Salvia, commonly known as Sage, is an herb in the Mentheae tribe of the Lamiaceae family with nearly 1,000 different species recorded! There are three different varieties of Sage utilized for their essential oils: Salvia officinalis (referred to as Common sage, Garden sage or Culinary Sage), Salvia lavandulaefolia (sometimes known as Spanish sage but it’s also native to Southern France), and Salvia sclarea (commonly known as Clary sage).
This article will only be referring to one species of Sage - Salvia officinalis, or what I typically call Common sage. Salvia lavandulaefolia, Spanish sage, is really only a culinary variety as it does not contain thujone, a very strong antiseptic and carminative. And while Salvia sclarea, Clary sage, does have the same medicinal values as Common sage, it has long been deemed to be a weaker species so I personally do not use it as medicine.
Native to the Mediterranean and northern Africa, Sage is now cultivated all over the world and there are over 1,000 known species - with approximately 280 found in Mexico alone! Not to be confused with Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), as the two are in completely separate families. Sage is a herbaceous perennial evergreen shrub that grows to 2 to 2.5 feet in height and spread, with woody stems, grayish-green leaves and flowers that range from a pale blue to purple color. It’s happiest in well-draining soil that receives full sun and typically blooms in June, although it can bloom as late as July. Generally, the purple varieties are more revered and often used as medicine as they are more effective than the common green variety and their leaves have a very special affinity in healing the mouth, throat, colds, fever and flu.
With its lengthy history of being utilized as an herb, Sage’s botanical name is a big clue to its medicinal importance as Salvia comes from the Latin word ‘salvare,’ which means “to save.” Recorded in “The Classic of Herbal Medicine,” or “Shennong Bencaoijing,” a compilation book written between about 200-250 AD on oral Chinese traditions of agriculture and medicinal plants, Sage was listed as an herb that invigorates the blood and is still used today as a circulatory remedy. The Romans also considered it a very sacred herb, and not only commonly used it in their medicine, but would gather it with other ceremonial tools such as bread and wine. From the 14th to 16th centuries, the Aztecs used seeds from the Salvia (Sage) genus as food and would toast, grind and then add cornmeal to the flour-ish consistency to make a thick drink with chia seeds called “Chianzotzolatolí.” Then, when the British started importing tea from China, it’s said that the Chinese still valued sage so greatly that they would trade two cases of tea for one of dried English sage! And in the 17th century, Dutch merchants were trading three chests of Chinese tea for one of dried Sage leaves. Native American healers mixed sage with bear or another animal grease and applied it as a salve to heal skin sores and wounds and also used the woody stems like a toothbrush. In Cherokee culture, Sage was also used to relieve asthma, coughs, and colds - and they made a leaf infusion with it to treat diarrhea. The Mohegans used it to treat intestinal worms. Sage has also held a long reputation in restoring failing memory to the elderly, and like many other memory-enhancing herbs, has a long history of being planted on graves or in grave sites after death.
Healing properties of Common sage... especially as an essential oil:
Antifungal, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiseptic and disinfectant. The presence of camphor and camphene in Common sage gives it great protecting properties both when ingested internally and applied externally. Inhibit and relieve fungal, microbial and bacterial infections and protect and heal small wounds and/or cuts and use it as an antiseptic for wounds, surgical incisions, post-natal injuries, ulcers and sores.
Antioxidative. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this plant’s healing powers is its strength in fighting free radicals in the body. Antioxidants blast away the oxidants, the free radicals that are the main cause of aging, and thereby prevent wrinkles, sagging skin and muscles, reduction in vision and hearing capabilities, malfunctioning of the brain, memory loss, degeneration of tissues, macular degeneration, nervous disorders, cancer, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and many other human diseases associated with free radicals.
Anti-inflammatory. Common sage reduces inflammations on and in the body, especially due to fever or in the stomach, intestines and excretory tracts; and prevents the entry of poisonous material in the blood stream. By doing so, it reduces the effects of excessive intoxicants, narcotics, salty or spicy food and lowers blood sugar levels.
Antispasmodic. Wonderful in treating spasms, convulsions, coughs, cramps, and the pain possibly associated with them.
