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Sage Herb Uses

Updated on March 2, 2013

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.

This page was made by Linda Jo Martin, author of River Girl.

You can connect with me on Google Plus.

Why should a man die

when sage grows in his garden?

-- old saying from the Middle Ages

Garden Sage, Purple Sage and Varigated Sage

Garden Sage, Purple Sage and Varigated Sage
Garden Sage, Purple Sage and Varigated Sage

Medicinal properties of sage

Sage is an antihydrotic, astringent, and antispasmodic.

  1. Antihydrotic:

    Antihydrotics reduce sweating.

  2. Astringent:

    Astringents contract tissues to reduce secretions and discharges.

  3. Antispasmodic:

    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?

Medicinal Sage

Sage has been used medicinally for many years by people in many cultures. Here are some things it has been used for.

  1. Perspiration

    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.

  2. Elimination of mother's milk

    Mothers can drink sage tea for a few days after their babies are weaned.

  3. Nervous conditions
  4. Trembling
  5. Vertigo
  6. Depression
  7. Leucorrhea
  8. Dysmenorrhea
  9. Amenorrhea
  10. Diarrhea
  11. Gastritis
  12. Enteritis
  13. Mucous congestion

    When gargled, sage tea helps relieve mucous congestion in the respiratory system and stomach.

  14. Insect bites

    Crushed sage leaves can alleviate the effects of insect bites.

  15. Insomnia

    Sage tea may help to induce sleep.

  16. 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?

Have you ever used sage medicinally?

See results

"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."

-- Gerard's Herbal

16th century

Making medicines with sage

Here are some simple directions for using sage internally or externally.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

Are you a herbalist?

Have you ever made any type of medicine using sage?

See results

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.

  1. Cooking

    Culinary use of sage includes recipes for meats and soups.

  2. Insect repellant

    Sage is strongly scented and repells flies, cabbage moths, and carrot flies.

  3. Honey bees

    Sage attracts bees that then produce an aromatic honey that some people claim will induce sleep.

  4. Perfumes

    Sage has been used as an ingredient in fragrances, cosmetics, and soaps.

  5. Rinse for silver hair

    Make an infusion of sage for silvery hair. This may cause a greenish tint if it is discontinued.

  6. Aftershave

    Combine:

    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.

  7. Crafts

    Sage can be used in herbal wreaths.

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

Harvesting sage

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.

Smudging poll

Have you ever smudged your home?

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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?

Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    Cd5464 3 years ago

    Does texas sage have any effect when smoked?

  • Linda BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 3 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @boneworld: Sage is readily available online, and even in your supermarket's culinary herb section.

  • boneworld profile image

    Jackson Thom 3 years ago from West of Left South Lucky

    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 BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @VictoriaKelley: Thanks, Victoria... I'll go visit your lens too.

  • VictoriaKelley profile image

    VictoriaKelley 5 years ago

    I added this lens to my own lens on sage for smudging and cleansing :-) Lovely post!

  • Linda BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @anonymous: Very cool, thanks Tipi! I grow sage in my front yard; it is hardy and reliable - and the purple sage blossoms are beautiful...

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

    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 BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @sandra-toles-5: Liquid? ...no... I do the traditional smudge sticks from my sage.

  • profile image

    sandra-toles-5 5 years ago

    I wanted to make liquid sage for smudging from the plant....do you know how??

  • Linda BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @VspaBotanicals: Thanks, this is one of my in-depth research efforts!

  • VspaBotanicals profile image

    VspaBotanicals 5 years ago

    Your information is precise and wonderful.

  • GreenfireWiseWo profile image

    GreenfireWiseWo 5 years ago

    Great lens - love and use sage often. Thank you.

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

    Great article ... Lens...

  • profile image

    Ladyeaglefeather 5 years ago

    Love this lens, I use sage all of the time. I love the smell of it.

  • profile image

    Geeve 5 years ago

    Leaping around to find lenses that I really, really like :)

  • profile image

    liberty69 5 years ago

    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 profile image

    HealingOil 5 years ago

    beautiful lens thanks for sharing!

  • profile image

    Moriahkmaa 6 years ago

    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 profile image

    orange3 lm 6 years ago

    Great information about sage.

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    Thanks, I have really learned a lot about sage.

  • profile image

    happynutritionist 6 years ago

    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??)

  • profile image

    anonymous 7 years ago

    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 ;)

  • naturegirl7s profile image

    Yvonne L. B. 7 years ago from Covington, LA

    Wonderful lens. I've featured it on our Cooking with Herbs lens.

  • ZenandChic profile image

    Patricia 8 years ago

    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 profile image

    AppalachianCoun 8 years ago

    Wow, fantastic lens. Thank-you for the awesome info. 5 stars*****

  • Demaw profile image

    Demaw 8 years ago

    Very interesting lens, lots of uses for sage. 5*

  • jmsp206 profile image

    Julia M S Pearce 8 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

    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 profile image

    AlisonMeacham 8 years ago

    This is such a beautiful and informative lens. Angel Blessings to you

  • A RovingReporter profile image

    A RovingReporter 8 years ago

    A salute to you Linda.*****

  • Mihaela Vrban profile image

    Mihaela Vrban 8 years ago from Croatia

    This lens is so helpful and so beautiful! Excellent work Linda! Blessed by an Angel!

  • nightbear lm profile image

    nightbear lm 8 years ago

    What a great looking lens. I love sage, who knew it was such an interesting herb. I just thought it tasted good. lol. Very nice.

  • profile image

    anonymous 8 years ago

    This lens is full of great information, and is lovely to look at. Great job!

  • jimmielanley profile image

    Jimmie Lanley 8 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

    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.

  • mysticmama lm profile image

    Bambi Watson 8 years ago

    Love it! I grow lots of sage and love the smell, I even make my own smudge sticks...great lens, 5*

  • giacombs-ramirez profile image

    gia combs-ramirez 8 years ago from Montana

    This is one of the most beautiful lenses I've seen. Linda, you just keep raising the bar.

  • Linda BookLady profile image
    Author

    Linda Jo Martin 8 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    [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 profile image

    religions7 8 years ago

    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 :)