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Herbal Monograph

Herb:  Sage Leaf    (Salvia officinalis; Labiatae)

Other Names:

Character/Energetics: spicy, astringent, warm (6);  pungent, bitter, cool, drying   (15)                     

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected: lungs, stomach (6); bowels, sinuses, bladder, mucus membranes and nerves  (14)

Part used:     leaves    (6) leaves    (8)

Identification & Harvesting:    A 2′ high shrub with erect, woody stem, leafy, quadrangular, whitish grey hairy branches.  Leaves are simple, oblong or lanceolate and narrow at the base, finely crenate, ribbed or wrinkled, and evergreen.  Flowers are medium-sized, pale violet, white or pink labiate, in 6-12 blossomed whorls arranged above each other in 4-8 rows.  Leaves are aromatic, tangy, bitter and astringent.  Cultivated in Mediterranean, Europe, North America.  Optimum harvest period depends on region;  Dalmatian sage is best harvested in October.  Harvest cultivated herb in the second year at the beginning of the flowering period.  Dry in shade or in a drying chamber to minimize oil loss.    (2)

Gather shortly before or just at the beginning of flowering in dry sunny weather in May or June.  Dry in shade, not above 95F.    (8)

harvest throughout the summer   (15)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Stem and leaves reddish.  Leaves are stalked, 1-1/2 to 2 inches long and 3/4-1 inch broad, oblong-lanceolate, rounded at the ends, crenulate at the margins, the surface strongly reticulated on both sides.  Tastes pungently aromatic, astringent.    (57)

A member of the mint family, a variable plant group native to the Med, esp. the Baltic, with much of the commerical supply from wild-harvested material in Albania and former Yugoslavia.  There is also limited production in US.  Proper identification is important:  a number of other spp. are common adulterants.    (61)

Active Constituents:    Volatile oils 1.5-3.5%, chiefly alpha- and beta-thujone 20-60%, 1,8-cineole 6-16%, camphor 14-37%, borneol, isobutyl acetate, camphene, linalool, alpha- and beta-pinene, viridiflorol, alpha- and beta-caryophyllene (humulene);  caffeic acid derivatives 3-6% incl. rosmarinic acid, chlorogenic acid;  diterpenes, chiefly carnosolic acid .2-.4%, picrosalvin, rosmanol, safficinolide;  flavonoids incl. apigenin- and luteolin-7-glucosides, methoxylated aglycones incl. genkwanin, genkwanin-6-methylether;  triterpenes, chiefly ursolic acid 5%  (2)

essential oil including 30% thujone, 15% cineol, camphor, bitter principle and tannin  (6)

volatile oil incl. 30% thujone, 5% cineole, linalol, borneol, camphor, salvene and pinene;  a bitter;  tannins;  triterpenoids;  flavonoids;  estrogenic substances;  resin (8)

volatile oil, diterpene bitters, tannins, triterpenoids, resin, flavonoids, estrogenic substances, saponins  (15)

Essential oil and alcohol extracts contain thujone  (61)

Actions:    antibacterial, fungistatic, virostatic, astringent, secretolytic, antidiaphoretic, central nervine, spasmolytic, possibly antidiabetic;  in animal tests, antihypertensive and choleretic.    (2)

diaphoretic, carminative, stimulant, antispasmodic, antidiarrheic, promotes estrogen, antigalactagogue.    (6)

May be used to reduce production of breast milk.    (8)

Primarily antispasmodic, astringent;  also anthelmintic, aromatic, vulnerary.    (14)

carminative, antispasmodic, astringent, antiseptic, relaxes peripheral blood vessels,

reduces perspiration, salivation and lactation, uterine stimulant, antibiotic, reduces blood sugar levels, promotes bile flow.   (15)    

Aromatic, astringent.    (57)

Confirmed antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and astringent effects.    (61)

Conditions & Uses:    Used externally for sinus inflammation, inflammation of mucous membranes of the throat;  internally for dyspeptic symptoms and as an anti-perspirant.  Folk uses include bloating, diarrhea, enteritis;  externally as a rinse and gargle, skin inflammation, bleeding gums, laryngitis, pharyngitis.    (2)

Sage is effective against colds, flu and fevers, and as a muscle relaxant for nervous disorders. It also is used to inhibit perspiration. It may be taken as a gargle for sore throats and used as a tea for conditions of gas and indigestion. In my experience, it also is very effective for the treatment of cystitis.    (6)                     

The classic remedy for inflammations of the mouth, throat and tonsils;  its volatile oils soothe the mucous membranes.  May be used as a mouthwash for inflammation, bleeding gums, gingivitis, mouth ulcers.  As a gargle, will aid treatment of laryngitis, pharyngitis, tonsillitisand quinsy.  A valuable carminative used in dyspepsia.  An anti-perspirant when taken internally.  As a compress, promotes healing of wounds.  (8)

Internal uses — blood purifier, dizziness, gas,, headache, head colds, inflamed throat and tonsils, liver complaints, morning sickness, nausea, nervous fevers, night sweats, tonsillitis, weak digestion:  infusion.  Bronchitis:  infusion*.  To reduce lactation:  infusion, drunk at body temperature.  Laryngitis:  infusion, oil.  Mucus in respiratory tract:  oil (1-3 drops), infusion.  Ulcers:  infusion*, syrup*.

External uses — inflamed throat and tonsils, laryngitis, tonsillitis:  gargle.  Rheumatic pains:  oil, liniment.  Wounds:  wash with the infusion.

*Usually used in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem.