For digestive health! A great remedy in soothing the stomach and improving the functionality of the whole digestive system by inhibiting microbial growth, facilitating the decomposition of food by promoting the secretion of gastric juices and bile, and neutralizing the acids in the stomach and blood stream. In turn, this provides relief from acidity and protects us from peptic ulcers, boils, eruptions, and skin diseases that occur when acid levels rise in the blood.
Skin condition. Use to eliminate marks, scars, fat cracks, and spots.
Depurative. Not the strongest of purifying and detoxifying herbs, Common sage is a happy medium as it speeds up the removal of toxins from the blood through sweating and excretion.
Women’s cycles and hormones. Common sage is a really great herb for regularizing menstrual cycles, relieving obstructed, irregular, or painful menses, regulating good overall uterus health, and for activating estrogen - which not only helps facilitate menstruation but gives relief from possible accompanying symptoms like headaches, nausea, weakness, fatigue, depression, mood swings etc.
Respiratory health. Provides relief from coughs, colds, congestion, bronchitis, asthma, and infections in the chest or respiratory tracts.
Laxative properties. Facilitates excretion and eliminates constipation.
Stimulating! The entire essence and healing properties of Common sage revolve around this euphoric type of energy. The brain, nervous system, liver, spleen, circulating, respiratory, excretory and digestive systems are all activated and optimized by this beautiful plant.
Yet relieving. Thanks to its sedative qualities and energies, it’s a wonderful remedy for anxiety, stress, nervousness, vertigo and hysteria. Some healers also use it to help people overcome addiction.
* Common sage is a very potent broad-spectrum antibiotic and is active against: Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, Candida albicans, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Salmonella ssp.
Please note... that thujone is toxic in excess amounts and cause convulsions, trigger epileptic seizures and reduce breast-milk production. The herb can also interact with anticonvulsants, disulfiram, insulin and other diabetic therapies. Pure Sage essential oil should never be ingested or applied to the skin in its full strength due to its potency.
Key components (in no particular order) of Common sage include: p-Cymene, Eucalyptol, Limonene, Camphor, Thujone, Tannins, Triterpenoids, Flavonoids, Xenoestrogen, Saponin, Aesculetin, Humulene, Thujene, Terpineol, Terpinene, alpha-Pinene, beta-Pinene, Copaene, Borneol, Cadinene, Camphene, Linalool, Myrcene and 1-Octen-3-ol.
Blends well with: Tangerine, Lavender, Geranium, Ginger, Sweet orange, Lemon, Lime, Bergamot, Neroli, Turmeric, Peppermint, Pine, Juniper, Geranium, Sandalwood, Jasmine and Frankincense essential oils.
Example formulation: Cramp-Relieving Belly Oil
Gather a 2 ounce amber or blue bottle with a phenolic cap and add 10 drops of Clary sage, 20 drops of Tangerine, 8 drops of Geranium and approximately 2 ounces of sesame or jojoba oil.
Detailed guided steps:
I) Place drops of essential oil into the clean, sterilized glass bottle.
II) Gently swirl the essential oils around to allow them to combine and blend with each other.
III) Pour sesame or jojoba oil into the bottle.
IV) Place the lid on and shake vigorously for at least a few seconds to really mix the carrier oil in with the essential oils.
V) Wipe the outside of the bottle with alcohol or wash under warm water with a little soap and then allow to dry.
VI) Once fully dry, label the bottle with a name, or at least the ingredients and voila! It’s all ready for use!
Common sage uses in forms besides an essential oil..
Fresh or dried leaves can be used on their own and when fresh leaves are placed on insect stings and bites, they make a very useful first aid remedy in treating them directly.
In the form of a tea, besides the healing properties listed below, Common sage is a very effective wash for infected and inflamed cuts.
A tincture of Common sage may be prepared and is very effective in healing a wide array of digestive and women’s health menopausal problems, as well as reducing the salivation in Parkinson’s disease.
In women, internal ingestion is a great way to regulate periods and/or bring on delayed periods, dry up breast milk, diminish hot flashes and lift depression in menopause.
Infusions may be used as a general digestive health tonic but are especially great in stimulating circulation and the liver. Infusions as hair rinses is a great way in controlling dandruff and/or restoring colour to graying hair. In a weaker form of a gargle, Common sage is used for sore throats, tonsillitis, mouth ulcers and gum disease.
Compresses soaked in Common sage infusions or soaked in water with a few drops of essential oil added is a great way to slow a healing wound if needed, and sooth painful, lumpy breasts.