent for respiratory diseases such as

  • Bronchitis,
  • bronchial asthma
  • or hay fever

to act. It is therefore often used in herbal medicine for aroma and inhalation therapy. Cineol also has anti-inflammatory properties that curb inflammation in respiratory diseases and thus improve breathing.

The myrcene in Santolina viridis proves that ancient associations with the genus Artemisia were not entirely wrong, at least in terms of content. Because some of their subspecies used as medicinal herbs, such as mugwort, wormwood or tarragon, also have high amounts of myrcene. First and foremost, it is a flavor-forming essential oil. In addition, the monoterpene also has

  • antimicrobial,
  • antioxidant,
  • anti-inflammatory
  • and antispasmodic

Properties that benefit both the digestive effect and the effectiveness of olive herb in inflammatory and infectious diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.

Myrcene is closely related to pinene. The terpene owes its name unmistakably to the pine, but can also be found in some herbs such as dill, fennel, rosemary and coriander. Medicinally, pinene's anti-inflammatory and disinfectant properties are again relevant, which are particularly beneficial for cramps in the respiratory tract.

By the way: Another and very special ethereal ingredient in olive herb is the sesquiterpene germacren. So far, the natural product has only been researched to a limited extent, however, the terpene was shown in an Italian study to have a cytotoxic effect against colon cancer cells. An aspect that once again predestines the medicinal and spice plant for applications in the digestive tract.

Bitter substances

In addition to essential oils, a number of bitter substances are also involved in the flavoring of the olive herb. As the name suggests, a special group of natural substances that produce a bitter taste. Just like terpenes, bitter substances also have various healing qualities in addition to their aromatic properties. In this regard, bitter substances are particularly well-known from the prevention of indigestion. As the main ingredient in bitter bitters, plant secretions are characteristic of herbs that are successful against

  • Stomach pain,
  • Flatulence,
  • Stomach cramps
  • and constipation

help or save from. It is therefore not surprising that there are many recipes for home-brewed bitters in which olive herb is listed as an ingredient.

Bitter substances are usually composed of extracts from alcohols, sugars or lipids, which promote blood circulation in the gastrointestinal tract and are also said to increase the secretion of gastric and biliary juice. In addition, the bitter plant substances also have a positive effect on the intestinal peristalsis, i.e. the contraction behavior of the intestinal muscles. Thanks to these properties, bitter substances work

  • antioxidant,
  • appetizing,
  • inflating,
  • relaxing
  • and digestive.

In particular, fat digestion is said to be enormously facilitated thanks to bitter substances, which is why gastric bitters like to be used especially after eating hearty and fatty home-made food.

Despite their relevant history of use in the digestive area, bitter substances and therefore herbs containing bitter substances such as olive herb can do even more. Because the plant substances not only stimulate digestion, but also the immune system. In particular, plant-specific bitter substances from the field of polyphenols have a strong immunomodulatory effect. This is mainly noticeable by the high anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial potential of the olive herb. Together with the digestive properties of the plant, it is therefore ideal for treating inflammation and infections in the digestive tract and their symptoms typical of the disease.

The digestive tract does not only include the stomach and intestines, but also organs such as bile, liver and urinary tract. They all react more than positively to olive herb and confirm its well-deserved reputation as a natural digestive aid.


The bitter substances in Santolina viridis receive support in their work as immunomodulators through a variety of vegetable tannins, the so-called tannins. Their use as a tanning agent for disinfecting animal hides is theirs

  • antibacterial,
  • antifungal
  • and antiviral

Effect well known. It is based on the property of the tannins to additionally compress living tissue by means of a contracting (astringent) effect, which provides an anti-infection protective membrane, particularly in the area of ​​skin tissue. With regard to blood vessels, the astringent properties of the tannins also ensure that bleeding is stopped more quickly in the event of a wound. Overall, in addition to their disinfectant effect, vegetable tannins can also be used

  • hemostatic,
  • detoxifying,
  • draining,
  • anti-inflammatory
  • and soothing

