Sage - For Longevity and Purification
Sage (Salvia officinalis) has been used medicinally since ancient times. The name 'sage' means "safe" or "cure" - referring to the plant's healing powers. All plants of the genus Salvia are part of the Mint family.
While it is true that sage has been used for longevity and purification, that is only a small part of what this herb can do. This lens will focus on medicinal, traditional, and historical uses for sage. It will also discuss cultivation of sage.
Image above by Linda Jo Martin.
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Why should a man die
when sage grows in his garden?
-- old saying from the Middle Ages
Garden Sage, Purple Sage and Varigated Sage
Medicinal properties of sage
Sage is an antihydrotic, astringent, and antispasmodic.
Antihydrotics reduce sweating.
Astringents contract tissues to reduce secretions and discharges.
An antispasmodic can stop spasms and cramps.
Warnings about sage
Sage should not be used by pregnant or nursing women. It will dry up a new mother's milk.
Excessive use of sage can cause symptoms of poisoning. Use moderately and discontinue use if you feel sick.
See notes for individual varieties of sage, below.
It makes sense that if you're going to be using a new type of medicine, and sage IS a medicine, you should research it thoroughly and if it is within your ability, consult a herbal practitioner or naturalist. If you're going ahead with this on your own please start slowly. You never know when you might be allergic to something. Take only a small amount at first and work up to a full dose. If you feel sick, discontinue the treatment immediately. Consult a medical doctor if you have any concerns at all about what you're doing.
Be cautious; see a doctor
The following list of the uses of sage has been derived from a variety of herb information resources. I cannot take responsibility to assure that sage will help your condition, or that you cannot be harmed by it.
I will say that sage grows in my garden and I have used it successfully internally and externally without ill effect for several conditions over the course of many years.
If you want professional advice on your medical conditions and the use of herbs, consult a naturopathic physician and/or your family doctor. I am not a doctor; I'm just a herb using woman that grows herbs in her garden for personal use, who has studied herbs over the course of about thirty-five years. I share with you what I've learned from other herbalists (or discovered from my own use of herbs) but don't do any scientific testing. This is folk medicine!
What has sage been used for?
Sage has been used medicinally for many years by people in many cultures. Here are some things it has been used for.
Sage tea will help reduce perspiration. The effect starts about two hours after drinking sage tea, and lasts a few days. This may be useful for night sweats caused by menopause or tuberculosis.
- Elimination of mother's milk
Mothers can drink sage tea for a few days after their babies are weaned.
- Nervous conditions
- Mucous congestion
When gargled, sage tea helps relieve mucous congestion in the respiratory system and stomach.
- Insect bites
Crushed sage leaves can alleviate the effects of insect bites.
Sage tea may help to induce sleep.
- Skin problems
For warts, skin cancer, or tumors, crush a sage leaf and put it on the affected part of your body.
Medicinal sage - have you used it?
"Sage is singularly good for the head and brain, it quickeneth the senses and memory, strengtheneth the sinews, restoreth health to those that have the palsy, and taketh away shakey trembling of the members."
How to make herbal medicines
Making medicines with sage
Here are some simple directions for using sage internally or externally.
- Make a tincture:
Add 1/4 ounce powdered sage to 8 ounces of 75% alcohol. Add 4 ounces of water. Let it sit for two weeks, shaking daily. Strain and use.
Use 15 to 40 drops, three times daily.
- Make tea:
Boil two cups of water. Remove from heat. Add one tablespoon dried sage. Sage tea is bitter so you'll probably want to sweeten it with honey or real maple syrup, or some other kind of natural sweetener. Avoid artificial sweeteners. Add lemon if desired.
- Make an infusion:
Steep 1 teaspoon dry leaves or 3 teaspoons fresh leaves in 1/2 cup water for 30 minutes. Use one tablespoonful at a time, up to one cup liquid per day.
- Make sage powder:
Crush dried sage leaves in an apothecary mortor and pestle. Take 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons of powdered sage at a time.
Marble mortar and pestle for turning dried sage leaves into powder
Make your own sage capsules with powdered sage
Are you a herbalist?
Non-medicinal uses of sage
Sage is best known for its culinary uses and is available for sale in the spice section of most supermarkets. It can also sometimes be found fresh in the vegetable section. But there are many other uses for this wonderful herb. Here are some of them.
Culinary use of sage includes recipes for meats and soups.
- Insect repellant
Sage is strongly scented and repells flies, cabbage moths, and carrot flies.
- Honey bees
Sage attracts bees that then produce an aromatic honey that some people claim will induce sleep.
Sage has been used as an ingredient in fragrances, cosmetics, and soaps.
- Rinse for silver hair
Make an infusion of sage for silvery hair. This may cause a greenish tint if it is discontinued.
1 ounce sage
1 ounce lavender flowers
2 cups witch hazel
2 tablespoons apple cider
Shake, let sit for a week, remove flowers, and use.
Sage can be used in herbal wreaths.
