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Garden Sage

Updated on November 10, 2021
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I have been an avid gardener for over 30 years. Herbs, their history, their uses, and how to grow them are my passion.

Salvia officinalis
Salvia officinalis
Garden Sage
Garden Sage
(;Name:Salvia officinalis ;Family:Lamiaceae Image no. 1 Permission granted to use under GFDL by Kurt Stueber Source: [] {{GFDL}})
(;Name:Salvia officinalis ;Family:Lamiaceae Image no. 1 Permission granted to use under GFDL by Kurt Stueber Source: [] {{GFDL}})


Latin name:

· Salvia officinalis

Common Names:

· Garden Sage

· Meadow Sage

· Scarlet Sage

· True Sage

· Dalmatian Sage

Sage, a spice that conjures up visions of turkey and dressing, has far more uses outside the kitchen than in. Sage is not just for cooking. The most important place to have sage is in the medicine chest. Not only do the dried crushed leaves and the aromatic oils lend flavor to many meat dishes, they have strong healing properties as well.

The Plant

Sage is native to the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Ocean. It can be found growing wild from Spain, along the Mediterranean coast to the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea. Wild sage is found in greatest concentration in the Balkans. Sage is a woody perennial with silvery green leaves that feel soft to the touch. When crushed, these leaves give of a sharp, peppery smell. The plant can reach heights of 2-4 feet with a deeply, branching root system. It produces spikes of blue flowers from June well into August. The bees find these flowers irresistible and will be seen hovering around them all day. Although it prefers full sun and rich but well drained soil, it will tolerate dry conditions and poor soil even dappled shade. Sage has been known to  self seed or become naturalize in the right conditions.

Sage is a carefree plant that even the novice gardener can grow. It is easily propagated from seeds or cuttings. Sage seeds need sunlight to germinate. When planting sage from seed, the seeds should be scattered on the surface of the soil and gently tamped into place. The only maintenance Sage requires is pruning to the ground in winter or early spring and dividing the clump every few years. There are few pests, insect or bacterial that bother this trouble free plant. Its bitter taste and antibacterial characteristic keep them all at bay.


Parts of the Plant Used

The leaves, flowers and stems of the sage plant are all used in traditional herbal medicine. They can be used either fresh or dried. Fresh sage is best. It can be found in the grocery section of most supermarkets or grow your own and dry it. It is easy, if you have a microwave. Pick the sage and wash thoroughly. Let air dry and place on a microwave safe plate. Using increments of 2-3 minutes until it dry. Strip the leaves off and store in a glass container or zip lock freezer bags

Pedanius Dioscorides
Pedanius Dioscorides
De Materia Medica 15th century Byzantium
De Materia Medica 15th century Byzantium

Its History

Sage has been grown in its native region for well over 2000 years. The Greeks and Romans civilizations both believed it was sacred. Its history goes back further than any other herb or medicinal. The Romans even had special ceremonies that were performed before the sage could be harvested. Sage’s ability to keep meat from spoiling was a well known fact to both the Greeks and Romans. Sage was, in fact, used to preserve meat until the advent of refrigeration. Subsequently modern scientific research has proven this very fact. By rubbing meat with sage leaves, the growth of bacteria was reduces, and the meat did not spoil as quickly. .

Physicians in every culture and every age place a high value on the many medicinal properties of sage. In fact, sage’s Latin name, Salvia, mean to save. A name that attests to it value to the civilizations Rome and Greece. Pedanius Dioscorides (40-90CE), a Greek physician practicing medicine in Rome,  recommended sage for the building of blood, cleansing the liver and increasing the flow of urine. The Chinese so valued sage that they would trade the Dutch 3 boxes of black tea for just one box of dried sage.