Sage tea is an excellent gargle when combined with freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey for all mouth diseases.  Good for stomach troubles, diarrhea, gas, dysentery, conds and flu.  It will expel worms in children and adults.  Externally, it is a good wash for wounds that are slow to heal.  It makes an excellent hair rinse to stimulate hair growth and it will remove dandruff.  For fevers, clean the bowels with an enema and drink the hot tea while in bed.  Because of its astringent qualities, it is used alone for excessive night sweats and perspiration.  The tea taken cold will cause the breast milk to cease during weaning.  Sage can be combined with equal parts peppermint, rosemary and wood betony for an excellent headache remedy.  Sage will decrease secretions of the lungs, sinuses, throat and mucus membranes.   (14)

The leaves have a special affinity with the mouth and throat, so make an ideal gargle or mouthwash. Also drying and estrogenic, they are useful both for menopausal problems and when weaning. Fresh leaves make a bitter digestive stimulant….

Antiseptic and astringent. Also suitable for gingivitis and gum disorders.

Re: Problems of the Elderly  (For forgetfulness or confusion)–traditional ingredient of many medieval longevity tonics; good qi  tonic.    (15)

* “(Sage) for the brain and nervous system…it combines well with gotu kola…Sage has special power to clear emotional obstructions from the mind and promote calmness and clarity.” (40)

An excellent gargle for relaxed throat, quinsy, laryngitis, and tonsils;  also for ulceration of mouth and throat.    (57)

Traditionally, fresh bruised leaf was applied externally to sprains, swelling, ulcers and bleeding;  internally for rheumatism, hypermenorrhea, sweating, and to dry up mother’s milk.  Like rosemary, was valued for improving memory and sharpening senses.  A gargle is currently used for sore throat, canker sores, oral inflammations, mouthwash for gingivitis.  Tea is used for upset stomach, night sweats, excessive sweating.    (61)

Combinations:  (For mouth ulcers) add rosemary tincture to the mouthwash, or purple        coneflower to enhance the antibacterial action.

As a gargle, combine with tormentil and balm of gilead.  In dyspepsia, combine with meadowsweet and chamomile.    (8)

                           (For forgetfulness or confusion) use singly or combine w/ rosemary. (15)                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Precautions:    Contraindicated during pregnancy.  Overdoses, greater than 15 g. dried herb, cause sensation of heat, tachycardia, vertigo, epileptiform convulsions.    (2)

Stimulates the muscles of the uterus, and so should be avoided during pregnancy.    (8)

Avoid therapeutic doses in pregnancy. Small amounts of sage used in cooking            are quite safe.                                                         

          Only take dan shen where the condition is caused by blood stagnation.

          Sage contains thujone, which can trigger fits in epileptics, who should avoid            the herb.     (15)

Should be used as needed rather than taken over a long period.  Prolonged use can result in dizziness, hot flashes, seizures.  Occasional contact dermatitis from handling fresh herb  (61)                                                                                                             

Tincturing Process:

Applications:    Chew leaves to help eliminate halitosis. 

Cayuga Botanicals R.D. Note — [Only effective against bacterially-caused halitosis:  before swallowing, allow the macerated paste to linger on the back of the tongue, which is where putrefactive microbes collect in a gummy, pus-like aggregation.  This “gook” brushes away easily with light strokes of a toothbrush.]     (2)

Infusion:  steep 5-15 min.; 1 tbsp as needed or 1-2 cups daily, hot or cold.  Tincture:  20-60 drops, 3-4 x daily.  Fluid extract:  1/4-1 tsp, 3-4 x daily.  Powder:  2-5 #0 capsules (10-30 grains), 3-4 x daily.    (14)

Infusion: Use 20 g leaves to 50 ml  water as a tonic and liver stimulant, or to improve digestive function and circulation in debility. Can reduce lactation when weaning and relieve night sweats at the menopause.     

(For forgetfulness or confusion) take one teacup of infusion or 10 ml tincture a day.

Tincture:  Use for menopausal problems. Prescribed to reduce salivation in Parkinson’s disease.

Compress: Apply a pad soaked in the infusion to slow-to-heal wounds. (15)

Gargle/Mouthwash: Use a weak infusion for sore throats, tonsillitis, mouth  ulcers, or gum disease….(for mouth ulcers) use a standard infusion, or add 10 ml tincture to a glass of water. 

Hair Rinse: Use the infusion as a rinse for dandruff or to restore color to graying hair.  (15)

To make the gargle, pour 1/2 pint of hot malt vinegar over an ounce of leaf and add a half-pint of cold water.    (57)


Dosage: standard infusion or 3-9 grams; tincture, 10-30 drops.     (6)

Liquid extract dose, 1/4-1 drachm.    (57)

For upset stomach, steep 1 tsp dried leaf in 1 cup hot water for 10-15 min.  To reduce sweating, use 2 tsp.  Tincture 30-60 drops.    (61)

General  Notes:   “Why of seknesse dyeth man Whill sawge in gardeyn he may ban?”   Macer’s herbal, 10th century                                                                                                                                            

Traditionally associated with longevity, sage has a reputation for restoring failing memory in the elderly. Like other memory enhancing herbs, it was also planted on graves. It is said that when the British started importing tea from China, the Chinese so valued the herb they would trade two cases of tea for one of dried English sage. The purple variety of S. officinalis is generally used in medicine and is more effective than the common green plant. In China, the root of a related plant, S. miltiorrhiza (dan shen), is used as a tonic herb.  (15)                                                                                                                          



(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), pgs. 1113-14

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pgs. 150-151

(8)  The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, p. 228

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 171-72

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 95, 142-43, 172-73

(40) The Yoga of Herbs  by  Dr. David Frawley &  Dr. Vasant Lad, pg. 143

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., p. 294

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 176-77


PHOTO: Wikipedia