Herbs are magical. There are so many ways to use them – in food, teas, tinctures, supplements, hydrosols. Tea is my personal favorite because it bathes our innards in a healing elixir. I also love the whole process of brewing a hot cup of tea and then relaxing as I inhale its scent and drink down its steamy liquid.
I have lots of herb friends, but Sage and I have some history. I remember sitting in my host mother’s kitchen in Jordan back in my college days, doubled over in pain from menstrual cramps, bemoaning the fact that I was born with girl parts. My host mother threw some fresh sage leaves into hot water and instructed me to drink it. This was well before my introduction to the world of herbal therapy, so I doubted that grass in water was going to help me with my monster cramps. I drank it to appease her, but lo and behold, the combination of the warm liquid and the healing properties of the sage eased my cramps and made me believe my host mom was a miracle medicine woman. Today, every time I smell sage, I am transported back to that kitchen in Jordan.
What is Sage?
Sage is a perennial herb that is native to the Mediterranean region. In Latin, salvia means to save or cure, and officinalis means medicinal. The Greeks and Romans traditionally used sage to preserve meat as it contains terpene antioxidants that help reduce spoilage. Arab physicians believed that sage made humans immortal and Europeans used it as a protection against witchcraft. In India, sage is used for gastrointestinal ailments and infections of the nose, throat and mouth. Native Americans use it to purify spaces (a technique called smudging). (1). If you ever have the heebie-jeebies from someone’s residual energy, just light some sage and poof – bad energy, be gone!
Healing Properties and Active Constituents of Sage
As a tea or tincture, sage can relieve upper respiratory symptoms and soothe sore throats. In a study carried out by Hebbert et al. (2006), a throat spray containing salvia officinalis extract was administered to 286 participants with symptoms of pharyngitis. As a result, sage was found to be significantly superior to the placebo in soothing symptoms.
Sage also contains antioxidant enzymes and was found to improve the lipid profile and antioxidant defenses in humans by drinking it in tea form. Sage tea prevents lipoprotein oxidation and could potentially protect cells from glucotoxicity (damage to certain cells due to high blood sugar) and lipotoxicity (damage due to high fatty acid levels), which are both implicated in the development of type 2 diabetes (2).
Sage contains rosmarinic acid, which acts as an anti-oxidant and reduces inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract by altering molecules that cause inflammation, thereby making it a helpful herb for digestive upset.
Data from research demonstrates that sage extract can protect against diarrhea and abdominal spasms (3). Again, tea is my favorite way to ingest herbs because it can be a gentle way of supporting a sensitive tummy, especially if it is sipped throughout the day.
My favorite use for sage is as a healing agent for feminine ailments. Sage is said to be beneficial for hot flashes in menopausal women (4). In a study done by Bommer, Kline and Suter (2011), trials were conducted in which menopausal women consumed sage tablets every day for a period of eight weeks and their hot flashes decreased by 64% by week 8. It can also ease cramps during menstruation and help regulate the menstrual cycle. So it seems my host mom knew her stuff. And I am quite thankful she did because I still drink sage tea.
Sage can also be used to help dry up milk production in breastfeeding mothers when it’s time to retire the ladies from their feeding duties. Sage tea may also be beneficial for women experiencing frequent engorgement or plugged ducts (5), but it’s always best to consult with a practitioner well-versed in herbal therapy to avoid triggering symptoms in the baby.
Side Effects and Toxicity
It is advised to avoid sage tea or tinctures during pregnancy and to use with caution under the guidance of a practitioner in breastfeeding. Sage essential oil should not be taken by children or pregnant/breastfeeding women or by those with severe kidney or liver disease due to the thujone in sage, which could be potentially toxic in very high doses. Otherwise, sage is considered safe for most people and could be a very beneficial herb in supporting your health (and flavoring your chicken!).
Sage Tea Recipe
- 1-2 sprigs of fresh sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 1 cup water
- 1 wedge lemon (optional)
- Bring water to a boil in a small pot. Remove from heat and place sage in the water. Steep for 5 minutes.
- Strain into a mug, add lemon, and drink hot or chill in the fridge for a sage iced tea. Enjoy!
I want to hear from you! What is your favorite way to consume herbs? Leave me a comment below!