Why do you season your food? Is it just for taste, and the look and feel?
No. According to our ancestors, food was meant to be a medium to deliver medicine. Most of the spices on your kitchen shelves have high therapeutic value. Include sage in that list.
Sage is an herb whose leaves have been used to calm sore throat, hot flashes, anxiety, insomnia, and inflammation in your body. There is substantial research backing these myths-turned-facts (1). Want more information on this ‘holy herb’? Swipe up!
Table Of Contents
What Is Sage? Where Does It Come From?
Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a member of the ‘mint’ family (Lamiaceae). The plants have a unique aroma and pretty flowers in different colors. Many species of sage, including Salvia officinalis (common sage or kitchen/garden sage), are native to the Mediterranean region (1).
Sage has been used as a spice since time immemorial. It is a well-known flavoring agent in pickles, cheese, vegetables, processed foods, and beverages. The dried leaves of this plant are used in seasonings for sausages, ground meats, stuffings, fish, honey, salads, soups, and stews (1), (2).
What’s more, sage was also used in ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Greek medicine. In fact, in Native American rituals, dried sage leaves are burned to promote healing, wisdom, protection, and longevity (1), (3).
What Are The Different Types Of Sage?
|Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis)||Europe|
|Canary Island sage (Salvia canariensis)||Canary Islands (Africa)|
|Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha)||Southern California|
|Autumn sage (Salvia greggii)||Southern California|
|Salvia brandegei||Santa Rosa Island & N. Baja California|
|Salvia gesneriiflora||Mexico to Columbia|
|Salvia wagneriana||Guatemala and Costa Rica|
|Salvia dolomitica||South Africa|
|Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii)||San Diego and Baja California|
|Black Sage (Salvia mellifera)||Owens Peak (northeast of Palomar College)|
|Death Valley Sage (Salvia funerea)||Death Valley|
|Thistle Sage (Salvia carduacea)||Anza-Borrego Desert State Park|
|Creeping Sage (Salvia sonomensis)||San Diego County, California (central and northern)|
|Munz Sage (Salvia munzii)||San Diego County and Baja California|
|Pitcher Sage or Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea)||Sonoma County in northern California south to Orange County|
|Rose Sage (Salvia pachyphylla)||Southern California|
|Wild sage or cancerweed (Salvia lyrata)||Eastern section of the United States|
|Salvia tomentosa Mill.||Mediterranean region|
|Salvia fruticosa or Salvia triloba||Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries|
Many more wild and unclassified varieties of sage have been identified. Each of them is differently used in food, medicine, and rituals. Universally, sage is used to treat digestive and inflammatory issues. Its extracts and teas are effective against asthma, cough, blood circulation disturbances, etc. (1).
Isn’t it surprising to know that an herb, always sitting on your kitchen rack, has so many benefits?
Move on to the next section to find substantial scientific evidence for these properties of sage.
What Are The Benefits Of Sage?
Sage has antiseptic, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. It boosts your memory and controls blood sugar and cholesterol levels if used in optimal amounts.
1. Boosts Memory And Cognition
Several varieties of sage have been used to restore memory loss and cognitive decline, as mainly seen in Alzheimer’s disease. Such a decline in mental ability arises when neurotransmitters are degraded by your body’s specialized enzymes (1).
Acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, is degraded by the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE), in most brain disorders. Drugs and herbs that inhibit the activity of AChE are given to such subjects (1), (5).
The essential oils of sage have shown 46% AChE inhibition in lab trials. Its herbal extracts protect the brain cells (neurons) from the effects of cholesterol accumulation and inflammation (amyloid ß- plaques) (1), (5).
2. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
High LDL (bad) cholesterol and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels lead to severe metabolic and cardiovascular disorders. Including herbs like sage in food and medicine might balance out the plasma lipid profile (6).
The sage extract improves the antioxidant activity in your body. It prevents the oxidation of accumulated lipids and protects you from diabetes, atherosclerosis, and other inflammatory diseases (1), (6).
