Salvia officinalis (sage, also called garden sage, common sage, or culinary sage) is a perennial, evergreen sub shrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae and native to the Mediterranean region, though it has naturalized in many places throughout the world. It has a long history of medicinal and culinary use, and in modern times as an ornamental garden plant. The common name “sage” is also used for a number of related and unrelated specie
This shrubby perennial has aromatic, grayish-green leaves and lavender flowers. It’s used fresh or dried by cooks and herbalists around the world, and its flavor has been described as astringent, and sweet/bitter.
You may know it best from its role in flavoring traditional turkey stuffing. The leaves are also used in homeopathic preparations.
Other edible saliva species include bee (S. apiana), chia (S. columbariae), and pineapple (S. elegance).
There are also numerous non-edible, ornamental types of sage including blue (Salvia azures), purple (dorrii), Russian (Perestroika atriplicifolia), scarlet (Salvia splendens), and woodland (Salvia nemerosa).
12 Health Benefits and Uses of Sage
Sage is a staple herb in various cuisines around the world.
Its other names include common sage, garden sage and Salvia officinalis. It belongs to the mint family, alongside other herbs like oregano, rosemary, basil and thyme (1Trusted Source).
Sage has a strong aroma and earthy flavor, which is why it’s typically used in small amounts. Even so, it’s packed with a variety of important nutrients and compounds.
Sage is also used as a natural cleaning agent, pesticide and ritual object in spiritual sage burning or smudging.
This green herb is available fresh, dried or in oil form — and has numerous health benefits.
Here are 12 surprising health benefits of sage.
1. High in Several Nutrients
As you can see, a small amount of sage packs 10% of your daily vitamin K needs (2Trusted Source).
Sage also contains small amounts of magnesium, zinc, copper and vitamins A, C and E.
What’s more, this aromatic spice houses caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, rosmarinic acid, ellagic acid and rutin — all of which play a role in its beneficial health effects (3Trusted Source).
Since it’s consumed in tiny amounts, sage provides only minuscule amounts of carbs, calories, protein and fiber.
2. Loaded With Antioxidants
Antioxidants are molecules that help fortify your body’s defenses, neutralizing potentially harmful free radicals that are linked to chronic diseases (4Trusted Source).
Sage contains over 160 distinct polyphenols, which are plant-based chemical compounds that act as antioxidants in your body (5Trusted Source).
Chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, rosmarinic acid, ellagic acid and rutin — all found in sage — are linked to impressive health benefits, such as a lower risk of cancer and improved brain function and memory (1Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
One study found that drinking 1 cup (240 ml) of sage tea twice daily significantly increased antioxidant defenses. It also lowered both total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol, as well as raised “good” HDL cholesterol (6Trusted Source).
3. May Support Oral Health
Sage has antimicrobial effects, which can neutralize microbes that promote dental plaque.
In one study, a sage-based mouthwash was shown to effectively kill the Streptococcus mu-tans bacteria, which is notorious for causing dental cavities (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
In a test-tube study, a sage-based essential oil was shown to kill and halt the spread of Candida albicans, a fungus that may also cause cavities (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
One review noted that sage may treat throat infections, dental abscesses, infected gums and mouth ulcers. However, more human research is needed to make comprehensive recommendations (11).
4. May Ease Menopause Symptoms
During menopause, your body experiences a natural decline in the hormone estrogen. This can cause a wide range of unpleasant symptoms.
Symptoms include hot flashes, excessive sweating, vaginal dryness and irritability.
Common sage was traditionally used to reduce menopause symptoms (12Trusted Source).
It’s believed that compounds in sage have estrogen-like properties, allowing them to bind to certain receptors in your brain to help improve memory and treat hot flashes and excessive sweating (13Trusted Source).
In one study, daily use of a sage supplement significantly reduced the number and intensity of hot flashes over eight weeks (14Trusted Source).
5. May Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
The leaves of common sage have been used traditionally as a remedy against diabetes.
Human and animal research indicates that it may help lower blood sugar levels.
In one study, sage extract reduced blood glucose levels in rats with type 1 diabetes by activating a specific receptor. When this receptor is activated, it can help clear excess free fatty acids in the blood, which in turn improves insulin sensitivity (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
Another study in mice with type 2 diabetes found that sage tea acts like metformin — a drug prescribed to manage blood sugar in people with the same disease (17Trusted Source).
In humans, sage leaf extract has been shown to lower blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity with a similar effect as rosiglitazone, another anti-diabetes drug (18Trusted Source).
However, there is still not enough evidence to recommend sage as a diabetes treatment. More human research is needed.
6. May Support Memory and Brain Health
Sage can help support your brain and memory in several ways.
For one, it’s loaded with compounds that can act as antioxidants, which have been shown to buffer your brain’s defense system (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
It also appears to halt the breakdown of the chemical messenger acetylcholine (ACH), which has a role in memory. ACH levels appear to fall in Alzheimer’s disease (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).
In one study, 39 participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease consumed either 60 drops (2 ml) of a sage extract supplement or a placebo daily for four months.
Those taking the sage extract performed better on tests that measured memory, problem-solving, reasoning and other cognitive abilities (21Trusted Source).
In healthy adults, sage was shown to improve memory in low doses. Higher doses also elevated mood and increased alertness, calmness and contentedness (23Trusted Source).
In both younger and older adults, sage appears to improve memory and brain function (24Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).
7. May Lower ‘Bad’ LDL Cholesterol
Every minute, more than one person in the US dies from heart disease (26Trusted Source).
