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Sage essential oil: uses and benefits

An introduction to sage and sage oil

Have you ever heard of the practice of “smudging” a room? In this ritual, sage sticks are tied into a bundle, dried, and lighted to produce a purifying smoke.

Sage bundles are waved around rooms, homes, cars, or people so that the trails of smoke disperse and remove unfriendly or negative energy that is present.

North American Indian tribes prize the sage plant for its spiritual cleansing qualities, and the herb’s Latin name, Salvia officinalis, means “salvation” or “to save.” The same root has given us the name for a wise person - a sage - or sage advice, which one should follow.

Sage has remained a popular herb throughout the centuries due to its association with wisdom and longevity and its many health benefits.

As well as herbal uses, sage oil is found in aromatherapy products, and has distinct advantages.

This article sets out the pleasures, health benefits, and aromatherapy pleasures of sage essential oil.

Drawing of the sage plant, from Koehler's "Medicinal-Plants", 1887

Drawing of the sage plant, from Koehler's "Medicinal-Plants", 1887

Characteristics of the sage plant

Sage is a small evergreen shrub with grayish leaves and blue to purplish flowers. It is native to the Mediterranean area, but is now grown easily and successfully in gardens all over the world.

Sage does best outdoors in a sunny spot. One secret of success with your sage plants is to trim excess branches in the autumn, rather than spring, as many gardening experts advise.

Test gardens have shown that autumnal trimming better prepares the plant for winter, and protects against possible rot and insect infestations. This is particularly true in colder areas, where sage plants have to cope with lower temperatures than in their Mediterranean home.

Sage plants grown indoors in pots need to be near a window that offers at least six hours of sunlight a day in the growing season.

Household uses of the sage herb

Cooking with Sage: As an herb, sage has a slight peppery flavor. It is used for flavoring fatty meats, cheeses, and some drinks. Sage is also used with onion for poultry or pork stuffing.

Of all the varieties of sage, which include purple, tricolor, and golden, the best choice for cooking is plain green sage.

The other varieties contain too much camphor and can ruin a recipe. Use the herb sparingly for best results.

Garden Friend: When planted near rosemary, sage will help keep it from developing powdery mildew. Sage is also an excellent insect repellent for cabbages and helps keep cabbage moths at bay.

Shaving Soother: In addition to curbing harmful bacteria, another sage oil benefit is its astringent effect. The same qualities that heal sore mouths make sage oil a soothing aftershave splash. Use a drop of sage oil in a handful of cool water just after shaving to soften skin.

Super Deodorizer: Put dried sage plant leaves among linens to discourage insects.

Sage smoke deodorizes animal and cooking odors, and you can boil sage in water to disinfect a room.

Sage leaves

Sage leaves

History of sage as a herb and as an essential oil

An ancient Chinese proverb is translated as, “How can a man grow old who has sage in his garden?”

The sage plant has been praised highly throughout history for its powers of longevity. It was so valued by the Chinese in the seventeenth century that Dutch merchants found the Chinese would trade three chests of tea for one chest of sage leaves.

To the Romans, sage was a sacred herb that was only gathered from the earth by an appointed person wearing a white tunic, with well-washed bare feet.

Salvia officinalis has been used since ancient times for warding off evil, treating snakebites, and increasing women's fertility.

Pliny the Elder said that sage plant (called "salvia" by the Romans) was used as a diuretic and a local anesthetic for the skin, among other uses.

During the Middle Ages, the plant had a prized reputation throughout Europe, and was used with other herbs in a mixture designed to ward off the plague. There is, sadly, no evidence that it actually did much good against the Black Death.

Health Benefits of Sage Essential Oil

Sage is antiseptic and antifungal, and makes an excellent mouthwash that can remedy sore throats and oral thrush (a yeast infection).

To make a mouthwash, steep one teaspoonful of fresh sage or one-half teaspoon dried sage in one cup of hot water, covered, for four minutes. Swirl in a quarter teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of cider vinegar.

Swish the mixture around your mouth while it is still hot, or gargle with the mixture for a sore throat. Do not swallow sage oil, however, since it is not meant for internal use.

Sage is also useful for mental clarity and stimulates the nervous system.

Recently, in a carefully controlled trial, sage was found to be effective in the management of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease.

Sage aromatherapy products

Three slightly different types of sage oil are used in aromatherapy blends.They have similar, but not identical, aromatherapy uses and benefits.

The first, usually just known as "sage", is common sage, salvia officinalis. If you see a reference to "sage" in relation to an essential oil, massage oil or other aromatherapy product, it's almost certainly common sage.

The second is clary sage, salvia sclarea, and the third type is Spanish sage, salvia lavendulaefolia. As the Latin name of Spanish sage suggests, it means "sage with leaves like lavender".

In aromatherapy terms, clary sage oil is said to be an anti-depressant, mood-lifting and sedative essential oil, often used for aromatherapy massage, or in a diffuser, for people feeling nervous, anxious, and menopausal.

Common sage aromatherapy uses include difficulties with conceiving, menstrual problems, and menopause issues.

Spanish sage is also used in aromatherapy blends for menopause issues, nervous disorders, and anxiety.

Sage soap is a very popular use of sage in aromatherapy products, as its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, combined with a very pleasant fragrance, make sage an ideal ingredient.

Herbal Lore

Clary, a variety of sage, was once used to make a beer that was famous for its intoxicating qualities.

People who should avoid sage essential oil

Sage oil should be avoided when consuming alcohol, since it can exaggerate the intoxicating effects.

Use only a small amount of this particular oil on the skin or in vaporizers, since large doses can generate a headache.

Avoid during pregnancy, since sage can cause uterine contractions, and do not use during breast feeding. Common sage and Spanish sage, in particular, are abortifacients, and even cooking with it in normal culinary quantities might not be a good idea.

Sage significantly slows down the production of breast milk, so it's best not to cook with it if you are a nursing mother.


Janay on January 10, 2015:

It's about time soemone wrote about this.

Judy on January 02, 2015:

Shoot, so that's that one susppoes.

RMHM on February 02, 2012:

The Native Americans burn SAGE BRUSH. They call it sage, but at least on the prairie and plains, it's a totally different plant, an ARTEMISIA, not a Salvia.

ZdenickaH on November 19, 2011:

I heard about sage 55 years ago.Old ladies in Europe always collect it and use it for many purposes.

To bad my mom never believe in any.I do and I have rediscover it.You are giving very useful information.I love it!!!

kims3003 on March 10, 2011:

great information. very well done and written hub

Diana Adair on January 23, 2011:

Great article, I use sage on my skin. I also planted it in my herb garden and it is a beautiful plant.

Sammyantha from England on October 17, 2010:

Great hub, thanks :)

bruceswalker on August 15, 2009:

Great information.

I burn safe in my home and office to cleans the air and to help me focus. I enjoy the aroma also.


Plants and Oils (author) from England on August 09, 2009:

Sage is wonderful stuff - glad you enjoyed the hub, Bard.

Peggy, sage in stuffing or sausages is a particular fave of mine!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 09, 2009:

I am learning so much about the different uses and benefits of herbs and plants from your hubs.

We grow sage in our garden and use it for cooking.

Steve Andrews from Lisbon, Portugal on August 09, 2009:

Here in the Canary Islands we have Canary Islands Sage (Salvia canariensis), an endemic species that grows into a very large bush.

Your hub is a great source of info on Sage.

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