Family: Labiatae; other members include mints

Genus and species: Salvia officinalis

Also known as: Garden, meadow, Spanish, Greek and Dalmatian sage

Parts used: Leaves

Therapeutic Uses

Sage contains an aromatic oil with some therapeutic value.  The oil has one unique property that sets sage apart from all other healing herbs: It reduces perspiration.

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Excessive perspiration – some studies have shown that sage can cut perspiration by as much as 50 percent.  Maximum effect occurred 2 hours after ingestion.  This helps to explain how sage became known for treating fever, which causes heavy sweating, as well as for drying up mothers milk.

Wounds – in studies it is active against several infection-causing bacteria. You can use fresh leaves as a garden first-aid for MINOR wounds.

Food Poisoning – Meat spoils in part because their fats turn rancid.  Just like rosemary, sage contains powerful antioxidants, which will help slow spoilage.  It may h help prevent food poisoning on your next picnic.  Mix it generously into hamburger meat and tuna, pasta and potato salads.

Digestive Problems – sage helps to relax the smooth muscle lining the digestive tract, an action that makes it an antispasmodic.

Sore throats – sage contains astringent tannins, which account for it’s use in treating canker sores, bleeding gums and sore throat. In Germany, where herbals healings are more mainstream, doctors there recommend a hot sage gargle for sore throats and tonsillitis.

Women’s health concerns – as an antispasmodic, sage should theoretically calm the uterus.  Some studies suggest that sage oil may stimulate it instead, possibly explaining its traditional role in menstruation promotion.  Pregnant women should NOT take medicinal doses of sage, but other women might try it to bring on their periods.

Intriguing Possibility

A German study found that sage reduces blood sugar (glucose) levels in people with diabetes who drink the infusion on an empty stomach.  Diabetes is a serious condition requiring professional care.  Discuss this with your doctor.

Rx Recommendations

For garden first-aid, crush some fresh leaves into a cut or scrape until you can thoroughly wash and bandage it.

For an infusion to settle the stomach or possibly to help manage diabetes, use 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried leaves per cup of boiling water.  Steep for 10 minutes, then strain.  Drink up to 3 cups a day.  The infusion may also be used as a gargle.  Sage tastes warm, pleasantly aromatic and somewhat pungent.

As a home tincture, take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon up to three times a day.  This may help reduce wetness if you perspire a lot.

Do NOT give medicinal doses of sage to children under age 2.  For older children and adults over age 65, start with low-strength preparations and increase the strength if needed.


Medical literature contains a few reports of inflammation of the lips and lining of the mouth associated with ingestion of sage tea.  Sage contains relatively high levels of a toxic chemical called thujone.  In large amounts it can cause a variety of symptoms that culminate in convulsions.  The heat used in preparing a sage infusion eliminates much of the chemical, so the risk from consuming recommended of amounts of an infusion is negligible.  Concentrated sage oil is toxic and should not be ingested.

Growing Information

Sage is a perennial, branching, evergreen shrub that reaches about 3 feet.  It has square, wooly, woody stems near its base,, which become herbaceous toward the top. Its 2 inch leaves are oval, velvety and gray green, with long stalks.

Sage is NOT related to the West’s sagebrush, which was so named because of its vaguely sage like aroma.

It grows well in almost any soil but it requires good drainage and full sun.  It can be grown from seed or cuttings.  It should be replaced every 3-4 years as the plant can become woody and less productive.  If your winter temperatures fall below zero, mulch your sage in the fall.  Harvest leaves before the flower buds open by cutting the plant back to 4 inches above the ground.  Discard the stems and leaf stalks.  Dry the herb and them store it in an airtight container.


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