Herb: Grey Sage Brush

Latin name: Atriplex canescens

Family: Chenopodiaceae (Goosefoot Family)

Medicinal use of Grey Sage Brush:

The leaves can be made into a soapy lather and used as a wash on itches and rashes such as chickenpox. A poultice of the crushed leaves can be applied to ant bites to reduce the pain and swelling.

Description of the plant:


180 cm
(6 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Found mainly on dry saline soils.

Edible parts of Grey Sage Brush:

Leaves - cooked or raw. The leaves can be used at any time of the year though winter harvesting must be light because the plant is not growing much at this time of year. Seed - cooked. Ground into a powder, mixed with cereals and used in making cakes etc or used as a piäole. It is small and very fiddly to utilize. The ground up seed can also be mixed with water and drunk as a refreshing beverage. The burnt green herb yields culinary ashes high in minerals and these are used by the Hopi Indians to enhance the colour of blue corn products. The ashes can be used like baking soda.

Other uses of the herb:

A good hedge in maritime areas, it responds well to trimming. The leaves and stems were burnt by the Hopi Indians and the alkaline ash used to maintain the blue colour when cooking blue corn. A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves and stems. The leaves can be made into a soapy lather and used as a hair wash. The plant has fire-retardant properties and can be used for barrier plantings to control bush fires.

Propagation of Grey Sage Brush:

Seed - sow April/May in a cold frame in a compost of peat and sand. Germination usually takes place within 1 - 3 weeks at 13°C. Pot up the seedlings when still small into individual pots, grow on in a greenhouse for the first winter and plant out in late spring or early summer after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a very sandy compost in a frame. Very easy. Pot up as soon as they start to root (about 3 weeks) and plant out in their permanent positions late in the following spring. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, November/December in a frame. Very easy. Pot up in early spring and plant out in their permanent position in early summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Found mainly on dry saline soils.

Known hazards of Atriplex canescens:

No member of this genus contains any toxins, all have more or less edible leaves. However, if grown with artificial fertilizers, they may concentrate harmful amounts of nitrates in their leaves.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.