3. Has Antidiabetic Effects
This herb is used as a traditional remedy to fight diabetes in many countries. Many experimental studies report the glucose-lowering effect of sage in their subjects. Its extracts could do so without affecting the pancreatic insulin production (1).
Tea infusions of sage exert a metformin-like effect on your body. They are, in fact, as effective as the drug in treating type 2 diabetes (1).
Drinking about 300 ml of sage tea twice a day increases antioxidants in your body. They, in turn, protect the liver and heart from chemical stress that is commonly caused by diabetes (1).
4. Controls Menopausal Symptoms
Menopause is characterized by major hormonal changes that affect your body. Its symptoms include hot flashes, sleeplessness, sweating at night, dizziness, headaches, and palpitations. These signs indicate the adaptation of your body due to an imbalance of estrogen.
Sage has been traditionally used to treat menopausal symptoms. To prove its efficacy, a trial was conducted in 2011 on menopausal women with hot flashes. Those treated with 1 tablet/day of fresh sage leaves showed a 64% reduction in the intensity of the flashes (7).
The herb reduces excessive sweating and calms you down. Also, there are no reports of adverse effects of this herbal extract (8).
5. Aids Weight Loss
Obesity is linked to diabetes, hypertension, heart and kidney diseases, and a number of chronic health conditions. Herbs like sage directly affect the lipid digestion and fat accumulation (1).
The active components of this herb interfere in the activity of pancreatic enzymes. Carnosic acid and carnosol, which are diterpenes in sage extracts, are involved in this activity (1).
These molecules also stop the rise in serum triglyceride levels and slow down weight gain. There is enough experimental evidence proving the safety of sage when used as an anti-obesity agent (1).
6. Improves Oral Health
This Mediterranean herb has excellent antibacterial properties too. Studies report that sage extracts could inhibit the growth of several food-spoiling bacteria, including the species like Bacillus subtilis and Enterobacter cloacae (1).
These antimicrobial effects were also seen on bacteria causing dental caries (Streptococcus mutans, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, etc.) The essential oils in sage leaves may be responsible for these effects (1).
When sage extracts were used in mouthwash and mouth rinse, they reduced the bacterial colony count from 3900 (pre-treatment) to 300 per plaque in treated patients (9).
Hence, this herb can effectively protect teeth from acute and chronic dental disorders, both in children and adults.
7. May Fight Cancer
Clinical studies found that common sage extracts could inhibit the proliferation (angiogenesis) of cancer cells. Ursolic acid found in this plant effectively suppressed the invasion, metastasis (spread), and colonization of melanoma cells, according to evidence (1).
In another study on colorectal cancer, the active compounds of sage prevented the DNA damage of healthy cells. The antioxidants eliminate free radicals (like hydrogen peroxide) that cause such damage (1), (10).
The diterpenoids, sesquiterpenes, etc. isolated from the roots of the sage plant showed anticancer effects on liver and colon cancer cells. Similar results are reported on skin, prostate, kidney, and intestinal cancer cells (1).
All of these benefits can be attributed to the herb’s powerful biochemical profile. The active molecules work as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and pain-relieving agents.
Want to know more about them? Read the following section!
What Are The Active Components In Sage?
Sage leaves predominantly contain essential oils. About 28 components are identified in the oil. Their concentration varies in different locations and varieties (1).
However, the principal components are cineole, camphor, thujone, borneol, viridiflorol, thymol, phytol, geraniol, and carvacrol (1).
Linalool, humulene, limonene, pinene, terpinene, myrcene, camphene pimaradiene, salvianolic acid, rosmarinic acid, carnosolic acid, ursolic acid, and caffeic acid are the other polyphenolic compounds present in this herb (1), (11).
These phytochemicals act in synergy to give you the health benefits listed above. No wonder the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks swore by sage!
But how can you make use of this holy herb? How to tap on the medicinal benefits of sage?
Like the Mediterannean do, cook with it!
Scroll down to find a quick, healthy, yet delicious recipe using sage. You’re going to love it!