High “bad” LDL cholesterol is a key heart disease risk factor, affecting one in three Americans (27Trusted Source).
Sage may help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, which can build up in your arteries and potentially cause damage.
In one study, consuming sage tea twice daily lowered “bad” LDL cholesterol and total blood cholesterol while raising “good” HDL cholesterol after just two weeks (6Trusted Source).
Several other human studies illustrate a similar effect with sage extract ).
8. May Protect Against Certain Cancers
Cancer is a leading cause of death in which cells grow abnormally.
Interestingly, animal and test-tube studies demonstrate that sage may fight certain types of cancer, including those of the mouth, colon, liver, cervix, breast, skin and kidney
In these studies, sage extracts not only suppress the growth of cancer cells but also stimulate cell death.
While this research is encouraging, human studies are needed to determine whether sage is effective at fighting cancer in humans.
9–11. Other Potential Health Benefits
Sage and its compounds are linked to several other health benefits.
However, these benefits have not been extensively researched.
- May alleviate diarrhea: Fresh sage is a traditional remedy for diarrhea. Test-tube and animal studies found that it contains compounds that may alleviate diarrhea by relaxing your gut (41, 42).
- May support bone health: Vitamin K, which sage offers in large amounts, plays a role in bone health. A deficiency in this vitamin is linked to bone thinning and fractures (2, 43Trusted Source).
- May combat skin aging: Several test-tube studies suggest that sage compounds may help fight signs of aging, such as wrinkles (44Trusted Source, 45Trusted Source).
12. Easy to Add to Your Diet
Sage comes in several forms and can be used in a variety of ways.
Fresh sage leaves have a strong aromatic flavor and are best used sparingly in dishes.
Here are some ways you can add fresh sage to your diet:
- Sprinkle as a garnish on soups.
- Mix into a stuffing in roast dishes.
- Combine chopped leaves with butter to make sage butter.
- Add chopped leaves to tomato sauce.
- Serve it with eggs in an omelet.
Dried sage is often preferred by cooks and comes ground, rubbed or in whole leaves.
Everything you need to know about sage
Sage is an herb native to the Mediterranean. It belongs to the same family as oregano, lavender, rosemary, thyme, and basil.
Herbs and spices can have extremely high antioxidant capacities and pack extra flavor into a meal. This means that people can use herbs to cut back on sodium intake, as less salt is used to flavor a meal.
The sage plant has gray-green edible leaves and flowers that can range in color from blue and purple to white or pink. There are more than 900 species of sage around the world.
Sage has a long history of medicinal use for ailments ranging from mental disorders to gastrointestinal discomfort. Research has supported some of its medical applications.
This Medical News Today Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional profile of sage, an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, ways to incorporate more sage into the diet, and any potential health risks of consuming sage.
Sage essential oil will not be included in this article, as it is not recommended for consumption.
Fast facts on sage
- Sage is part of the mint family, alongside oregano, lavender, rosemary, thyme, and basil.
- Over recent years, studies demonstrating the health benefits of sage have grown in number.
- Sage appears to contain a range of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.
- There are more than 900 species of sage.
Sage is highly nutritious and flavorsome.
Sage has several proven health benefits.
Sage can help protect the body’s cells from damage caused by free radicals due to its high antioxidant capacity.
Free radicals often cause cells to die and can lead to impaired immunity and chronic disease. Other potential benefits include:
1) Alzheimer’s treatment
A recent review of studies showed that species of sage could positively impact cognitive skills and protect against neurological disorders.
The study author maintains that:
Other studies have shown that sage can also improve memory in young, healthy adults.
More research is required, as most studies have been carried out on two species of sage, Salvia officinalis (S. officinalis) and S. lavandulaefolia.
2) Lowering blood glucose and cholesterol
Sage can reduce the amount of glucose in the blood.
One study saw 40 people with diabetes and high cholesterol take sage leaf extract for 3 months.
At the end of the trial, the participants had lower fasting glucose, lower average glucose levels over a 3-month period, and lower total cholesterol, triglyceride, and levels of harmful cholesterol. However, the participants had increased levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol.
Another double-blind clinical trial was carried out on 80 individuals with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes. The trial also found that sage caused a positive effect on blood sugar levels. After 2 hours of fasting, blood sugar levels in individuals given sage were significantly decreased when compared with the control group.
This study concluded that sage might show benefit for people with diabetes to reduce glucose levels 2 hours after fasting.
3) Controlling inflammation
Although more evidence is needed to confirm this benefit, certain compounds in sage appear to have an anti-inflammatory action. One study investigated the effects of a range of these compounds on the inflammatory response in gingival fibroblasts. These are a common type of cell found in the connective tissue of the gums.
Some of the compounds in sage helped to reduce this type of inflammation.
More recent studies have supported the use of sage in dentistry for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Many other herbs and spices similar to sage also appear to have anti-inflammatory, anti fungal, and antimicrobial effects.
Common sage is not just for Thanksgiving turkey stuffing. The lovely, leathery silver leaves, also available in golden and tricolor variegated forms, make handsome foliage plants for the mixed annual garden.
Description of common sage: Sage is a hardy shrub that reaches 21/2 feet and bears elongated, oval, gray leaves that are lightly hairy and fragrant. It is easily grown as an annual, filling in fast to provide bright color. Open spikes of blue-purple flowers appear in summer. Its less hardy variegated cultivars are equally attractive with leaves of purple; yellow and green; or pink, white, and green.