Record properties. The draining and detoxifying abilities are particularly interesting. The drainage effect of the tannins, for example, has a drying effect on the tissue, which removes nutrients from pathogens such as bacteria and fungi and thus offers even better protection against infections. In the intestine, on the other hand, the draining effect has a stuffing effect, which quickly kills diarrhea as a digestive problem. When it comes to removing germs and pollutants from the body, drainage can also be useful. In addition to flushing the urinary tract in the presence of an infection, tannins are considered a special secret weapon, especially for the removal of heavy metals and alkaloids. All in all, thanks to its tannin content, olive herb is helpful for the following health problems:

  • Urinary tract infections / cystitis,
  • Skin infections / skin infections,
  • Gastrointestinal infections / gastrointestinal inflammation,
  • Heavy metal and alkaloid poisoning
  • and injuries.

Reading tip: Scientists from the University of Calabria in Italy found that Santolina's antibacterial activity is particularly effective against staphylococci, listeria, Camphylobacter Enterobacter, Escherichia coli and pseudomonia. Santolina viridis (listed as Santolina rosmarinifolia in the study) in particular also showed good efficiency against other bacteria and fungi such as Candida albicans. The Italian study also confirms a number of other healing effects of the olive herb with well-founded evidence, which is why we are happy to recommend it. You can view the study results online here.

Cultivation and harvest

Once you get a taste of it, you can also pull the medicinal and spice herb directly at home. For this purpose, a calcareous and dry soil and a light-rich bedding location are important, which correspond to the natural habitat of the plant in the Mediterranean. An ideal location is in the rock garden, where the olive herb is usually cultivated in communal planting with other Mediterranean plants.

Alternatively, the plant is best placed in the herb garden next to Mediterranean herbs such as thyme, lavender or rosemary, since the subshrubs share similar location conditions. Santolina viridis is harvested in summer, between July and August, when the spicy aroma of leaves and flowers unfolds its full potential. Cut mainly young shoot tips with a length of five to ten centimeters for further processing. These are then best processed fresh, since olive herbs quickly lose their taste during the drying process. Those who still want to store in stock best freeze the herb.

tip: If you want to enjoy your home-grown olive herb for a particularly long time, you should be careful when harvesting in the first few years and not reduce the subshrub too much. Only then can the small subshrubs develop into a compact bush that will generate more yield in the future.

Application and dosage

The uses of olive herb are very diverse. From traditional use in the kitchen to targeted internal and external use for specific health complaints, there are hardly any limits to creative recipe ideas.

External use of olive herb

If you want to use olive herb externally, it is best to make a tincture or an oil extract from the shoots of the plant. Pickling in vinegar is also possible. However, it is important to choose a cold extraction process in all circumstances in order to preserve the aroma of the olive herb as well as possible.

The extract can then be used on problematic skin areas or poorly healing wounds. Insect bites and symptoms such as itching or burning skin also react positively to treatment with Santolina viridis. Extracts based on alcohol or vinegar additionally promote the disinfection of the affected skin areas. Another recommendation for external use is washing with olive herb. To do this, simply add a handful of olive herb leaves to the bath water or use a cold extract prepared beforehand with water.

Internal use of olive herb

Olive herb can be used internally, for example, by taking finished extracts or an herbal tea. Incidentally, not only the leaves and flowers, but also the seeds of the Santolina can be used for the latter. In most cases, two to three teaspoons of the medicinal herbs are sufficient to make a pot of olive herb tea. This then helps particularly well with indigestion, stomach cramps and diseases of the digestive system such as gastrointestinal flu or cystitis.

Important: The infusion time for olive herb tea should not be longer than three to five minutes to avoid a loss of taste due to the effects of heat!

Olive herb in the kitchen

Of course, olive herb is most commonly used in traditional Mediterranean cuisine. Especially

  • Vegetable side dishes,
  • Herb butter,
  • Herb quark,
  • Herbal pesto,
  • Herb marinades,
  • Mushroom dishes,
  • Salad dressings
  • and meat and fish dishes

benefit greatly from the olive-like aroma of the herb. Mozzarella and tomato plates refined with a combination of olive oil and olive herb are also worth considering. Especially with herb pesto, which is usually also made with olive oil, Santolina viridis allows a significant intensification of taste. Ideally, the herb is of course mixed with other herbs and spices from the Mediterranean region that harmonize well with each other in terms of taste.

