Sage Benefits, Uses & History

What is Sage?

This green herb is available fresh, dried, or in oil form — and has numerous health benefits. The genus Salvia, sometimes known as sage, is the largest member of the Lamiaceae or mint family, with over 900 species found worldwide. 

The plants are usually aromatic and perennial, with a variety of colored flowers. Many Salvia species, including Salvia officinalis, are unique to the Mediterranean, and some of the Salvia species have been taken advantage of on a global scale as flavorful spices as well as traditional herbal medicines. It is known by many different names, which can vary depending on where you are in the world. Just some of the names include sage, common sage, garden sage, golden sage, kitchen sage, true sage, culinary sage, dalmatian sage, and broadleaf sage. 

Sage is one of those key plants that is thought to defend against magic, fire, and hail, as well as to aid in the process of birth and conception. It was also often placed in a coffin with the corpse and stored in the freezer with the seed for planting. During religious occasions, sage is burned as incense.

History of Sage

The history of sage goes way further back than you may think. It originated in the Mediterranean and was first used by the Romans. They believed that it was a holy plant and they would perform a special ceremony before picking it, to show respect. They even used a specific knife that wasn’t made from iron to ensure that it wouldn’t react with the herb.

The pickers were required to wear clean clothes and have clean feet. They would also put sage leaves in their cooking as they believed that it helped them to better digest fatty foods. 

Sage was taken for fertility by the Egyptians, and it was widely grown in France and used in tea. Throughout 812 AD, Emperor Charlemagne had sage planted in Germany for trade and perhaps therapeutic purposes. Sage was first adopted as a meat preservative by the Greeks and Romans. They also claimed that it can help with memory.

English herbalists believed that the amount of sage in someone’s garden predicted the success of their business. Less sage represented a failing business, whereas more sage meant financial success.

By the Middle Ages, most monks had adopted 16 herbs that they used in their monastic cures. Sage was one of these herbs, and it was important in the creation of pharmaceuticals at the time. The Chinese valued sage’s therapeutic properties and used it to treat stomach, digestive, and nervous system ailments. It was thought to be beneficial for treating typhoid fever, liver, kidneys, colds, joint pain, and a variety of other conditions. 

How it grows

Common sage blooms during the summer months. Camphor-scented, bluish-lavender to pink-lavender flowers bloom on short, upright flower spikes. The flowers of the common sage plant attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds on occasion.

Sage’s soft-colored foliage and plenty of stunning purple-blue flowers will complement any herb garden. Sage’s grey leaves contrast pleasantly with the green of many other plants, so it doesn’t have to be restricted to the herb or vegetable garden.

Sage looks great dotted around in perennial borders and cottage gardens. Plant sage in the border, particularly with other pink blooming plants. Smaller types can be cultivated as container plants and brought inside during the chilly winter months for a supply of fresh sage on demand.

If you plan on planting your own sage at home, be sure to choose a sunny spot that has well-drained soil. Ideally, the pH of the soil should be around 6.5 or 7 for optimal sage growth. If you have clay soil, add sand and organic matter to lighten it and improve drainage. In late April, you’ll start to notice small pink or lavender-purple flower spikes. 

Even with pruning, plants might become woody and stop growing a large number of branches after 3 to 5 years. You may choose to dig up your original and grow a new one at this point. To stimulate young shoots with full flavor and to keep the plant from becoming lanky and twiggy, prune the plant in the spring and a few times throughout the growing season. Plants should be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart and divided every couple of years to revive them.

Fresh sage is easy to keep fresh; simply slice the leaves, pour in an ice cube tray with water, and freeze to use later. Tie sprigs in loose bundles and air-dry in a cool spot, or arrange branches on wire racks out of direct sunshine to dry. Remove the leaves from the stems when they are dried and brittle and store them in an airtight container. Hang sage sprigs in the kitchen for a lovely herbal aroma.

Uses and benefits

Sage has been shown to have natural antibacterial properties and works well as a meat preservative, in addition to its therapeutic benefits. When sage leaves are left to brew in hot water, it makes a drink called “thinker’s tea,” which has shown promise in treating Alzheimer’s sufferers as well as easing the symptoms of depression. The flavone salvigenin, found in three-lobed sage, may also help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Sage has also been proven in studies to reduce or eliminate hot flashes in menopausal women. It is thought that sage chemicals have estrogen-like qualities, allowing them to attach to specific receptors in your brain to assist boost memory and treat hot flashes and excessive sweating. Over the course of eight weeks, daily usage of a sage supplement greatly reduced the quantity and intensity of hot flashes, a recent study has shown.

Sage can also be incorporated into your dental health routine; not only has it been shown to help relieve a sore throat and canker sores, but it can also treat gum disease. Sage has antibacterial properties that can eliminate the harmful bacteria that cause dental plaque. A sage-based mouthwash was even demonstrated in one study to efficiently kill the Streptococcus bacteria, which is known to cause tooth cavities.

