Sage can be found in today’s shower gels, skin care, deodorants and house clearing ceremonies, but it has actually been used medicinally for centuries. According to green wellness expert Sharen Udell, there are more than 500 varieties of sage, and it grows on every continent except Antarctica. Sage is part of the mint family, an evergreen herb that grows continuously up to three feet tall. “The most commonly used variations are clary sage (Salvia sclarea) and Spanish sage (Salvia lavandulifolia), due to their non-toxicity to the body,” says Udell.
Sage has a long history of traditional use, dating back to ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek medicine. In the U.S., Native Americans used dried sage in rituals to promote healing, wisdom, protection and longevity, as well as to cleanse a space. “Sage has been used for purification of people and places, in incense, in medicine pouches, spread over the floor of a sweat lodge, used for healing and calming, and even used to chase away bad spirits,” adds Ahuva Gamliel, acupuncturist, naturopathic doctor and professor of alternative medicine at Everglades University in Miami.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health notes that sage can be used as a spice as well as for health purposes. “Clary sage flowers—whose colors range from white to pastel pink, blue or lavender—are often steam distilled to extract the aromatic essential oils,” says Udell. “The oil is extremely beneficial for women, as it’s mood-lifting to ease PMS and menopause symptoms, and it can help calm anxiety and balance hormonal issues.” Spanish sage essential oil extraction also involves steam distillation, but in this case it’s from the leaves of the plant. Its aroma is similar to lavender, so it can also improve mood.
Dr. Gamliel explains that clinical uses include improving anxiety symptoms and focus, and as an antimicrobial. Sage works particularly well in conjunction with other herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley and bay leaf, and ingesting sage can alleviate digestive problems from loss of appetite to heartburn, gas, bloating and stomach pain. “Sage tea has been traditionally used for the treatment of digestive and circulation disturbances, bronchitis, cough, asthma, angina, mouth and throat inflammations, skin issues and other diseases,” she adds.