Danger: Always add olive herb at the very end when cooking to preserve the aroma!

Side effects

There are no known side effects for olive herb.

Delicious olive herb recipes

Below is a small extract from possible recipe ideas.

Olive herb basil pesto


  • a fresh bunch of basil leaves,
  • a clove of garlic,
  • three green olives,
  • seven branches of olive herb,
  • 125 milliliters of olive oil,
  • two tablespoons of pine nuts,
  • three tablespoons of parmesan,
  • half a teaspoon of salt,
  • a teaspoon of lemon zest (alternatively lemon juice),
  • some pepper,
  • and mortar and pestle.

1st step: Wash the basil and olive herb thoroughly and then shake the herbs carefully dry. After dabbing with some kitchen paper, the kitchen herbs are then picked up and finely chopped together with the peeled garlic and the pine nuts.

Step 2: Now put the herbs in the mortar and rub a teaspoon of lemon peel over them before grinding the whole thing into a creamy mass with the pestle while adding olive oil. Alternatively, a mixer or blender can be used.

Step 3: Finally, the parmesan is added to the pesto mass and seasoned with salt and pepper. The pesto tastes great with pasta, side dishes, meat and fish dishes and can be kept for around three weeks if stored in a tightly closed screw-top jar and stored in the refrigerator.

Gnocchi with olive herb


  • a tablespoon of butter,
  • six cherry tomatoes,
  • 200 grams of gnocchi,
  • five branches of olive herb,
  • some parmesan,
  • some pepper,
  • a bit of salt
  • and a shallot

Step 1: Peel and dice the shallot and then put it in a pan with hot butter. Once the onions are glassy, ​​add the gnocchi and saute until golden yellow.

Step 2: Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes and add them to the pan for a few minutes. Then tear up the olive herb leaves and sprinkle them over the gnocchi.

Step 3: Finally, the whole thing is seasoned with salt and pepper and served with grated Parmesan.

Feta and olive herb spread


  • 200 grams of crème fraîche,
  • 400 grams of feta cheese,
  • 150 grams of cream cheese,
  • a clove of garlic,
  • five olives (green),
  • five olives (black)
  • and two sprigs of olive herb.

1st step: Peel the garlic and chop or mash it well so that its taste can develop fully. Olives and olive herbs are also finely chopped beforehand.

Step 2: Crush the sheep's cheese with a fork and put it in a bowl together with the creme fraîche and the cream cheese. Mix the whole thing well, leaving some coarser pieces behind.

Step 3: Finally garlic, olive pieces and olive herb are added. If necessary, the spread can be seasoned with salt and pepper.
Good Appetite! (ma)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Miriam Adam, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Tundis, pink; Loizzo, Monica Rosa: "A Review of the Traditional Uses, Phytochemistry and Biological Activities of the Genus Santolina", in: Planta Medica, 84 (09/10), 2018, Thieme
  • Appendino, Giovanni et al .: "Cytotoxic germacrane sesquiterpenes from the aerial parts of Santolina insularis", in: Journal of Natural Products, Volume 68 (6), 2005, ACS Publications
  • Chibani, Sawsen et al.: "Antibacterial Activity and Chemical Composition of Essential oil of Santolina rosmarinifolia L. (Asteraceae) from Algeria", in: Nouvelles de la république des lettres, 5 (2), 2013,
  • Bergmann, Heide: Herbal Spiral: Variety of herbs in a small space, Grafe and Unzer, 2014
  • Vilgis, Thomas A .: Cooking for Show-Offs: The Best Tricks of Top Cooks - A Book That Reveals the Secrets of Great Top Chefs, Stiftung Warentest, 2014
  • Bustorf-Hirsch, Maren: Self-sufficiency from our own cultivation: Using rich harvest blessings and making them durable, Bassermann Verlag, 2014

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