Salvia officinalis

Family:     Labiatae


Synonyms and Common names:    Narrow-leaved sage, garden sage, meadow sage, and true sage.

Description and Habitat:    Sage is a perennial herbaceous shrub, growing up to 4 ft. in height. It is native to the Balkans and the Mediterranean but is also grown widely elsewhere as a garden and potherb.

Sage prefers dry chalky soils in sunny areas but will thrive in rich loamy soil with good drainage. It has a woody stem and lower branches which give way to the labiate square stem which is green or purplish in colour and is covered in fine down.

The stalked and opposite leaves are oblong to lanceolate with a leathery texture and are also covered in fine down. The leaf margins are delicately toothed.

The blue flowers, which appear in June and July, occur as whorls in a spike at the end of the stems.

The entire herb is strongly aromatic with a familiar pungency.  Fresh leaves are bitter to the taste.

Parts used:  Leaves

Collection and preparation:  Gather the leaves at the beginning of the flowering period in late spring or early summer.  Dry them in shade and put in a sealed container.  Keep the container in a dark and dry place.

Actions:   Calminative, spasmolytic, astringent, anti-hidrotic (helps stop perspiration), anti-catarrhal, anti-microbial, emmenagogue, febrifuge, a stimulant.

Constituents:  Volatile oil including 30% thujone, 5% cineole, linalol, borneol, camphor, salvene and pinene (a bitter), tannins, triterpenoids, flavonoids, Rosmarinic acid, estrogenic substances, and resin

Indications and Therapeutics:  Sage is the classic remedy for inflammation of the mouth, gums, tongue, throat and tonsils.  Its volatile oils soothing the mucous membranes.

It may be used internally and as a mouthwash, and as a gargle it will help laryngitis, pharyngitis, tonsillitis and quinsy.

It is a valuable carminative when used in dyspepsia.  It reduces sweating when taken internally and may be used to reduce the production of breast milk.

As a compress, it promotes the healing of wounds.

Sage also stimulates the muscles of the uterus.

The essential oil, when heated in a vaporiser, will disinfect sick-rooms.

Sage oil has been shown to be effective against bacteria including Escherichia coli and Salmonella species, and against fungi and yeasts such as Candida albicans.

Sage also has an astringent action due to its relatively high tannin content and can be used in the treatment of infantile diarrhoea.

Its antiseptic action is of value where there is an intestinal infection. Rosmarinic acid contributes to the herb's anti-inflammatory activity.

Sage has an antispasmodic action which reduces tension in smooth muscle, and it can be used in steam inhalation for asthma attacks. It is an excellent remedy for helping to remove mucous congestion in the airways and for checking or preventing secondary infection.

Its bitter component stimulates upper digestive secretions, intestinal mobility, bile flow, and pancreatic function, while the volatile oil has a carminative and stimulating effect on the digestion. The herb is suitable in the treatment of nervousness, excitability and dizziness, and it helps to fortify a generally debilitated nervous system.

Sage has a strong anti-hydrotic action and was a traditional treatment for night sweats in tuberculosis sufferers. Its appreciable estrogenic effect make it particularly beneficial for the night sweats of the menopause (it should never be used to suppress perspiration in fevers). Its oestrogenic effects may also be used to treat some cases of dysmenorrhoea and menstrual irregularity or amenorrhoea.


Contraindications:   Alcoholic extracts of Salvia have quite a high concentration of thujone which can have toxic effects in large doses. The herb should be avoided during pregnancy because it is a uterine stimulant. The essential oil should always be used with great care as even small doses can be poisonous.  This herb is definitely one to test in small doses before using.

Preparation and dosage:
Infusion:  1-2 teaspoons of the dried herb, add 1 cupful of boiling water and leave to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes.  Drink 3 times daily.

Tincture:  2-4 ml of tincture in warm water, take 3 times daily.

Mouthwash:  Put 2 teaspoonful of the leaves in 1 pint of water, and bring it to the boil.  Let it stand covered for 15 minutes.  Gargle with the hot infusion for 5 to 10 minutes several times a day.


Additional comments and Folklore:   The name Salvia derives from the Latin word Salveo, to heal, or to save.
It has long been used in healing.   An old proverb says “why should a man die who has sage in his garden?”

It was used in the Middle Ages to treat fevers, liver disease and epilepsy. In Britain, an infusion of Sage was drunk as a healthful tonic. It was also believed to strengthen the memory.   An old English custom states that eating Sage every day in May will grant immortality.

It was also said that a woman who ate sage cooked in wine would never be able to conceive and its fresh leaves were said to cure warts.

It is said that where sage grows well in the garden, the wife rules and that sage will flourish or not depending on the success of the business of the household.

During the Middle Ages, sage was used to mask the taste of rancid meat. Perhaps its antibacterial action also protected people from dying of rancid meat, who knows?

The Romans regarded sage quite highly and a great deal of sacrifice and ceremony was associated with its harvest.   They believed it stimulated the brain and memory and they used it to clean their teeth.

In the 17th century, The Dutch traded Sage for tea with the Chinese.

Sage symbolizes domestic virtue, wisdom, skill, esteem, long life and good health, it also mitigates grief, and increases psychic powers.