John Gerard (1545-1611)
John Gerard (1545-1611)
John Gerard's Herbal
John Gerard's Herbal
Nicolas Culpeper (18 October 1616  10 January 1654)
Nicolas Culpeper (18 October 1616 10 January 1654)

What Two English Herbalist had to Say

British herbalists of the 14th and 15th centuries used sage to treat a variety of illnesses. John Gerard (1545-1611) in his book , Great Herbal, said this about Salvia officinalis. “Sage is singularly good for the head and brain, it quickened the senses and memory, strengthens the sinews, restoreth health to those who have palsy, and taketh away shakey trembling of the members”. (Great Herbal 1597)

Nicolas Culpeper (1616 – 1654), another famous English botanist, herbalist, physician and astrologer of the 15th century, discussed the many uses for sage in his book, The Complete Herbal in 1653.

“Good for diseases of the liver and to make blood. A decoction of the leaves and branches of Sage made and drunk, saith Dioscorides, provokes urine and causeth the hair to become black. It stayeth the bleeding of wounds and cleaneth ulcers and sores. Three spoonsful of the juice of Sage taken fasting with a little honey arrests spitting or vomiting of blood in consumption. It is profitable for all pains in the head coming of cold rheumatic humours, as also for all pains in the joints, whether inwardly or outwardly. The juice of Sage in warm water cureth hoarseness and cough. Pliny saith it cureth stinging and biting serpents. Sage is of excellent use to help the memory, warming and quickening the senses. The juice of Sage drunk with vinegar hath been of use in the time of the plague at all times. Gargles are made with Sage, Rosemary, Honeysuckles and Plantains, boiled in wine or water with some honey or alum put thereto, to wash sore mouths and throats, as need requireth. It is very good for stitch or pains in the sides coming of wind, if the place be fomented warm with the decoction in wine and the herb also, after boiling, be laid warm thereto.” The Complete Herbal (1653).

Conestoga Wagon
Conestoga Wagon

From Europe to the New World

   Sage was such an important herb, it didn't take it long for to become well established in North America. It came over with the first settlers and by the 17th century, it was found in the territories from Newfoundland to Georgia.  In time it traveled west with the early pioneers and can now found in California, Oregon and Washington.

19th Century Apothecary
19th Century Apothecary
Pharmaceutical Research
Pharmaceutical Research

Herbs Went out of Fasion

Until the advent of modern medicine in the late 19th and 20th centuries, if illness struck herbs where an integral part of any medical treatment. In the hands of a skilled herbalist, herbs were actually less likely to cause complications. The preferred medical treatment for many illnesses included blood letting, the use of heavy metals like arsenic and mercury, and keeping the rooms closed up tight against the humors present in night air. These treatments combined with the laxatives and purges, popular at the time, often left the patient weaker than before the treatment was ever started. This made herbal medicine popular because it was gentle and safe. In the late 19th and early 20th century, as new treatment options and the rise of antibiotics and other drugs, the practice of herbal medicine fell out of favor. Sage was relegated to the kitchen cupboard.

Sage can be used as:

  • A carmative
  • A healthful tonic
  • A vasodilator,
  • An antihydrotic
  • An antispasmodic
  • An astringent
  • An cholagogue
  • An expectorant
  • An galactofuge
  • Antiseptic
  • A Febrifuge

*These words are a mouth full. There is a short glossary at the end of this article

 Traditional medicine a cup  of herbal tea
Traditional medicine a cup of herbal tea
Gas and upset stomach
Gas and upset stomach
Respiratory System
Respiratory System
Sage for healthy hair and scalp
Sage for healthy hair and scalp

Traditional Uses

Sage’s use in traditional medicine goes back further than almost any other herb. This wonderful herb’s effectiveness in treating a wide variety of ailments, from the trivial to serious, made it indispensable to both the physician and patient. If it wasn’t for the advent of antibiotics and prescription drugs, a bottle of dried sage or its essential oil would be in everybody’s medicine chest.

In traditional medicine Sage is used to relieve:

Excess gas and bloating:

This is because sage has both carmative and antispasmodic properties. These two characteristics make sage an excellent remedy for digestive system tract. Sage not only relaxes the smooth muscles of the stomach and intestines, at the same time it eliminates the excess gas that that usually goes with digestive system upset.

Upper respiratory problems

Sage’s ability to work as both an astringent and an expectorant make it a time honored treatment for upper respiratory problem. The symptoms that accompany bronchitis, sinusitis, asthma and catarrh (the thick mucus secretions often produced in upper respiratory infections such as a cold) often be relieved by the use of sage. Drinking hot sage tea several times a day helps to relax the airways, thin mucus and sooth inflamed airways.

