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Sage Leaf

Sage (Salvia officinalis) is native to the Mediterranean and naturalised throughout Europe and North America. Known as garden sage, meadow sage, and true sage, this pungent herb is a member of the Lamiaceae, or mint, family.

General Use

Sage's main constituents include volatile oil, diterpene bitters, thujone, camphor, tannins, triterpenoids, resin, flavonoids, estrogenic substances, phenolic acids such as rosmarinic and caffeic acids, and saponins. It acts as a carminative, antiperspirant, antispasmodic, astringent, antiseptic, antiallergenic and antibiotic.

Sage has been used as a general tonic. It is the preferred beverage tea in many cultures, particularly in China, where the root of the species S. miltiorrhiza, known as dan shen, is used for its soothing and healing qualities. Sage has antioxidant properties that have recently been used by the food industry to improve the stability of oils that must be kept in storage for long periods of time.

Sage is also high in calcium. It provides potassium, magnesium, and zinc as well as vitamins C and B-complex. Sage is calming to the central nervous system and may reduce anxiety. It can soothe spasms in smooth and skeletal muscles. Sage is a bitter digestive stimulant and acts to relieve digestive problems. The herb also contains oestrogenic substances that help to regulate menstruation.

Taken cold, the tea is astringent and diuretic, and will help to reduce night sweats in menopausal women and reduce milk-flow in breast-feeding mothers. Taken hot, a sage infusion acts as an expectorant and is good for common colds and flu. A strong infusion of sage used as a hair rinse may darken hair color and help reduce hair loss. The antibacterial properties in sage make it a useful mouthwash for gingivitis and an antiseptic sore throat gargle. Sage is still listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia as a treatment for bleeding gums and sore throats. A tea made from the leaves may be used as an antiseptic wash for wounds and sores. Crushed leaves may be applied to relieve insect bites. The powdered herb, added to toothpaste and powders, helps to whiten teeth.

Some research indicates that sage may boost insulin action and be helpful to treat non-insulin dependent diabetes. The herb may reduce blood sugar levels and promote bile flow.


Sage preparations in medicinal doses should not be used during pregnancy, although use of small amounts of sage for culinary purposes is safe. Breast-feeding women should avoid sage unless they are using the herb to reduce the flow of breast milk when weaning. People with epilepsy should not use sage due to the thujone content in the herb. Thujone may trigger convulsions in epileptics as the essential oil contains as much as 25% thujone. The essential oils may accumulate in the system, so long-term use of essential oils (more than two weeks at a time) should be avoided. Those allergic to sage or other plants in the mint family should avoid this herb.


There are no adverse side-effects when sage is taken in designated therapeutic doses, but sage may interfere with absorption of iron and other minerals.


As of 2002, no interactions have been reported between sage and standard prescription medications.

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