Known as the thinker’s herb, sage is a pretty low-growing, flowering shrub in the mint family Lamiaceae. Of all the many varieties, herbalists usually use Salvia officinalis and Salvia triloba. The name Salvia comes from the Latin “salvare” which means “to save, to rescue”.

Medicinal use of sage

In ancient times, pupils chewed the leaves to improve their memory. People believed that sage refreshed the mind, fostered awareness, promoted wisdom and refined perception. Herbalists still use it today to improve learning, memory and retention. And recent studies support this ancient practice. But sage is much more than just the thinker’s herb.

The health benefits of sage stem from its essential oils, flavonoids and tannins. Together they act as a natural antiseptic, killing viruses, fungi and bacteria.

The astringent properties of Lamiaceae-tannin, lower inflammation and constrict the tissues. This way, sage also stops bleeding, treats diarrhea, soothes sore throat, reduces inflammation of the mouth and throat, heals bleeding gums and tonsillitis. It almost completely stops excessive sweating, combats night sweating, eases hot-flashes of menopause safely and quickly. Sage tea and breast compress decrease milk production and are therefore used during weaning.

The diterpene bitter substances make it easier for the body to digest fatty foods. They prevent flatulence, soothes stomach aches and cramps and stimulate the gallbladder.

Sage is rich in flavonoids and rosmarinic acid which are strong antioxidants that strengthen the immune system and protect the body from cell damaging free radicals.

Thee blossoms strengthen the body, combat fatigue and aids in the recovery of health and strength after illness or surgery.

Sage has estrogen-like properties that haven’t been thoroughly researched. Therefore, not much is known about the therapeutic value of it as a means to increase fertility in women.

When used internally, sage leaves are good to:

  • Improve memory
  • Inhibit the growth of viruses, fungi and bacteria
  • Lower inflammation
  • Stop bleeding
  • Treat diarrhea
  • Soothe sore throat
  • Decrease excessive salivation
  • Stop excessive sweating
  • Combat night sweat
  • Ease hot-flashes of menopause
  • Decrease milk production
  • Stimulate the gallbladder
  • Prevent flatulence
  • Soothe stomach cramps
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Protect the body from free radicals
  • Combat fatigue (flowers)
  • Increase fertility in women (not enough research)

When used externally, sage leaves:

  • Inhibit the growth of viruses, fungi and bacteria
  • Disinfect
  • Reduce inflammation of the mouth and throat
  • Heal bleeding gums and tonsillitis
  • Decrease excessive salivation
  • Stop excessive sweating
  • Decrease milk supply

Sage leaves contain flavonoids, about 2.5% essential oils (Thujone, 1.8-Cineol, Campher), Lamiaceae-tannin, Rosmarinic acid, Triterpene (a steroid precursor), steroids and diterpene bitter substances.

Daily dose

Internally: 4-6 g leaves or 2 tablespoons of sage wine after meals

Warning: Due to the high amount of Thujone, alcoholic preparations such as tinctures should be dosed no higher than 40 drops 3 times per day for no longer than 4 weeks.

Externally: To gargle and rinse, 20-30 drops of sage tincture


For therapeutic grade quality, herbalists harvest sage leaves in May and June, shortly before the shrub blossoms. It is at this stage that the herb has its highest amount of therapeutic substances.

Cut a stem about 10 cm above the ground. Remove all leaves and place them on a flat surface such as a dehydrator or paper towel lined tray. Dry the leaves in a dark and well-ventilated room. When the leaves are fully dried, store them whole in an air-tight container.

Homemade preparations

Herbalists use sage in many ways. The most popular ways are:

  • Teas (also mixed with other herbs)
  • Wine
  • Tinctures
  • Liqueur
  • Vinegar
  • Salves and balms
  • Cough drops
  • Compresses
Essential oils

Sage essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of leaves.

The essential oil has between 30 and 60% Thujon which makes this oil a problematic one. Since thujon is neurotoxic, sage oil belongs best in the hands of an experienced aromatherapist. It is, though, an excellent oil when used in low doses and particularly when mixed with other oils. 2 to 3 drops per 50 ml oil (jojoba, almond, shea butter, etc.) or 2 to 3 drops per 5 ml of essential oil base mix are safe amounts.

Sage oil is a wound healer specialist. It helps lower inflammation of the mouth and throat as well as soothe cough and bronchitis. It activates the metabolism in the brain and increases brain activity. Studies have shown that sage aroma increases the ability to learn and retain information. It modulates the flow of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. In the brain, acetylcholine acts as a neuromodulator, altering the way different parts of the brain process information. It plays a key role in stimulation, attention and motivation.

  • Strong antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal
  • Heals wounds
  • Regenerates cells
  • Lowers inflammation of the mouth and throat
  • Soothes cough and bronchitis
  • Expectorant (looses mucus)
  • Lymph system and gallbladder stimulant
  • Activates brain metabolism and activity
  • Increases the ability to learn and retain information
  • Activates the flow of the neurotransmitter acetylcholin
  • Cough and bronchitis
  • Inflammation of the mouth (aphta)
  • Wound treatment
  • Shingles (varicella zoster infection)
  • Herpes
  • Foot sweating
  • Menopause symptoms
  • Concentration problems

Color: colorless
Viscosity: watery
Smell: herbaceous, earthy, sharp
Note: floral
Blends well with: Lavender, rosemary, bergamot and lemon

Side effects:

Herb: There are no side effects when you take sage externally. When taken internally without a break for a long time, the Thujon might cause increased heartbeat, epileptic attacks, dizziness or vision disturbance.

Essential oils: Toxic if taken internally.

Contra-indications: Because of the high Thujone content, sage essential oils and alcoholic extractions should be avoided during pregnancy. But you can use the leaves to gargle and rinse. Sage essential oil is toxic if ingested. Never take it internally.

Culinary use

A staple of Italian cuisine, sage pair well with cheese and butter. Add it to butter sauce, sprinkle it on eggs, caramelized onions and mushrooms. It also pairs well with chicken, turkey, pork and fish.



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