Herb: Sage

Latin name: Salvia officinalis

Family: Labiatae

Medicinal use of Sage:

Sage has a very long history of effective medicinal use and is an important domestic herbal remedy for disorders of the digestive system. Its antiseptic qualities make it an effective gargle for the mouth where it can heal sore throats, ulcers etc. The leaves applied to an aching tooth will often relieve the pain. The whole herb is antihydrotic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, cholagogue, galactofuge, stimulant, tonic and vasodilator. Sage is also used internally in the treatment of excessive lactation, night sweats, excessive salivation (as in Parkinson's disease), profuse perspiration (as in TB), anxiety, depression, female sterility and menopausal problems. Many herbalists believe that the purple-leafed forms of this species are more potent medicinally. This remedy should not be prescribed to pregnant women or to people who have epileptic fits. The plant is toxic in excess or when taken for extended periods - though the toxic dose is very large. Externally, it is used to treat insect bites, skin, throat, mouth and gum infections and vaginal discharge. The leaves are best harvested before the plant comes into flower and are dried for later use. The essential oil from the plant is used in small doses to remove heavy collections of mucous from the respiratory organs and mixed in embrocations for treating rheumatism. In larger doses, however, it can cause epileptic fits, giddiness etc. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is "Tonic".

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

June to


Habitat of the herb:

Dry banks and stony places, usually in limestone areas and often where there is very little soil.

Edible parts of Sage:

Leaves and flowers - raw or cooked. A very common herb, the strongly aromatic leaves are used as a flavouring in cooked foods. They are an aid to digestion and so are often used with heavy, oily foods. They impart a sausage-like flavour to savoury dishes. The young leaves and flowers can be eaten raw, boiled, pickled or used in sandwiches. The flowers can also be sprinkled on salads to add colour and fragrance. A herb tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves, it is said to improve the digestion. An essential oil obtained from the plant is used commercially to flavour ice cream, sweets, baked goods etc.

Other uses of the herb:

The leaves make excellent tooth cleaners, simply rub the top side of the leaf over the teeth and gums. The purple-leafed form of sage has tougher leaves and is better for cleaning the teeth. The leaves have antiseptic properties and can heal diseased gums. An essential oil from the leaves is used in perfumery, hair shampoos (it is good for dark hair) and as a food flavouring. It is a very effective "fixer" in perfumes, and is also used to flavour toothpastes and is added to bio-activating cosmetics. The plant (the flowers?) is an alternative ingredient of "QR" herbal compost activator. This is a dried and powdered mixture of several herbs that can be added to a compost heap in order to speed up bacterial activity and thus shorten the time needed to make the compost. The growing or dried plant is said to repel insects, it is especially useful when grown amongst cabbages and carrots. It was formerly used as a strewing herb and has been burnt in rooms to fumigate them. A good dense ground cover plant for sunny positions, though it needs weeding for the first year or two. They are best spaced about 60cm apart each way.

Propagation of Sage:

Seed - sow March/April in a greenhouse. Germination usually takes place within 2 weeks. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out in early summer. In areas where the plant is towards the limits of its hardiness, it is best to grow the plants on in a greenhouse for their first winter and plant them out in late spring of the following year. Cuttings of heeled shoots, taken off the stem in May and planted out directly into the garden grow away well. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 10cm with a heel, June to August in a frame. Easy. Cuttings of mature wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, November/December in a cold frame. Layering in spring or autumn. Mound soil up into the plants, the branches will root into this soil and they can be removed and planted out 6 - 12 months later.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry banks and stony places, usually in limestone areas and often where there is very little soil.

Known hazards of Salvia officinalis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.