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Sage

Latin Names: Salvia officinalis (European Sage); Salvia sclarea (Clary Sage); Salvia miltiorrhiza (Chinese Salvia Root / Dan Shen); Salvia spp.q

Other Names: Common Sage; Garden Sage; European Sage; Dalmatian Sage; Salvia (Spanish); Faskomilo (Greek); Clary (Clary Sage)

Taxonomy: Vegetable Kingdom, Labiatae family

Part Used: Leaves and herb, seeds, essential oil (Common Sage and Clary Sage); root or rhizome (Chinese Salvia Root)

Basic Qualities: Hot 2, Dry 2

Other Qualities: Astringent and binding, mildly calming and sedating, light and penetrating

Taste: Pungent, aromatic, slightly bitter and astringent

Humoral Dynamics: Sanguine – stimulates and cleanses the liver, breeds good blood; emmenagogue to regulate the menstrual flow; hemostatic to stop bleeding.  Phlegmatic – Purges the head of phlegm and rheum, and also the throat, chest and respiratory tract.  Choleric – stimulates the flow of bile; its astringency also cuts or scrapes fats, and has a mild anti-inflammatory effect.  Melancholic – assuages nervousness, neurasthenia, trembling and palsy; improves memory, quickens the senses.

Tropism: Sage has an affinity for the blood, the liver, the head, the mouth and throat, the mucous membranes, the skin and pores, the endocrine and nervous systems, and the female reproductive system.

Constituents and Pharmacology: Tannins and resins; the main active constituent of Sage is its yellow or greenish yellow essential oil, containing a hydrocarbon called Salvene, with smaller amounts of Pinene, Cineol, Borneol and Thujone.

Medicinal Properties: Tonic, stomachic, hepatic, choleretic, cholagogue, astringent, hemostatic, cicatrizant, vulnerary, alterative, antihydrotic, febrifuge, emmenagogue, nervine, restorative.

Cautions and Contraindications: With caution in pregnancy, and for those taking medication for high blood pressure.

Medicinal Uses: To warm and quicken the senses, and to clear excess phlegm, rheum and lethargy from the head. As a healing and astringent gargle for the mouth and throat, in hoarseness, sore throat, and gingivitis. As a tea with lemon and honey to clear the voice for singers and speakers. As a stomach tonic and cicatrizant in indigestion, gastritis and ulcers. As a choleretic and cholagogue to stimulate the flow of bile and improve the digestion of fatty, greasy foods. As a liver and digestive tonic, and a fat and phlegm scraping astringent in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. As an antihydrotic to stop or curb excessive sweating. As a tonic for the endocrine and female reproductive systems to treat menopause and its hot flashes, particularly with excessive sweating. As a female tonic to regulate the menstrual flow, both in excessive and deficient menstruation. As a topical hemostatic to stop bleeding, and as a wash to aid in the cleansing, granulation and healing of wounds as a vulnerary and cicatrizant. As a calming nervine and nervous restorative in nervousness, insomnia, nervous exhaustion, tremors and palsy.

Other Uses: Because of its rich, savory flavor and aroma, Sage has long been a favorite culinary herb. It is most commonly used to flavor meats and sausages, and aids in the digestion of their fat content. It can also be worked in to cheeses to enhance their flavor and digestibility. Sage can also be used as a conditioner in hair rinses.

Preparation and Dosage: Sage is generally a very safe and mild herb, and can be used in teas, either infused or decocted, in the ratio of one teaspoon per cup of water (beverage use) to one tablespoon per cup of water (medicinal use). Of the alcoholic tincture, 10 to 20 drops is a good dosage. In powdered form, Sage can be taken in capsules – 2 caps twice per day – or in combination with other herbs in a formula. Of the essential oil, take 3 to 5 drops per dose when taken internally.

