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12 Health Benefits and Uses of Sage

Health + Wellness
12 Health Benefits and Uses of Sage
Isabelle Rozenbaum / Getty Images

By Ryan Raman, MS, RD

Sage is a staple herb in various cuisines around the world.


Its other names include common sage, garden sage and Salvia officinalis. It belongs to the mint family, alongside other herbs like oregano, rosemary, basil and thyme (1).

Sage has a strong aroma and earthy flavor, which is why it's typically used in small amounts. Even so, it's packed with a variety of important nutrients and compounds.

Sage is also used as a natural cleaning agent, pesticide and ritual object in spiritual sage burning or smudging.

This green herb is available fresh, dried or in oil form — and has numerous health benefits.

Here are 12 surprising health benefits of sage.

1. High in Several Nutrients

Sage packs a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals.

One teaspoon (0.7 grams) of ground sage contains (2):

  • Calories: 2
  • Protein: 0.1 grams
  • Carbs: 0.4 grams
  • Fat: 0.1 grams
  • Vitamin K: 10% of the reference daily intake (RDI)
  • Iron: 1.1% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 1.1% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 1% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 1% of the RDI

As you can see, a small amount of sage packs 10% of your daily vitamin K needs (2).

Sage also contains small amounts of magnesium, zinc, copper and vitamins A, C and E.

What's more, this aromatic spice houses caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, rosmarinic acid, ellagic acid and rutin — all of which play a role in its beneficial health effects (3).

Since it's consumed in tiny amounts, sage provides only minuscule amounts of carbs, calories, protein and fiber.

Summary

Sage is rich in nutrients — especially vitamin K — despite being low in calories. One teaspoon (0.7 grams) boasts 10% of your daily vitamin K needs.

2. Loaded With Antioxidants

Antioxidants are molecules that help fortify your body's defenses, neutralizing potentially harmful free radicals that are linked to chronic diseases (4).

Sage contains over 160 distinct polyphenols, which are plant-based chemical compounds that act as antioxidants in your body (5).

Chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, rosmarinic acid, ellagic acid and rutin — all found in sage — are linked to impressive health benefits, such as a lower risk of cancer and improved brain function and memory (1, 3).

One study found that drinking 1 cup (240 ml) of sage tea twice daily significantly increased antioxidant defenses. It also lowered both total cholesterol and "bad" LDL cholesterol, as well as raised "good" HDL cholesterol (6).

Summary

Sage is loaded with antioxidants that are linked to several health benefits, including improved brain function and lower cancer risk.

3. May Support Oral Health

Sage has antimicrobial effects, which can neutralize microbes that promote dental plaque.

In one study, a sage-based mouthwash was shown to effectively kill the Streptococcus mutansbacteria, which is notorious for causing dental cavities (7, 8).

In a test-tube study, a sage-based essential oil was shown to kill and halt the spread of Candida albicans, a fungus that may also cause cavities (9, 10).

One review noted that sage may treat throat infections, dental abscesses, infected gums and mouth ulcers. However, more human research is needed to make comprehensive recommendations (11).

Summary

Sage has antimicrobial properties that may kill microbes that encourage the growth of dental plaque.

4. May Ease Menopause Symptoms

During menopause, your body experiences a natural decline in the hormone estrogen. This can cause a wide range of unpleasant symptoms.

Symptoms include hot flashes, excessive sweating, vaginal dryness and irritability.

Common sage was traditionally used to reduce menopause symptoms (12).

It's believed that compounds in sage have estrogen-like properties, allowing them to bind to certain receptors in your brain to help improve memory and treat hot flashes and excessive sweating (13).

In one study, daily use of a sage supplement significantly reduced the number and intensity of hot flashes over eight weeks (14).

Summary

Sage may help reduce the intensity and frequency of menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes and irritability.

5. May Reduce Blood Sugar Levels

The leaves of common sage have been used traditionally as a remedy against diabetes.

Human and animal research indicates that it may help lower blood sugar levels.

In one study, sage extract reduced blood glucose levels in rats with type 1 diabetes by activating a specific receptor. When this receptor is activated, it can help clear excess free fatty acids in the blood, which in turn improves insulin sensitivity (15, 16).

Another study in mice with type 2 diabetes found that sage tea acts like metformin — a drug prescribed to manage blood sugar in people with the same disease (17).

In humans, sage leaf extract has been shown to lower blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity with a similar effect as rosiglitazone, another anti-diabetes drug (18).

However, there is still not enough evidence to recommend sage as a diabetes treatment. More human research is needed.

Summary

While sage may lower blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity, more human research is needed.

6. May Support Memory and Brain Health

Sage can help support your brain and memory in several ways.

