Family: Lamiaceae (Labiatae), Salvia officinalis L.
Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984.
Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature
on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate
Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.
Sage, Salvia officinalis L., is a perennial shrub native
to southern Europe and Asia Minor. Also known as common or garden
sage, the growing herb reaches a height of 0.6 meters, has gray
to silver-green leaves with a velvety texture, and white,
blue, or purple flowers that bloom from late winter to early summer.
The plant is cultivated and collected from the wild in Yugoslavia,
Albania, Turkey, Italy, Greece, the United States, Spain, and
The reported life zone of sage is 5 to 26 degrees centigrade with
an annual precipitation of 0.3 to 2.6 meters and a soil pH of
4.2 to 8.3 (4.1-31). The species is well suited to warm dry
regions and grows best on a nitrogen-rich, clay loam soil
located in the full sun. The plant is sensitive to extended dry
periods with excessively high temperatures, and it will winter-kill
when the temperature reaches about -100Cdeg;C.
For commercial cultivation, the plant can be established from
seeds, by plant division, by layering, or from cuttings. Vegetative
propagation is preferred for ensuring a rapid harvest and specific
plant clones. The plantings last from two to six years, and the
initial harvest is made in the first year. Generally, two or three
harvests are taken just prior to bloom in subsequent years. Leaves
and vegetative tops are harvested and dried in the shade or with
low artificial heat to ensure retention of the color and the quality
and content of the volatile oil (3.3-43, 14.1-8).
The essential oil, extracted by steam distillation, ranges from
1.2 to 2.5% of dry leaves. Constituents of sage oil include -thujone,
camphor, linalool, 1,8-cineole, cis-ocimene, -thujone,
sabinyl acetate and several other compounds (1.2-73, 6.4-102).
The quality of the essential oil of sage differs by geographic
region, but this may be attributable to the use of different sage
species or types (2.9-116). The most common adulterant to
sage oils is thujone, from the leaves of Juniperus virginiana
L., red cedar. An oleoresin is obtained by organic solvent extraction.
The dried leaves and essential oil of sage are employed as seasonings
for sausages, ground meats, stuffings, fish, honey, salads, soups,
and stews. Sage is also used as a flavoring and antioxidant in
cheeses, pickles, vegetables, processed foods, and beverages (6.4-104).
The oil is used to extend the keeping quality of fats and meats
(6.4-12). The plant is used in perfumes and cosmetics and
as a natural insect repellent. Sage can be purchased as whole
leaf, ground, rubbed, sliced, or cut.
As a medicinal plant, sage has traditionally been considered an
antispasmodic, antiseptic, astringent, diaphoretic, expectorant,
nervine, and tonic. The plant has also been used as a folk remedy
against colds, diarrhea, enteritis, venereal disease, excessive
perspiration, snake bites, sore throats, toothaches, and cancer
(11.1-96, 14.1-16). The plant was thought to improve
the memory. Sage has been reported to act as a bactericide and
is used in mouthwashes and gargles (7.5-68, 11.1-128).
The plant is also used as a convulsant and antisecretory agent,
and as Salvin, a preparation of leaves used as an antimicrobial,
anti-inflammatory agent in treating oral cavity disease (7.6-224,
14.1-8, 14.1-35). The name Salvia is from the
Latin salvere, meaning "to heal," or "to
be safe and unharmed" (11.1-128, 14.1-3).
Although five hundred species of Salvia and many varieties
and chemotypes exist, only a few types of sage are commercially
important. Dalmation sage, a type of Salvia officinalis
L., serves as the standard sage to which others are compared,
as it is considered to possess the finest and most characteristic
sage aroma. Salvia fructicosa Mill., formerly known as
Salvia triloba L. f., and native to some of the Mediterranean
and Middle Eastern countries, may account for more than 50% of
the culinary sage imported into the United States as common sage
(6.5-140). This species is commonly referred to as Greek,
Mediterranean. or wild sage. Salvia lavandulifolia Vahl.,
Spanish sage, is a small shrub sold as sage but of minor commercial
importance. Salvia miltiorrhiza L. is used as a
Chinese herbal medicine for treatment of menstrual irregularities,
uterine bleeding, abdominal pain, neurasthenia, insomnia, hepatitis,
mastitus, and hives (11.1-97). Leaves from Salvia lyrata
L., wild sage or cancerweed, an herb native to the eastern section
of the United States, are used as a folk remedy in the treatment
of warts (11.1-101). Salvia tomentosa Mill., a native
of the Mediterranean region, has been traditionally used to reduce
abdominal pain and heal warts (7.1-63). Leaves of Salvia
divinorum, Yerba de Maria, are used in some religious ceremonies
because of their hallucinogenic properties (11.1-96).
Salvia elegans Vahl, formerly Salvia rutilans Carriere
and known as pineapple sage, is a perennial shrub cultivated as
an annual. Reaching heights of over one meter, the plant is characterized
by decorative, fragrant leaves, which are employed in bouquets,
and by scarlet flowers that bloom in autumn and are used in potpourris.
Salvia leucophylla Greene, a perennial shrub native to
the western United States, has been used as sage but is considered
very inferior and not acceptable in commercial markets. Volatile
monoterpenes emitted from the species are reported to have growth-inhibitory
Indian and wild sage refers to Eupatorium perfoliatum L.,
a plant native to North America. Sage of Bethlehem actually refers
to spearmint, Mentha spicata L. The sagebrush native to
western portions of the United States and northern Mexico is of
the Artemisia species.
Sage, as Salvia officinalis L. or Salvia triloba
L., is generally recognized as safe for human consumption as a
natural seasoning and as a plant extract/essential oil (21 CFR
sections 182.10, 182.20 ). Spanish sage is also recognized
as safe for human consumption as a plant extract (21 CFR section
[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in
full in the original reference].
Last modified 6-Dec-1997