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).
Sage is an herb whose leaves have been used to soothe mouth and throat inflammation, hot flashes, and insomnia. There is substantial research backing these myths-turned-facts (1).
There is more to sage that research has uncovered. In this post, we will discuss the benefits of sage and take a look at its active components.
Table Of Contents
What Are Sage Leaves?
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 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).
The leaves are an excellent reserve of essential oils and phenolic compounds. These are thought to be responsible for the herb’s medicinal value (1).
Based on their composition and origin, you have different types of sage, such as common sage, pineapple sage, and red sage. This wide variety makes sage one of the largest genera under the mint family.
What Are The Benefits Of Sage?
Sage has antiseptic, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. It boosts memory and controls blood sugar and cholesterol levels if used in optimal amounts.
1. May Boost Memory And Cognition
Several varieties of sage have been used to restore memory loss and cognitive decline, as mainly seen in Alzheimer’s disease. This 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), (2).
The essential oils of sage have shown 46% AChE inhibition in lab trials. Its herbal extracts can protect the brain cells (neurons) from the effects of cholesterol accumulation and inflammation (amyloid ß- plaques) (1), (2).
2. May Combat Skin Aging
Studies suggested that sage and its compounds may help in combating skin aging. Sage could also improve wrinkles through a photoimaging mechanism (3).
Sclareol, a compound from sage, is widely used as a fragrance material. Studies show that this compound inhibits the UVB-induced damage to the skin. It could also recover the epidermal thickness that was reduced by UVB rays. Creams with sclareol could improve wrinkles by enhancing cellular proliferation (3).
3. May Promote Hair Growth
Sage is rich in antioxidants that can help to prevent and reduce the formation of new gray hair. The natural oils in sage strengthen the roots and accelerate healthy hair growth.
However, there is no evidence that shows a direct impact of sage on hair growth.
4. May Lower Cholesterol Levels
High LDL (bad) cholesterol and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels can lead to severe metabolic and cardiovascular disorders. Including herbs like sage in food and medicine may balance the plasma lipid profiles. Although the tea does not have an effect on glucose regulation, it could be used as a beneficial treatment for individuals with diabetes (4).
Sage extract may improve the antioxidant activity in your body. It prevents the oxidation of accumulated lipids and protects you from diabetes, atherosclerosis(clogged Arteries), and other inflammatory diseases (1), (4).
5. May Aid Diabetes Treatment
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 used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes (1).
Drinking about 300 ml of sage tea twice a day increases the antioxidant concentration in your body. The antioxidants, in turn, protect the liver and heart from chemical stress that is commonly caused by diabetes (1).
6. May Control 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 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 (5).
The herb reduces excessive sweating and calms you down. Also, there are no reports of adverse effects of this herbal extract. However, further studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness of sage (and other medicinal plants) in the treatment of menopausal symptoms (6).
7. May Aid Weight Loss
Obesity is linked to diabetes, hypertension, heart and kidney diseases, and a number of chronic health conditions. Herbs like sage directly affect lipid digestion and fat accumulation (1).
The active components of this herb interfere with 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).
8. May Improve Oral Health
This Mediterranean herb has excellent antibacterial properties. 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 (7).
Hence, this herb could effectively protect teeth from acute and chronic dental disorders, both in children and adults.
9. May Reduce Cancer Risk
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), (8).
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 and intestinal cancer cells (1).
There are various types of sage, though not all have been identified yet for their medicinal properties.
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 used differently 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).
Benefits Of Burning Sage
Burning sage (also known as smudging) is an ancient spiritual ritual. It may involve a different species of sage too (9). It has certain health benefits, such as enhanced alertness and antimicrobial properties. Some believe that burning sage is an important traditional remedy for treating mood disorders, depression, and anxiety. However, we need more concrete research to prove these effects.
In another study on cognitive science, the active compounds of sage were found to boost cognition (2). More research is needed to understand the mechanism behind these actions.
Studies demonstrated that smoke from medicinal herbs can clear up to 94 percent of airborne bacteria in space (10). Whether sage can achieve similar effects or not is yet to be studied. Some believe that when sage is burned, it releases negative ions, which may impart positive energy to people.
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. In the following section, we will explore them in detail.
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.
Sage Healthy Recipe
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, 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.
Should you be worried about any risks or herb-drug interactions with sage? After all, it is a wild plant. Find out in the next section.
Does Sage Trigger Any Side Effects Or Drug Interactions?
Currently, there are no reports of toxicity or adverse effects with sage. It is generally recognized as safe by the US Food and Drug Administration (12). It could be used in food as a spice or seasoning.
But the leaves contain a compound called thujone in high amounts. Thujone, in large quantities, could have adverse effects (1).
Extended use or taking large amounts of sage leaf or oil may result in vomiting, vertigo, salivation, allergic reactions, seizures, and tongue swallowing (13).
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 set by them 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.
Sage is also available in the form of tinctures, liquids, lozenges, tablets, and capsules. This kitchen spice can be enjoyed as tea and is also easy to add to several dishes. Talk to your doctor to find what works best for you.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Is too much sage bad for you?
Yes, sage contains a chemical called thujone, which can affect the nervous system. Excess intake of sage may result in restlessness, seizures, tremors, vomiting, and vertigo.
Can I drink sage tea every day?
Studies suggest that consumption of sage tea on average between 3 and 6 cups daily is safe (14).
Is it okay to eat raw sage?
Eating raw sage is unpleasant. You can buy it either dried or fresh, though it is never actually eaten raw.
Is burning sage bad for your lungs?
While some believe that burning sage could eliminate particulate microbes from the air, others feel it could harm the lungs. As research is unclear, please consult your doctor.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sclareol isolated from Salvia officinalis improves facial wrinkles via an antiphotoaging mechanism, Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 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.
- Psychoactive Plants Used during Religious Rituals, Neuropathology of Drug Addictions and Substance Misuse, Academic Press
- Medicinal smoke reduces airborne bacteria, Journal Of Ethnopharmacology, 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.
- CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
- Pharmacological properties of Salvia officinalis and its components, Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Determination of the biologically active flavour substances thujone and camphor in foods and medicines containing sage (Salvia officinalis L.), Chemistry Central Journal, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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