In humans, sage leaf extract has been proven to reduce blood sugar and enhance insulin sensitivity, acting similarly to the anti-diabetes medication rosiglitazone. There is, however, insufficient evidence to endorse sage as a diabetic treatment. More human studies and trials are required.

Furthermore, sage can be applied externally to your hair, skin, and nails. It is supposed to improve the texture and tone of hair as well as give a lovely shine when used as a rinse. Sage steeped in water can also be used as an oil-controlling face toner. Tea tree oil, basil oil, sage oil, and arrowroot have been shown to help prevent and treat toenail fungal infections.

Sage includes more than 160 polyphenols, which are plant-based chemical components that serve as antioxidants in your body. Antioxidants are chemicals that aid in the fortification of your body’s defenses by neutralizing potentially damaging free radicals associated with chronic diseases.

All of the nutrients present in sage, including chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, rosmarinic acid, ellagic acid, and rutin, have been linked to numerous health advantages, including a lower risk of cancer and enhanced brain function and memory. According to one study, drinking one cup of sage tea twice a day greatly enhances antioxidant defenses. It also reduced total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol as well as increased levels of so-called “good” cholesterol. 

Sage has been connected to a variety of other potential health advantages, including diarrhea relief, bone health support, and skin aging prevention.

Side Effects

It’s worth noting that much of the research and studies on stage have been trialed on animals and in test tubes, using very concentrated extracts. While sage tea may have some of the same advantages, the effects may not be as strong. Furthermore, significant research is still required. This beverage may potentially have certain risks. Sage includes a chemical called thujone, which gives it its powerful aroma but can be hazardous in high concentrations.

If you consume more than 3–7 grams of thujone per day, drinking exceptionally large volumes of sage tea — or eating this plant in other forms — over a lengthy period of time may cause heart issues, seizures, vomiting, and kidney damage.

However, because sage tea contains only 4–11 mg of this molecule per 4 cups, you can drink many cups per day with little to no risk of thujone poisoning. Sage tea is generally safe in typical doses but you should visit your doctor as soon as possible if you have any concerns.

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved sage for use as a spice or condiment. In general, the use of sage for medicinal purposes is considered safe.  However, if you intend to use sage internally or consume it, you should consult with your doctor beforehand.


Sage is often burned and used in an ancient practice known as smudging. It was first adopted by tribal cultures who worked and lived on the land. For example, Native Americans would bundle sage and use it in ceremonies. Smudge sticks were believed to cleanse people, spaces, environments, and objects of negative energy and evil spiritual forces. 

Throughout history, Buddhists, Catholics, and many other religious groups have burnt plants and herbs for beneficial and healing effects. Regardless of country or religion, the premise has always been the same: smoke is cleansing. Smoke from herbs such as sage converts negative energy into positive energy while also eliminating toxins and pollutants from the air.

For practical reasons, many people began burning herbs in Europe. Some tribes believed that smudging may help rid people and animals of parasites and bad spirits. 

The ancient Greeks believed that consuming sage would grant them tremendous insight and wisdom.  They also believed that growing sage in the garden may grant them long life and perhaps even immortality. Sage was thought to improve household virtue by the Romans. They regularly hung it on bedposts and draped it over a married couple’s beds.

Sage represents wisdom in old Celtic culture and eating sage grants immortality in both wisdom and body, the latter of which is presumably related to sage’s multiple medical benefits. Sage is usually used as a drying agent in traditional medicine, removing mucous congestion and alleviating night sweats, and its astringent characteristics make it useful in treating wounds and sore throats.

Sage burning has a long history and may be beneficial for beginning a spiritual practice or making a big life change. It may be useful if you are going through a transition or making positive changes in your home or physical health.

However, if you are suffering from serious mood disorders or clinical anxiety, burning sage is unlikely to solve the root of the problem. In addition to engaging in a supplementary health activity such as burning or consuming sage, it is essential to consult your doctor. 

Can you cook with Sage?

Yes! Sage is a fantastic herb to use in the kitchen due to its nutritional properties. A tablespoon of sage has 43% of the daily required amount of vitamin K and is also high in fiber, vitamin A, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese. 

Sage is a herb that can be consumed both whole or crushed. Sage is a terrific herb to add flavor to your favorite recipe without adding extra calories or salt. The herb is frequently served with chicken or pork in many countries. Because of its pleasant scent, sage is widely used as a fragrance in soaps and cosmetics. There are also sage extracts and herbal sage supplements available.

It provides significantly larger doses of B vitamins such as folic acid, thiamin, pyridoxine, and riboflavin and adequate amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, thiamin, and copper. But it’s also because of its distinct flavor that sage is a great herb to use in cooking. Sage transforms a simple sauce into something very unique when paired with browned butter; it’s fantastic spooned over chicken and veggies and fantastic with pasta.