Like celebrities, the popularity of herbs rises and falls with the times. Sage is a particularly poignant example of this.
The simple culinary sage was wildly popular in the past. The name Salvia comes from the roots of “to save” or “to heal.” Maude Grieve writes in A Modern Herbal that sage was even sometimes known as “Salvia Salvatrix” (Sage the Savior).
Grieve reports that in medieval times there was a saying,
“Cur moriatur homo cui Salvia crescit in horto?”
Which translates to “Why should a man die while sage grows in his garden?”
Now, for many people in the U.S. it’s only seen once or twice a year, notably for Thanksgiving stuffing.
Its current low level of use doesn’t do this wonder justice!
Here are five surprising uses for sage beyond a Thanksgiving spice.
Sage has been shown to help people with mild to moderate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. In one study, those taking a sage extract for four months showed a significant improvement in cognitive functions and less agitation as compared with the placebo group.1
There’s no reason to wait until a diagnosis to use sage. Researchers have shown that an extract of sage improves memory and attention in healthy older volunteers.2
In fact, sage isn’t just for the elderly; it’s also been shown to improve both memory and mood in younger populations.3
Herbalists around the world will tell you that sage is a favorite ally for cooling down hot flashes and excessive sweating.
Research confirms this time-honored use. A human clinical trial in 2011 showed that women who took a tablet of sage leaves saw a significant reduction in the intensity and frequency of their hot flashes.4
Sage has also been shown to be safe and effective at controlling hot flashes in prostate cancer patients treated with androgen deprivation.5
Sage’s astringent properties help to tighten and tone tissues that have become swollen or lax. Sage is a wonderful astringent herb and can be used to tighten and tone tissues.
Sage has a special affinity for the mouth and throat and can be used to relieve pain and heal mouth ulcers, canker sores, bleeding gums, spongy gums, and cold sores. Sage is a common ingredient in many tooth powder and mouthwash recipes.
Modern day researchers are catching up to this time-honored use of sage. In one clinical trial, researchers compared the effects of a sage and Echinacea extract with the effects of a spray made up of the antiseptic chlorhexidine and the anesthetic lidocaine on patients with a sore throat. They concluded that the sage and Echinacea extract showed slightly better results than the chlorhexidine and lidocaine for reducing sore throat symptoms after three days.6
Another study showed that a fluid extract of sage worked better than a placebo in reducing pain due to viral pharyngitis (a viral throat infection).7
A 2019 in vitro study showed that sage extracts presented antimicrobial activity against common oral pathogens including Staphylococcus spp, S mutans, and Candida spp.8
Here’s a tea recipe for relieving a sore throat.
This aromatic and earthy tea can soothe your sore throat, ease your cough, and help to relieve congestion. You can drink it frequently while sick, or simply enjoy it as an after-dinner tea to promote digestion.
Infuse the herbs in 16 ounces of just-boiled water.
Steep, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes.
Strain. Squeeze the lemon wedge into the tea and then add the wedge to the tea. Add honey or other sweetener as desired.
The taste of sage is both bitter and pungent and wonderfully aromatic. When we see these attributes blended together in an herb, we know it can be used to promote digestion. And sage is a wonderful carminative! It eases painful gas and bloating, moves stagnant digestion (which is when you eat food and it feels like you have an immobile rock in your belly), and even relieves painful intestinal cramping.
Sage is especially appropriate for people who cannot digest fats well. It can be taken as a tea before or after a meal or simply used as a spice within the meal.
Sage has been shown to have numerous benefits for people with insulin resistance and type two diabetes. Studies have shown that sage can improve insulin sensitivity and decrease imbalanced levels of cholesterol.
One study showed that type 2 diabetic patients who took sage for three months had significantly reduced blood sugar (two hours post prandial) and cholesterol.9
Sage has also been studied for use alongside pharmaceutical drugs for type 2 diabetes. In this study patients taking sage had lowered fasting and 2 hour postprandial glucose, HbA1c, total cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL-C and increased HDL- C as compared to those taking a placebo.
PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is a disease that is often closely related to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. A human clinical trial performed in 2020 showed that patients taking 330 mg of extract daily for eight weeks showed significant improvements in insulin resistance markers as compared to those taking a placebo.10 Patients with PCOS often experience painful periods and severe PMS. One study showed that college students taking 500-mg sage capsules once a day for 2 consecutive months had significantly less PMS physical and psychological symptoms than those taking a placebo.11
Well, there you have it my friends! Five powerful gifts of sage that go beyond being a simple culinary spice.
If you’d like to learn more about sage’s benefits, check out my exclusive e-book - all about sage.
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Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and the Education Director for LearningHerbs. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.