The Way of Herbs
Varieties of sage
There over 700 varieties of sage. For more information on some of the many varieties of sage that grow naturally in the USA, see The USDA Plants Database. If you want to use sage medicinally, I recommend ordinary Garden Sage. Here are some of the varieties you may see for sale in the USA.
- Garden Sage:
Salvia officinalis, Garden Sage, is the standard for medicinal and culinary sage. It is easy to find seeds and to grow this herb in your garden. Garden Sage grows in the wild around the Mediterranean.
- Purple Garden Sage:
Salvia officinalis purpurea, Purple Sage, gets up to twenty-four inches high and has richly purple or blue flowers. It also has leaves that are dark and purplish-green. You can use this for cooking or healing just as you would use Garden Sage.
- Varigated Garden Sage:
Salvia officinalis Icterina has leaves that are white around the edges and green in the center. This can be used for cooking or healing. The bush gets about 18 to 24 inches high and has lavendar-purple flowers during spring and summer.
- Lyreleaf Sage:
Salvia lyrata, aka. Wild Sage, grows wild in North America. It is similar to Garden Sage but is more acrid, and is usually used in mixtures rather than alone. Picture available at the plants database.
- Pineapple Sage
Salvia elegans Vahl has bright green leaves scented like pineapple, and lovely red flowers. Picture available at the plants database.
You can grow sage from seeds
How to grow sage
Sage can easily be started from seed, or you can start sage from cuttings.
Cuttings: Take a cutting in the fall and let it sit on your sunny windowsill in a cup of water until springtime, then plant it.
Seeds: These plants are amazingly easy to grow. Sow in late spring. When seedlings are three inches high, transplant 18 inches apart. It will take two years for your plant to be ready for the first harvest.
How to harvest sage
I've tried several methods of harvesting sage. The important thing to remember is that sage's potency is at it's highest early in the spring just after it flowers. You can harvest it while it is flowering. It is safe to eat and use the flowers exactly as you would use the leaves. If you harvest before it goes to seed it will grow back and may be ready for another harvest before the end of the summer.
If you have a need for sage in a recipe, you can clip a bit of new growth from the end of a branch and use it fresh anytime.
If you're ready for a large harvest after the plant flowers, clip the branches and bundle about ten of them together. You can tie a bit of twine or string around the ends and hang them upside down in a room in your house, in a tent or shed, or inside paper bags. The paper bags keep insects off the drying plants. The paper bags can be hung on your clothes line outside or in a shed.
Sage is used for smudging
What is smudging?
Smudging is a Native American custom for purification. Smoke from the burning of an aromatic plant is said to purify a person or place from bad spirits, negative energies, unhappy emotions, or bad thoughts.
Sage is commonly used for smudging, but it is not the only plant used. Others are wormwood, cedar, sweetgrass, pine needles, juniper leaves, angelica root, osha root, white spruce pitch, pepperwood leaves, yarrow leaves and flowers, Labrador tea leaves, cow parsnip roots or seeds, pearly everlasting leaves or flowers.
Use local species if possible; this is considered superior to using incense from other parts of the world because local plants are in tune with your environment. Sage can be used alone, or combined with the other plants for smudging.
The fragrance created by smudging attracts positive energies and powers, and provides a perfect atmosphere for healing.
When to smudge
Smudging is commonly done for a shaman's healing sessions. It is also done before spiritual ceremonies. Many people smudge their homes daily.
What to smudge
You can smudge yourself, your home, your office, anyone who will participate, and any area in which you plan to conduct some kind of spiritual or healing ceremony. Also smudge any objects you plan to use during your ceremonies.
How to smudge
I usually place some dried (but not crushed) sage leaves in a bowl (actually I use an abalone shell) and light them. The flame should be extinguished but there will be a red glow from the leaves and the smoke will be very fragrant. I go through every room in my house praying for purification and blessings. I make sure the smoke goes into every corner and closet. I also let it surround and purify me.
You can make your own smudge sticks. Choose five to ten healthy sprigs or branches (depending on how long you want your smudge sticks.) Bind them together using embroidery thread (all six strands) then hang them up to dry.
Working with Plant Consciousness
- Sage Growing and Harvest Information
How to grow sage.
- How to Harvest and Store Sage
How to harvest and store sage.
- Uncle Tom's Garden: Sage Harvest
Blog post about a bountiful sage harvest.
- Harvesting Sage - Harvest Forum - GardenWeb
A gardening forum's thread about harvesting sage.
- Sage growing tips
General tips for growing sage and other herbs.
If you have any questions about this herb I will be happy to try to provide an answer. I created this page about sage because it is a herb I grow in my garden - one that I have direct knowledge of. So feel free to ask me anything about it and if I don't know the answer I'll try to find out.
Any questions about sage?
Cd5464 on May 03, 2014:
Does texas sage have any effect when smoked?
Linda Jo Martin (author) from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on January 15, 2014:
@boneworld: Sage is readily available online, and even in your supermarket's culinary herb section.
Jackson Thom from West of Left South Lucky on January 15, 2014:
This sounds interesting enough for me to try, but I'm probably not going to grow it. Is there anywhere I can buy sage, just to try it? And would it be as good as if I grew it myself?