Herbal Formulation: Sage can either be used by itself, as an herbal simple, usually drunk as a tea, or it can be combined with other herbs. It combines well with other pungent and bitter herbs that are tonics and aperitives, which work on the liver and stomach, to strengthen digestion and liver function. As a mouthwash or gargle, Sage combines well with other astringent, emollient and expectorant herbs that are specific to the throat and mouth. Its stimulating properties combine well with other pungent digestive and metabolic stimulants, and its mild astringent action counterbalances the excessively dispersing qualities of these pungent and aromatic spices, giving them more focus and direction. Sage has a general regulating and balancing effect on the nervous, endocrine and female reproductive systems, and can be used in formulas to treat nervous weakness or exhaustion, glandular imbalances, or menstrual irregularities or disorders. Small amounts of Sage can also be included in diaphoretic formulas to treat colds and flu, where its antihydrotic properties temper or moderate the excessive sweating that can be provoked by the diaphoretic herbs in the formula.

Classic Combinations: With Peppermint and Linden Flowers to treat hoarseness and sore throat.  With Horehound to treat throat and respiratory tract congestion and coughing.  With Blessed Thistle and Yarrow or Centaury to strengthen a weak and debilitated digestion.  With Speedwell and Chamomile to heal gastritis and chronic catarrh and ulceration of the stomach and duodenum.  With St. John’s Wort to brighten the mood, and for nervous exhaustion.  With Yarrow, Motherwort and Vervain to regulate the menstrual cycle in irregular menstruation and dysmenorrhea.  With Honey and Lemon to clear the throat and voice.  With Tsai Tou Vou Nou (Greek Mountain Tea / Sideritis syriaca) for colds and flu, respiratory congestion and rheumatism.

Description:

The genus name for Sage, Salvia, is related to the Latin word for savior.  In ancient times the various medicinal virtues and uses of Sage were so esteemed that it was deemed an herbal savior.  This high esteem for Sage is enshrined in the following Latin proverb:  Cur moriatur homo cui Salvia crescit in horto?  In other words, “Why should a man die whilst Sage grows in his garden?”  Sage is truly one of our best herbal tonics, and one of the most medicinally useful of the culinary herbs.  While many, if not most, of our culinary herbs concentrate their medicinal effects upon the digestive organs, Sage has a wide variety of medicinal uses to treat many systems of the body: the hepatic, digestive, circulatory, respiratory, immune, nervous, endocrine and female reproductive systems.
As with Peppermint, Sage is part of a large family of Sages and Sage-like plants of the genus Salvia, the true Sages, and certain species of the Artemisia genus as well, which are commonly referred to as Sage, such as the Native American White Sage.  And, as with Mints, Sages belong to the Labiatae family.  The varieties of Sage are almost endless.  When you look at indigenous varieties of Sage in North America you have White Sage, Black Sage, Red Sage, etc…  In general, these Sages and Sage-like herbs are primarily pungent and bitter in taste, and slightly astringent, and have similar energetics.

The bitter taste of Sage is stimulating to the flow and production of bile as an aperitif or bitter tonic.  The pungent taste of Sage is warming and stimulating, and has the power to disperse blockages and facilitate the flow of blood and vital energy.  And the astringent taste of Sage is drying, binding and anti-inflammatory in nature.  Sage’s mild astringency is the source of many of its therapeutic properties and actions: its ability to stop sweating and bleeding, to cicatrize wounds and assist in their healing and granulation, and its ability to heal and soothe irritation, inflammation, congestion and catarrh in the mouth and gums, as well as the stomach and GI tract.  The mild astringency of Sage also gives it the ability to scrape the internal tissues and channels of the body of excess accumulations of fats, phlegm and cholesterol; in combination with its ability to cleanse the liver and stimulate its metabolism, these properties make Sage tea very useful and beneficial in the treatment or management of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.  Being mildly astringent, Sage is an astringent tonic. 