No-fuss Butter-n-Sage Spaghetti
What You Need
- Spaghetti: ½ pound or 250 g
- Butter: 4 tablespoons
- Fresh sage leaves: 10-12
- Lemon: ½, juiced
- Parmesan cheese: ½ cup, grated
- Salt: ½ teaspoon
- Pepper: ¼ teaspoon
- Skillet: medium-large sized
- Boiling pot: medium-sized
Let’s Make It!
- Cook the spaghetti according to package directions.
- Drain the water. Collect about half a cup of water separately.
- Return the drained pasta to pot.
- Place a medium skillet over medium heat.
- Melt the butter and add sage leaves.
- Cook until the butter browns and the leaves become almost crispy, for about 7 minutes.
- Add fresh lemon juice.
- Add the butter-tossed sage to the cooked pasta and toss it well to coat.
- Gently stir in the pasta water.
- Cook over medium heat until water is absorbed.
- Sprinkle the salt and pepper and mix well.
- Grate the parmesan cheese and sprinkle on top.
- Serve hot when the cheese is just melting. Enjoy it with a slice of fresh garlic bread and (maybe) wine!
You can also use sage leaves to make salad seasonings, vinaigrettes, sauces, and fillet/meat dressings.
If you are a tea buff like me, this is one herb you cannot miss. Sage tea is proven to be equally beneficial as the raw leaves.
However, the aroma of these leaves can get overpowering if you add too many of them. This could also make a few dislike sage in their food.
In such cases, you can substitute it with small amounts of thyme, marjoram, poultry seasoning, savory, or rosemary. But keep a watch on how much you use.
Moreover, shouldn’t you be worried about any risks or herb-drug interaction with sage? After all, it is a wild plant! Well, find out the answer below.
Does Sage Trigger Any Side Effects Or Drug Interactions?
To date, there are no reports of toxicity or adverse effects with sage. It is generally recognized as safe by the US Food and Drug Administration and is approved for food use as a spice or seasoning (1), (3).
Extended use or taking large amounts of sage leaf or oil may result in vomiting, vertigo, rapid heart rate, seizures, and kidney damage (3).
Hence, it is recommended to discuss this herb with your healthcare provider. Inform them of your diet and medical history. Follow the dose and instructions they frame to avoid undesirable reactions.
Sage is a veteran herb and spice. Its use in medicine and food dates back to the ancient age of Egyptians and Greeks. The aromatic leaves of this herb are used to enhance memory, digestion, and overall immunity.
It’s time you used these leaves in your cooking too! Sage is also available in the form of tinctures, liquids, lozenges, tablets, and capsules. Talk to your doctor to find what works best for you.
Also, give our No-fuss pasta a shot. Share your feedback and suggestions about the dish in the comments section.
- Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Medicinal Property of Sage (Salvia) to Prevent and Cure Illnesses such as Obesity, Diabetes, Depression, Dementia, Lupus, Autism, Heart Disease, and Cancer, Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- SAGE, Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Index, NewCROP, New Crop Resource Online Program, Purdue University.
- Sage, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Mint Family, Sages of the genus Salvia, Economic Plant Photograph #38, Palomar College.
- Salvia (Sage): A Review of its Potential Cognitive-Enhancing and Protective Effects, Drugs in R&D, Springer, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Sage Tea Drinking Improves Lipid Profile and Antioxidant Defences in Humans, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- First time proof of sage’s tolerability and efficacy in menopausal women with hot flushes. Advances in Therapy, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- A review of effective herbal medicines in controlling menopausal symptoms, Electronic Physician, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- The antibacterial effect of sage extract (Salvia officinalis) mouthwash against Streptococcus mutans in dental plaque: a randomized clinical trial, Iranian Journal Of Microbiology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Colon Cancer Chemoprevention by Sage Tea Drinking: Decreased DNA Damage and Cell Proliferation. Phytotherapy Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Chemical composition and biological activities of Salvia officinalis essential oil from Tunisia, EXCLI Journal, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health..
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