Night sweats and hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)

Sage has been known down through the centuries for its ability to stop excess sweating. This antihydrotic characteristic of sage makes it a wonderful way to relieve both night sweats, and hyperhidrosis, a condition where abnormally large amounts of perspiration are produced. In fact it is prescribed extensively in Europe for both of those conditions.

Reducing milk flow when its time

Sage is a galactofuge that helps reduce the flow of milk in nursing mothers. A great help to prevent engorgement when mothers are weaning their breast fed infants

Tooth Ache

Can be relieved by simply applying a sage leave to the effected tooth

Wound, Ulcers, Throats and Mouth infections

The antiseptic properties of sage combined with it astringency make it unbeatable as a wash for wound and a gargle for the throat and mouth

Skin and Hair

Sage is great for oily skin and scalp. Its astringent and antiseptic properties helps sage an excellent choice to shrink pores, reduce oil production and stop pimple flare ups and dandruff. Before hair dyes, a rinse made from sage was used to darken gray hair.


Sage is often found the tonics. Tonics are a blend of herbs that when used together strengthen the body’s organ systems. This include: the circulatory, system blood vessels, liver and respiratory system. Sage has the combined abilities to relax the walls of the circulatory system, especially the arteries, cleanse the liver and gallbladder because it causes the gallbladder to empty into the liver, and fine tune the respiratory tract by opening up airways making it easier to get oxygen into the body.

What Does Research Show?

Sage has one of the longest histories of any herb.  It been proven to be a safe and effective treatment to help eliviate the symptoms of illness.  But little research has been done.  However, the German E Commision, a commission whose mission is to approve drugs for treating specific symptoms, has approved the use of sage for bloating, gas, sore throuts and excessive sweating. 

Below are links to a few research articles regarding sage.  They are in a data base called PubMed, a service of the U.S.National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health.

Safety Issue

Sage is thought to have a relatively high level of safety. Since comprehensive studies have not been conducted, women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid using any herbal supplements without consulting their health care professional.


Allopathic Medicine is the treatment of disease using conventional medical therapies, as opposed the use of alternative medical or non-conventional therapies

Antihydrotics are herbs that reduce or suppress perspiration

Antiseptics are herbs that reduce the possibility of infection, sepsis, or destruction of tissue.

Antispasmodics refers to a herbs that help to eliminate or relieve muscle spasms, typically of involuntary muscle, such as the muscles found within the arteries, the intestines, the ring-shaped sphincters muscles, like those in the digestive system, bladder and the ureters (the muscles that carry urine to the bladder).

Astringents are herbs that cause soft tissue to contract and bind together. This helps control bleeding and decrease bodily secretions.  This ability also an excellent choice to tightening the pores, lowering the pH and reducing oil production of the skin. As a skin toner astringents are helpful in controlling surface oils and in lowering the pH after cleansing.

Carmative or in plain English: any herb or preparation that either prevents formation of gas in the or facilitates the expulsion of gas in the digestive system.  Because of sage’s ability to relieve the build up of gas, it is often recommended in the treatment of colic in babies.

Cholagogues are herbs that cause the gallbladder to empty the bile it contains into the small intestines.

Expectorants are herbs that help clear mucus and other material from the respiratory tract.  They promote drainage of mucus from the lungs by thinning the mucus and also lubricating the irritated respiratory tract.

Febrifuges Are herbs with a fever-reducing and antipyretic properties

Galactofuges are herbs that help reduce the flow of milk in nursing mothers.  A great help for mothers weaning their breast fed infants

The above characteristics of sage make it an effective treatment in a variety of conditions.  It is an excellent remedy for excess gas and the pain that accompanies

Tonic herbs are those that help restore balance and health to the entire body.

Vasodilators are herbs that cause the blood vessels, especially the arteries to dilation or expand, helping to improve circulation.

Educational Purposes

This article is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended to take the place of a health care professional in diagnosing or treating of any health condition.


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