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Sage:   Salvia Sclarea LABIATAE

Photo © Steven Foster


Sage (Salvia officinalis L.) in the mint family (Lamiaceae) is a small, semi-evergreen subshrub native to the Mediterranean rim.

History and Traditional Use

Sage leaves were used in ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman medicines. Ancient Egyptians used sage as a fertility drug, while the Greek physicians reported that sage stopped the bleeding of wounds and cleansed ulcers and sores.1 Sage was also recommended by the Greeks to treat hoarseness, cough, and a sore throat when combined with warm water. Pliny the Elder suggested that sage enhanced memory functions.1 Extracts and teas have been used to treat digestive disorders, such as diarrhea, and as tonics (remedies used to restore strength and vigor), and antispasmodics (to prevent spasms). The dried leaves have been smoked to treat asthma.2

Modern Medicinal Use

Sage reportedly has antioxidant, antibacterial, fungistatic (inhibits the growth of fungi), astringent, and virustatic effects.3 Sage is approved by the German Commission E for external use in the treatment of inflammations of the mucous membranes of the nose and throat.4 Internally, sage has been approved for dyspeptic (disturbed digestion) symptoms and excessive perspiration.4 It is beneficial as a rinse or gargle for inflammations of the gums, mouth, and throat.1 Sage has also been beneficial in treatment of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. In Central Europe sage is used for the suppression of lactation in nursing mothers.5 In addition, it has also been used as a general tonic for fatigue, nervous exhaustion, immune system depletion, and poor memory and concentration.1 Currently, sage is being examined for its possible use in the treatment of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.5

Modern Consumer Use

Dried sage leaf is used as a culinary spice to flavor meat, especially pork and poultry.5 Sage oil is used as a fragrance in soaps, perfumes, detergents, creams, and lotions. In food, sage is widely used as a flavor ingredient in baked goods, condiments and relishes, processed vegetables, soups, fats, and oils, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, frozen dairy deserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins, and puddings. As a tea or infusion, sage has been used to treat nervous conditions, diarrhea, sore throats, and insect bites.3


1 Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, editors. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin (TX): American Botanical Council; Newton (MA): Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

2 DerMarderosian A, Beutler JA. The Review of Natural Products: The Most Complete Source of Natural Product Information. 3rd ed. St Louis (MO): Facts and Comparisons; 2002.

3 Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York: Wiley-Interscience; 1996.

4 Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Riggins CW, Rister RS, editors. Klein S, Rister RS, translators. The Complete German Commission E Monographs&emdash;Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin (TX): American Botanical Council; Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998.

5 Houghton PJ. Activity and Constituents of Sage Relevant to the Potential Treatment of Symptoms of Alzheimer 's disease. Herbal Gram 2004;61:38-53.

Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

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