For one, it's loaded with compounds that can act as antioxidants, which have been shown to buffer your brain's defense system (19, 20).

It also appears to halt the breakdown of the chemical messenger acetylcholine (ACH), which has a role in memory. ACH levels appear to fall in Alzheimer's disease (21, 22).

In one study, 39 participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease consumed either 60 drops (2 ml) of a sage extract supplement or a placebo daily for four months.

Those taking the sage extract performed better on tests that measured memory, problem-solving, reasoning and other cognitive abilities (21).

In healthy adults, sage was shown to improve memory in low doses. Higher doses also elevated mood and increased alertness, calmness and contentedness (23).

In both younger and older adults, sage appears to improve memory and brain function (24, 25).

Summary

Studies show that sage may improve memory, brain function and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

7. May Lower 'Bad' LDL Cholesterol

Every minute, more than one person in the U.S. dies from heart disease (26).

High "bad" LDL cholesterol is a key heart disease risk factor, affecting one in three Americans (27).

Sage may help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol, which can build up in your arteries and potentially cause damage.

In one study, consuming sage tea twice daily lowered "bad" LDL cholesterol and total blood cholesterol while raising "good" HDL cholesterol after just two weeks (6).

Several other human studies illustrate a similar effect with sage extract (28, 29, 30).

Summary

Intake of sage and sage products have been shown to lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels and raise "good" HDL cholesterol levels.

8. May Protect Against Certain Cancers

Cancer is a leading cause of death in which cells grow abnormally.

Interestingly, animal and test-tube studies demonstrate that sage may fight certain types of cancer, including those of the mouth, colon, liver, cervix, breast, skin and kidney (31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40).

In these studies, sage extracts not only suppress the growth of cancer cells but also stimulate cell death.

While this research is encouraging, human studies are needed to determine whether sage is effective at fighting cancer in humans.

Summary

Test-tube and animal research suggest that sage may fight certain cancer cells, though human research is needed.

9 – 11. Other Potential Health Benefits

Sage and its compounds are linked to several other health benefits.

However, these benefits have not been extensively researched.

1. May alleviate diarrhea: Fresh sage is a traditional remedy for diarrhea. Test-tube and animal studies found that it contains compounds that may alleviate diarrhea by relaxing your gut (41, 42).

2. May support bone health: Vitamin K, which sage offers in large amounts, plays a role in bone health. A deficiency in this vitamin is linked to bone thinning and fractures (2, 43).

3. May combat skin aging: Several test-tube studies suggest that sage compounds may help fight signs of aging, such as wrinkles (44, 45).

Summary

Sage has been linked to other potential health benefits, such as relieving diarrhea, supporting bone health and combatting skin aging.

12. Easy to Add to Your Diet

Sage comes in several forms and can be used in a variety of ways.

Fresh sage leaves have a strong aromatic flavor and are best used sparingly in dishes.

Here are some ways you can add fresh sage to your diet:

  • Sprinkle as a garnish on soups.
  • Mix into a stuffing in roast dishes.
  • Combine chopped leaves with butter to make sage butter.
  • Add chopped leaves to tomato sauce.
  • Serve it with eggs in an omelet.

Dried sage is often preferred by cooks and comes ground, rubbed or in whole leaves.

Here are some ways you can use dried sage:

  • As a rub for meats.
  • As a seasoning for roasted vegetables.
  • Combined with mashed potatoes or squash for a more earthy flavor.

You can also purchase sage products, such as sage tea and sage extract supplements.

Summary

Sage is incredibly versatile and easy to add to soups, stews and baked dishes. It's available fresh, dried or ground.

Does It Have Side Effects?

Sage is considered safe with no reported side effects (46).

However, some people are concerned about thujone, a compound found in common sage. Animal research has found that high doses of thujone may be toxic to the brain (47).

That said, there is no good evidence that thujone is toxic to humans (48).

What's more, it's nearly impossible to consume toxic amounts of thujone through foods. However, drinking too much sage tea or ingesting sage essential oils — which should be avoided in any case — may have toxic effects.

To be on the safe side, limit sage tea consumption to 3–6 cups a day (47).

Otherwise, if you are concerned about thujone in common sage, then you can simply consume Spanish sage instead, as it does not contain thujone (46).

Summary

Sage is safe to eat and has no reported side effects, though consuming sage essential oils or too much sage tea may be linked to adverse effects.

The Bottom Line

Sage is an herb with several promising health benefits.

It's high in antioxidants and may help support oral health, aid brain function and lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

This green spice is also easy to add to almost any savory dish. It can be enjoyed fresh, dried or as a tea.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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