Linda Jo Martin (author) from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on November 02, 2012:
@VictoriaKelley: Thanks, Victoria... I'll go visit your lens too.
VictoriaKelley on November 02, 2012:
I added this lens to my own lens on sage for smudging and cleansing :-) Lovely post!
Linda Jo Martin (author) from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on October 06, 2012:
@anonymous: Very cool, thanks Tipi! I grow sage in my front yard; it is hardy and reliable - and the purple sage blossoms are beautiful...
anonymous on October 05, 2012:
What an interesting and complete article on sage, I have used it to smudge and enjoy the fragrance and now to learn that honey bees too and its good to hear that some folks enjoy some relief of symptoms from their honey, very nice done!
Linda Jo Martin (author) from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on September 18, 2012:
@sandra-toles-5: Liquid? ...no... I do the traditional smudge sticks from my sage.
sandra-toles-5 on September 18, 2012:
I wanted to make liquid sage for smudging from the plant....do you know how??
Linda Jo Martin (author) from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on August 20, 2012:
@VspaBotanicals: Thanks, this is one of my in-depth research efforts!
VspaBotanicals on August 20, 2012:
Your information is precise and wonderful.
GreenfireWiseWo on July 23, 2012:
Great lens - love and use sage often. Thank you.
anonymous on March 31, 2012:
Great article ... Lens...
Ladyeaglefeather on March 05, 2012:
Love this lens, I use sage all of the time. I love the smell of it.
Geeve on February 29, 2012:
Leaping around to find lenses that I really, really like :)
liberty69 on February 28, 2012:
Hi everybody, I have heard that sage (probably in synergy with some other plants) has some beneficial effects in treatment of thyroid gland, actually hypo or hyperthyroidism.Does anybody know to recommend me some web pages , links... about research project where I can read more about it.Thnx forward.
HealingOil on February 09, 2012:
beautiful lens thanks for sharing!
Moriahkmaa on October 25, 2011:
I know you can use white sage for smudging, but what about purple sage? And if so, does it have the same efffects and uses ad white sage? If not, what can purple sage be used for in smudging?
orange3 lm on October 20, 2011:
Great information about sage.
anonymous on June 02, 2011:
Thanks, I have really learned a lot about sage.
happynutritionist on January 24, 2011:
This is beautiful, I have an abundance of sage in my garden. Blessed, and added to http://www.squidoo.com/nutrition-angel
(Please check me on this, and forgive if I missed it mentioned, but I think that people with epilepsy have to use Sage with care??)
anonymous on September 19, 2010:
I had never heard of "smudging" before, but as I have sage in my garden, this is something I would like to try.
Lots of information here about Sage, but did you also know that it is one of the 10 Best Plants for Bees - lensrolled ;)
Yvonne L B from Covington, LA on August 08, 2010:
Wonderful lens. I've featured it on our Cooking with Herbs lens.
Patricia on November 04, 2009:
I used to smudge and do ceremony with sage but now I don't like to be around smoke because of my lungs (20 years of smoking did not do them well, though I did quit smoking 3 years ago and faring better) I always loved the smell of the sage. My woman's group I was in always smudged before we entered the room...(that was in the 1990s. I enjoyed your lens!
AppalachianCoun on October 16, 2009:
Wow, fantastic lens. Thank-you for the awesome info. 5 stars*****
Demaw on July 31, 2009:
Very interesting lens, lots of uses for sage. 5*
Julia M S Pearce from Melbourne, Australia on July 25, 2009:
Dropped by to see your lens on sage.Great one so well put together.I too love herbs and am now following you on twitter.Great 5*s!
AlisonMeacham on May 23, 2009:
This is such a beautiful and informative lens. Angel Blessings to you
A RovingReporter on May 15, 2009:
A salute to you Linda.*****
Mihaela Vrban from Croatia on May 13, 2009:
This lens is so helpful and so beautiful! Excellent work Linda! Blessed by an Angel!
anonymous on May 08, 2009:
This lens is full of great information, and is lovely to look at. Great job!
Jimmie Quick from Memphis, TN, USA on May 06, 2009:
You're officially blessed! I love sage, and I love the look of this lens. It's full of information I'd never heard. No wonder people have loved sage for centuries. I had no idea of the medicinal benefits.
Bambi Watson on May 06, 2009:
Love it! I grow lots of sage and love the smell, I even make my own smudge sticks...great lens, 5*
gia combs-ramirez from Montana on May 06, 2009:
This is one of the most beautiful lenses I've seen. Linda, you just keep raising the bar.
Linda Jo Martin (author) from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on May 04, 2009:
[in reply to spirituality] Thanks so much! I was making this lens this evening when I accidentally published! ...but it is ready now, so the "under construction" sign is gone. You found it so quickly! Thanks for the blessing... I appreciate that. Of course, in a way, every lens is under construction at all times and I intend to add to this one a lot as I study and learn more.
religions7 on May 04, 2009:
Great lens, and it's still under construction? I'd say that perhaps it's already time to split it up :) Anyway - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)