Sage is also a blood herb.  In addition to stopping bleeding, Sage has the ability to help the liver generate good blood, as well as to regulate the female menstrual flow, whether it be excessive or deficient, or irregular.  Sage seems to regulate the female hormones and reproductive system and keep it on an even keel.  Sage and some of its close botanical relatives, like the Chinese Salvia miltiorrhiza Root, or Dan Shen, invigorate and improve the vital function of the blood, or the Sanguine humor.  European Sage had the reputation in former times as being a tonic for the heart and circulation, and this is one of the key uses of Chinese Salvia Root.  Sage tea can also be drunk in the springtime as a blood cleansing spring tonic which is especially beneficial for those who have sluggish, torpid livers and weak digestions.

Since ancient times, Sage has had a great reputation as a tonic and restorative for the whole nervous system in cases of neurasthenia, or nervous exhaustion, tremors and palsy, as well as insomnia.  Upon drinking the tea, one usually experiences a mild calming effect.  Culpeper tells us that Sage helps the memory, and that it warms and quickens the senses.  It is also useful in expelling lethargic cold, wet phlegm and rheum from the head.  Because of its ability to stimulate the memory and warm and quicken the senses, Sage is currently being studied for its potential as a therapeutic agent in treating Alzheimer’s disease; for more details on this, please click on the following link:  Sage and Alzheimer's: A cure may be found in this herb     In addition, this article tells us that Sage’s essential oil content may have considerable potency as an antiseptic and broad spectrum antimicrobial. 

Digestively, Sage has a number of beneficial therapeutic effects and uses.  First of all, it cleanses the liver and improves the generation and flow of bile; this liver cleansing effect is beneficial in poor appetite, chronic indigestion or digestive weakness, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.  The mildly bitter and astringent properties of Sage also give it the ability to scrape, attenuate or emulsify fats; and so, Sage is an important culinary herb for making sausages, or for preparing pork or any other fatty food or meat.  Marbling cheese, which is another fatty food, with Sage not only enhances its flavor, but improves its digestibility.  Sage’s mild astringency and vulnerary or cicatrizant properties to heal wounds, catarrhs and ulcers make it very useful in treating a wide variety of stomach disorders, especially chronic gastritis, gastroduodenal ulcers or catarrh.  Sage is one of the best herbs for stimulating and balancing stomach function.

In the respiratory tract, Sage tea is typically used to treat hoarseness, sore throat, coughs and lung congestion.  Sage tea, sweetened with lemon and honey, is one of the best teas for speakers and singers; after drinking it, you will be able to sing like a songbird!  Sage tea also makes an excellent gargle for hoarseness, sore throat and gum disease.  Rubbing powdered Sage into sore or bleeding gums is excellent therapy.  As an antihydrotic, Sage tea has a great ability to stop excessive or abnormal sweating, or undue sweating from nervous stress and exhaustion.  Sage is great for the hot flashes experienced during menopause, especially when they are accompanied by profuse sweating; in addition, Sage has the ability to regulate the female glands and hormones, which is beneficial in the transition of life.

Related Species: Although there are numerous minor varieties of Sage, the following are significantly different in their therapeutic properties and medicinal uses to warrant mention here.  Clary Sage is quite similar to Sage, but decidedly more aromatic.  It is used as a stomachic and carminative in disordered states of the digestion, and also for female disorders.  Salvia Root, or Chinese Dan Shen, is the root or rhizome of a certain species of purple Sage that is most renowned as a heart and circulatory tonic that opens up the capillary circulation.  Like regular Sage, Salvia Root also has mild calming or sedative properties.

Sources:

A Modern Herbal, Vol. II by Mrs. M. Grieve, pp. 700 – 707.  Published by Dover Publications, Inc., New York, NY USA. 

Culpeper’s Complete Herbal by Nicholas Culpeper, pp. 228 – 229.  @ 1995 by Wordsworth Editions Ltd., Ware, Hertfordshire, England.

DISCLAIMER:  The information contained on this page is intended for educational purposes only, to inform the reader as to the traditional uses of the herb or medicinal substance, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or medical condition.  The author advises the reader to consult with his or her physician before use.